Feed your soil and enjoy the harvest

Feed your soil and enjoy the harvest

by Community Manager Jason February 2016

Cath.jpg

Experienced Horticulturist Cath loves sharing her deep knowledge and passion for gardening. Her most important advice is to “feed your soil, not your plants”.

 

“This is one of the most important tips that I could share,” says @CathM from her beautiful property on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. “A thriving garden comes from healthy soil and plants access nutrients from the soil. So healthy soil equals healthy plants.”

 

After running a successful landscape gardening business, Cath established Soil to Supper four years ago to educate people and help them gain the skills they need to grow, harvest and cook their own food. She offers personalised workshops with advice and action plans.

 

“I wanted to share my knowledge to inspire others to enjoy gardening, connect with nature and enjoy fresh food,” Cath explains. “I noticed a gap in the areas of connecting gardening with cooking and wanted to share ideas with people to grow and cook their own food.”

 

cath manuel.JPGTestimonials from budding gardeners attest to Cath’s infectious and inspirational passion for gardening. When asked what she loves about gardening, Cath replies: “lots of things!”

 

“I love fresh air, picking flowers and things to snack on, listening to birds, watching bugs and just immersing myself in nature,” she says. “I also love dirt, so getting my hands dirty is loads of fun for me!”

 

Cath first worked as a dressmaker after studying fashion technology, then managed two retail clothing stores before studying horticulture. But while it is clear that Cath is a woman of many talents, it’s remarkable she now spends much of her time public speaking given that just the thought of it used to cause her panic attacks.

 

“One of my goals was to be able to speak conformably in front of groups of people to inspire them,” Cath says. “I didn’t know what that would be, but it was just one of my life goals. Now I love speaking in front of groups of all sizes, and sometimes people can’t shut me up! It just shows that you can achieve anything you put your mind to.”

 

As a teenager, Cath was inspired to enjoy plants and get into gardening by her step-father. “He was, and still is, an avid gardener and he inspired me to enjoy plants and start growing. At 84 he’s still growing food, flowers and bonsai.” Cath and her husband Paul are now passing on the same love of gardening to their boys, Edison and Archey.

 

Gardening can be incredibly therapeutic, Cath says. “I have used gardening as my therapy over the years, and found myself heading to the garden to help me through difficult times in my life and to be able to immerse myself and even lose myself in nature.”  

 

Cath is pleased to have noticed a significant increase in people’s interest in growing organic food. “In recent years there’s been a huge shift in the wellbeing/wellness industry, with people caring for their health. I think people are driven by the increase in illness and disease we are experiencing and many people know that healthy food helps to fuel a healthy body. Also many people are growing fresh food as it’s getting more expensive at the supermarket.”

 

The most common excuse that Cath hears as to why people don’t grow their own food is a lack of time. My view is that’s just a limiting belief that together we first work through,” Cath says.

 

“Many people think gardening or growing food takes so much time. I like to guide people through steps to make everything quick, easy and cost effective, so they have the confidence to try something, even if it’s a pot of herbs. I lead a busy life with running my business, caring for family, living on small acreage and growing my own food and I now schedule time, just about 30 minutes, every couple of days to keep on top of things. That’s all it takes!”

 

Cath says there are many other gardening myths that she commonly encounters. “Organic gardening is too hard, everything gets eaten by grubs. Gardening is expensive. Supermarket food is cheaper and better. Organic food is not better for you. Chemicals work the best… There’s loads more! Oh and you need to be a horticulturist to garden properly!”

 

Living on a three-and-a-half acre property, Cath says the design for the garden was influenced by the French potager (vegetable or kitchen) garden. “I have garden areas with perennial herbs growing amongst flowering shrubs. I’ve planted about 15 fruit trees, which have pumpkins rambling throughout the area. My kitchen garden is my favourite space as it’s filled with food, flowers, birds, my chooks and nice seating areas to relax. This is my garden therapy space as it has all the elements that I enjoy.”

 

Cath with kids.JPGA former marathon runner, Cath tends to spend two or three hours working on her own garden each week. Most of my crops are planted and we are now enjoying the harvest. At the change of growing season, I spend more hours topping up my raised gardens, improving the soil, planting new crops and doing a good pruning if needed. I get excited at the change of season and love to get new seasonal crops growing.”

 

When asked her favourite plants to grow, Cath says Parsley is her “number one fave”. It’s packed with Vitamin C, more than citrus fruit, it’s easy to grow and has so many uses. I eat it every day.

 

“I love fresh greens, so always have lettuce, silverbeet, kale, rocket and Asian greens growing. Herbs are fabulous for cooking many dishes, so I always have them growing. Also fruits that I can put into my boys lunchboxes, for example passionfruit, oranges, yacon (Peruvian ground apple) and also seasonal foods like cucumber and cherry tomatoes are great for kids.

 

“Also I grow loads of support plants to use in my garden, like Comfrey, Pigeon Pea, Arrowroot and Lemongrass. These help to improve the soil and save time and money.”

 

Cath says she was drawn to the Workshop community as a way to inspire others to consider growing fresh food. “I love to share my skills, knowledge and experience with others, and enjoy having opportunities to inspire others.”

Comments
by maknilsin
February 2016

Hi Cath,

 

I'm planning on putting in a nice big vertical garden in my backyard when my house is finished being built. Do you have any suggestions for some starter veggies for a complete novice to plant?

 

by AHoy
February 2016

@CathM

 

Thanks for sharing your story.

 

I would love any tips for a gardening beginner, particularly on getting into growing vegies. Perhaps I should do some sort of course? Or is there a great book you could recommend? 

 

Tony

by RenoQueen
March 2016

@CathM

 

Perhaps you could do a monthly or quarterly post here on Workshop with what we should be planting at this time of year. 

by Trying
August 2016

Hi Cath, thank you so much for sharing your story. You certainly are a lady of many talents and living in that glorious part of the world no wonder gardening is one of them. You certainly gave me a 'light-bulb moment' with your suggestion - Feed your soil not your plants. How logical and sensible ! I am definately looking at my new 'garden to be' with new eyes and have already started to improve the soil by adding compost,etc..  I am trying to find lemongrass locally but have had no luck- only offers of seeds. Any suggestions??  I look forward to your future contributions on Workshop. Cheers

by Community Manager Jason
November 2016

@CathM

 

I see you have launched a weekly podcast. Congratulations. Feel free to share details about how people can listen and submit questions.

 

Jason