Eating Locally

Start small and build up your production as your skills increase and you will soon discover the unbridled joy that growing your own food can give – and you can bask in the glow of knowing you are doing your bit – The Diggers Club [1]

I just got The Diggers Club Winter Garden catalogue and I’ve been dreaming about all the things I could do in my garden. I read about the history of citrus [2] and decided I wanted an orange tree for out the back. My gardening is all out the front because the back is a strip of paving, with two Benjaminas (Ficus Benjamina) in pots. I’ve often considered removing all the paving to grow things, but I’ve only gone as far as pulling out a line of bricks next to the fence for flowers. I started with sunflowers a couple of summers ago and went on to carnations the following autumn. I didn’t realise these weren’t annuals. I don’t mind that they’re still going strong, because I love the flowers and the only water they need is the drip bucket from the solar water heater.

snake bush flowering a couple of weeks after I planted it, although the flower is not fully open I put in strawberries to attract the bobtail who used to visit my garden, but the summer sun was too hot for the plants. Then I remembered that my friends at Nuts about Natives said lizards love eating the flowers of snake bush (Hemiandra pungens). I got three (because they have different coloured foliage and flowers) and planted them in between the carnations. They are native to my area, drought tolerant and the bob tails might come visiting for a snack. Snake bush is a ground cover, so it will encroach onto the paving (good) and it has very prickly leaves. Kyah the cat has dug herself a passageway under the fence into the empty back block, but if the snake bush encroaches onto her thoroughfare she won‘t like those prickly leaves. She’ll just have to deal with it.

Back to oranges, I thought I could pull out a 1m square of paving for an orange tree. The Diggers Club has dwarf citrus trees, but they take 3-4 years to fruit. I’ll have to cultivate some patience in my garden. The lack of shade out the back means this Mediterranean tree should be pretty happy. Now I’ve just got to go out the back and do some work.

I also read about “huertos populares” (popular gardens) in Havana. When the USSR collapsed in 1991 no one would sell oil to Cuba (US trade embargo and all) so they couldn’t run farm machinery, transport produce to cities, or use oil-based fertilisers for growing crops.

one of Havana's huertos populares By 2003, the city of Havana had undergone a revolution with 60% of food consumed being locally produced from within the province through the popular gardens (huertos populares). These urban farms are all organic, use intensive hand cultuvation techniques and act as supermarkets for the locals, so all up there are virtually no carbon emissions generated in the production of 60% of Havan’s food. [1]

Why don’t we do that? We just need a US trade embargo (if only).

I’m a lot better at eating locally than I used to be. I shop at the local organic shop, but sometimes it’s difficult to get organic produce grown in WA. There are no WA growers of organic carrots. Honey and oats are always available. Potatoes often are, sweet potatoes & swedes are in winter, red onions & oranges in spring, spring onions in summer. When I first started shopping at the organic shop I didn’t know whether to get non-organic WA produce or interstate organic produce. Now if WA produce is not at the organic shop, I get WA grown produce from my local fruit & veg shop. Of course WA is huge, but not as far away as the eastern states.

To counteract the distances within WA I need to grow more in my garden, which I’m doing, and shop at local farmers markets. There used to be only one farmers market in Perth at City Farm every Saturday morning. I’ve never been – my excuse being I couldn’t get up that early on Saturday morning. Of course any farmers market is going to be on a weekend morning, so I need to get over that.

But now there’s two more: one in Fremantle at the Fremantle Environmental Resource Network and one run by the P&C at Mt Claremont Primary School [3]. Matt at Environment Solutions recently blogged about Farmers Markets, Allotments and Food Collectives in London, with some UK links.

The Diggers Club Winter Garden included the Digger’s Carbon Calculator for Food Gardeners [4]. I have a couple of quibbles with the assumptions and design (you can’t have one option of 1-2 and the next 2-4. Which do you choose if you want 2?) but I’ll just ignore them. I worked out my food produces 4.3 tonnes of carbon emissions every year, which is 28% of average total emissions per person [1]. This is lower than the average in Australia of 5.35 tonnes, but way more than 2.14 tonnes per capita, which would be a 60% decrease on today’s emissions and what the Federal government is aiming for by 2050.



  1. Sansom, Tim (2008) “Cut your greenhouse emissions by 20% tomorrow” The Diggers Club Winter Garden, p.8-9.
  2. Blazey, Clive (2008) “Today’s citrus: Survival of the juiciest” The Diggers Club Winter Garden, p.6-7.
  3. Murray, Paul (2008) “For a fresh look at food find a farmers market” The West Australian, 29 April, p.20.
  4. “Digger’s Carbon Calculator for Food Gardeners” (2008) The Diggers Club Winter Garden, p.11.

2 thoughts on “Eating Locally

  1. I’m happy to see there’s a few more farmer’s markets in the city, that’s good news. I’ve been to the City Farm Saturday market, and it’s pretty good, but you’ve got to get there early or they sell out!

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