A seed sharing operation started in lockdown | Garden Design and Inspiration | Gardening Australia

Garden Design
Millie visits Julie Bennett, who started sending out free seeds during lockdown to encourage people to grow their own food – then harvest & share their own seeds. Subscribe 🔔 http://ab.co/GA-subscribe

Julie Bennett is a viticulturist by training and joined Montalto vineyard on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula when that opened. When owner Wendy Mitchell created a kitchen garden 20 years ago, she moved across and started working on that instead. She’s now head gardener.

It’s on just over 1 hectare and supplies 70% of the produce used in the vineyard’s three restaurants, but it’s also full of colour, form and texture – and everything in the gardens is edible.

Julie is always saving seed to grow her next season’s crop, so when there was a sudden seed shortage in Lockdown 2020, she decided to do something about it. “I heard about a young man in the UK sharing seeds, and all these seed websites were out of stock, so I started sharing heirloom seeds.”

It started with spare seeds from work, then she set up a whole seed production line at home, offering them to anyone in Victoria. “I put out a FB post offering seeds for free – and offering to teach how to grow and save your own, to get people growing these wonderful heirloom plants, which offer so much more than the modern varieties you can only grow once.”

Julie’s home garden is a classic ¼-acre block but she fits in an enormous amount of produce. Here she grows food for her family but also some plants for work if she wants to isolate a specific variety to avoid cross-pollinating.

What started as a lockdown project has become huge, with Julie sending out thousands of packets of seeds across Vic and NSW, and many of those people now collecting seeds to share with others. “I send out 100 packs of each variety; I reckon I’ve posted about 3000 packets.”

She also got a lot of feedback – and has kept all the hundreds of letters she’s received from growers. “While I was an anonymous, stranger many people felt they could reach out to me and send these lovely letters about gardening, or their children, or issues with lockdown – it gave me so much more than what I was giving, which was a packet of seeds and some instructions.”

This project has grown a life of its own; Julie’s not sure where it’s heading but says “I’m hoping it will grow its own legs and take off elsewhere; I can only send to Vic and NSW as it’s too hard interstate with quarantine. If people can share just one seed and the next person shares one too, it helps keep the diversity going.”

Plants featured:
Wasabi greens (Brassica juncea cv.)
Celery (Apium graveolens cv.)

Filmed on Boon Wurrung & Bunurong Country | Mornington Peninsula, Vic


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