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2021-03-19 Community & Lifestyle
Author: Satterley

Little Veggie Patch Co brings big idea to Botanical

Mat Pember grew up in the northern suburbs of Melbourne and still loves that part of the city. So when Satterley asked if he’d be interested in collaborating on a project for their new neighbourhood at Botanical in Mickleham he jumped at the chance.

Mat is the co-founder of The Little Veggie Patch Co, a business that began in 2008 installing garden beds and now aims to show that anyone – regardless of experience, time constraints or availability of space – can grow their own food. Today, the company sells more than 50 types of seeds – tomatoes, beetroot, capsicum, dill and many others – and sells a variety of products, including a bestselling gardening book.

Another of those products is a DIY veggie crate, which includes a wooden planter providing about 1.3 square metres of growing space, as well as all the ingredients needed to begin a backyard veggie garden. What’s this got to do with Botanical? Well, the community’s newest neighbourhood is called Evergreen, and those who purchase in its first two stages will be gifted a DIY veggie crate and seed bundle pack as soon as they move in.

Mat’s company has worked with inner city apartment blocks before, but this is the first masterplanned community he’s been associated with. He says it stood out not just because of the location, but because of the culture it aims to build – Botanical has always put fresh food at the heart of its ethos – and the kinds of families who will be living there.

“I think, for a lot of first homeowners with young families, setting a good example around food early is really important. Giving young homeowners this experience demonstrates a connectivity with food.”

Growing your own food, Mat says, might seem challenging to those new to the practice, but it doesn’t need to be – in fact, it can be “addictive” once you get started.

“We’ve been developing our products for a long time and we’ve been trying to cater our products to new gardeners, knowing they have potentially limited space and time to engage in these sorts of things.

“[The DIY crates] are a big enough size to get something meaningful growing, but not too big that it becomes overwhelming. The pack needs approximately 1.5 metres of growing space, which is enough to grow lots of herbs, vegetables and lettuces and things that you will use quite often.”

Mat hopes that his work and his products spur an interest in gardening and food growing that for some people turns into a passion and then into the sort of sophisticated skill that makes them experts in their own right. But for those starting out, the boxes are designed to make things as simple as possible – all that’s required is plenty of sun, some careful watering and, in true Botanical style, a love of fresh food.

Mat Pember - Co-Founder of The Little Veggie Patch Co.

Mat’s four essential tips for starting your veggie patch

  1. Plant in season.
  2. Keep all seeds moist throughout germination (the period during which a seed sprouts). It’s tempting to think you can give them a soak and come back every few days, but they need to stay wet all the way through or they’ll quickly die. Mat says you can buy a mini-greenhouse from a nursery for under $20 or make your own using Styrofoam and a piece of Perspex.
  3. Use the best quality seed-raising mix you can afford. (The one that costs $15 is very likely to be three times as good as the one that costs $5.)
  4. Don’t forget to get on top of pests. Local possums and even rodents love to eat garden veggies and a netting system is a great way to deter them.

To find out more about how you can be part of Botanical’s Evergreen community, and receive your own DIY veggie crate and seed bundle pack when you move in, register today at mybotanical.com.au

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