Chooks, herbs and apricot wine

Sigrid Drescher and Rodney Therkelsen's organic garden.
Sigrid Drescher and Rodney Therkelsen's organic garden. 

What's cropping

Summer and autumn fruit crops include raspberries, redcurrants, eight varieties of grapes, peaches and greengage, or Reine Claude, plums, and sweet Zwetschgen, or damson plums, which they turn into plum schnapps. The European plums are picked before birds take the lot, and the crop is turned into plum sauce and chutney. There are feijoas, olive trees, bay tree, hazelnuts and kiwifruit vines. The morello cherry tree, a sour variety yet with a sweet taste, bore huge quantities of fruit for harvesting until Christmas.

They grow salsify (pictured), spaghetti squash, climbing beans, chillies, tomatoes, Lebanese and pickling gherkins, corn, spinach, beetroot, eggplants, pumpkins, tomatoes, potatoes and rhubarb.

Gardening tip

Drescher and Therkelsen use companion planting, which is part of the philosophy of organic growing. Plant basil with tomatoes, nasturtiums keep away aphids, sage benefits roses and planting marigolds around the garden keeps away nematodes. Flowers are grown among their vegetables for their beauty so foxgloves bloom next to potatoes.

Sigrid Drescher and Rodney Therkelsen in their organic garden.
Sigrid Drescher and Rodney Therkelsen in their organic garden. 

In the heat

For watering the garden, they use the 9000-litre and 13,000-litre water tanks that catch rainfall from the roof of the house and the car port. A separate 300-litre tank next to the house is drinking water, and they use no town water.

The inspiration

Drescher's parents were both gardeners in Germany and Therkelsen's family kept chooks in Brisbane. When the couple lived in Germany for five years they grew edibles in a community garden plot in Frankfurt. In Canberra, they belonged to the Canberra Organic Growers' Society in Mitchell where, from 1998-2001, they had a huge plot.

After 13 years in Yass the 1468-square-metre block, once covered in grass that took four hours to mow, now supplies an abundance of produce. They started with no-dig raised beds, covering the grass with cardboard, then sheep manure, straw and hay, blood and bone and compost from the council. Now they pour on bags of sheep manure, mulch, worm castings and compost to keep them fertile.

Animal life

They have six chooks, two white leghorns which lay white eggs, two Isa browns and two Australorps and all have names. They are producing six eggs every day, used in zucchini and herb quiches.

Unusual plants

Like her parents, Drescher grows scorzonera, called black root in Germany. She also likes to try something different or exotic every year, including tomatillos, salsify, Warrigal spinach, and herbs woodruff, sorrel and lovage.

In the kitchen

Drescher says the crop on their apricot tree this year was ''extreme''. The tree has never before borne so many large fruit. They made apricot jam and apricot liqueur and transformed 25 kilograms of apricots into apricot wine. Therkelsen is a home brewer and makes beer and excess fruit is metamorphosed into wine while his wife makes fruit liqueurs. They share some recipes at left.

Sigrid Drescher and Rodney Therkelsen's garden is open on Saturday, February 1, and Sunday, February 2, at 30 Laidlaw Street, Yass (opposite Victoria Park), 10am to 4.30pm, entry $7. Seeds, homemade jams, flowering plants and some vegetables for sale. Also open is the Vegie Patch garden, 9 Shaw Street, Yass, $7.

Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.