Meet Toni – The Veggie Lady
Now that Spring is in the air, many of us turn to the thought of growing our very own fresh fruit and vegetables at home. Of course, this begs the question – where do I start? Local horticulturalist Toni Salter, who is otherwise known as “The Veggie Lady”, may just be the person to help.
Toni runs workshops from her home, so others can see how she does it and to get ideas from her suburban block where she grows veggies, fruit trees and keeps chickens. You even get to sample some of her produce with a tasty lunch provided in the workshop! Toni also runs workshops through several Sydney local councils. These range from Small Space Veggie Gardening, Native Gardens and Herb Gardens through to fun things like making terrariums, kokedamas and succulent wreaths.
“I became a horticulturist 20 years ago. Back then, you couldn’t just go to the supermarket and buy organic produce like today. Most of the organic produce available then was small, blemished and just looked generally unappealing.
Being so much more expensive than conventional supermarket food, I simply couldn’t afford to eat organic food at that stage of my life with two toddlers and only one family income” said Toni.
“I figured that if I could grow the basics myself, then the money I’d save could be put towards the food that I couldn’t grow. I set up a little co-op of safety-conscious mothers from a women’s group that met at my local church and to those who didn’t know me, I became known as “The Veggie Lady”. My horticulture certificate helped me to turn a ‘pre-occupation’ with gardening into an ‘occupation’, when I started teaching others how to grow their own produce” she continued.
When growing veggies, Toni explained that our local area has lots of clay, so avoid tapered root crops like parsnip and carrots. Otherwise, we have a great range of things we can grow here – just choose the ones that suit the season. Zucchini, capsicum and eggplant are good to put in at Springtime for a bumper Summer and Autumn harvest.
“My favourite vegetables to grow are tomatoes. Everyone loves tomatoes and once you’ve tasted home grown, there’s no turning back. First time gardeners should start small and grow from seedlings to get a head start. Salad greens are quick and easy to grow so you get instant rewards for Spring and Summer meals” tipped Toni.