Christopher Gregg is growing 2500 garlic plants in two locations in Queanbeyan, one on a hill high in the industrial area, the other on the three-acre property of a friend in Wickerslack Lane. There are five beds with 500 plants in each of the purple Monaro and white garlic varieties. This is Gregg's third year of growing garlic, with 300 plants the first year, 900 the second and now this huge experimental crop.
His mentor for the past eight years has been Tony Romeo, of Adelong, who grows 20,000 garlic plants each year. Gregg visits him once a month for friendship and instruction. Gregg was born in New Zealand but came to Australia when he was three for his father to work on the Snowy Hydro scheme and he grew up in Talbingo. His whole garden scenario in Queanbeyan is only three years old.
Gregg is a panelbeater by trade but he is working as a wards assistant at Canberra Hospital and it is there that his vast crop of produce is shared. He says the garlic goes to nurses because there are so many nationalities working in that area that he has a wide clientele who hound him for the harvest that will be ready this year from mid-to-late November.
He also grows snow peas and has distributed about four kilos so far to the nurses. Each person receives about 250g and one male Indian nurse told Gregg that he had never tasted snow peas previously and would like to learn how to grow them. Gregg says, "I will teach him to garden. It is all so vibrant for me."
On the windy hilltop in Queanbeyan with its wonderful views to the mountains, Parliament House and Black Mountain, Gregg also has rows of broad beans covered in black and white flowers and tiny pods are just forming.
He is self-taught and proud of what has been achieved on barren land in such a short time. He thinks it may inspire others in similar circumstances. He brought in four metres of compost soil and built the veg vegie garden on top of shale rock. For the snow peas he dug a trench in the shale and laid potting mix in it and then dug another trench next to it for 80 sugar snap pea seeds, 40 Yukomo Japanese giant snow peas and 20 purple podded peas.
Purple dragon carrots and three-coloured Afghan carrots, with superior antioxidant and carotene levels and a sweet yet spicy flavour, thrive in soil along a cyclone wire fence that is hung with green plastic pot troughs full of strawberry plants. Down the driveway side of the plot he has place placed car tyres wired two on top of each other, and filled these with stones in the bottom so they do not move, then vegetable waste, then shredded paper and mushroom compost on top. The car tyre beds are ready for the planting of eight different varieties of tomatoes, including seed saved from Roma and huge Black Russian tomatoes grown last season, and plain red and pink Bumble Bee cherry tomatoes. There is a row of black plastic pots with a colourful plant of ruby chard or silver beet in each one. Purple and white lavender plants have their own tiny plot.
Earlier this year Gregg had a small climbing vine bean that he raised from seeds from a friend The plant grew to six feet high and eight feet long and he harvested around 3000 beans off it. There are two worm farms and everything is raised without chemicals. Tall thin stakes are strategically placed throughout the plantings and each wears a small windmill that twirls and whirrs in the wind, in the hope of keeping cockatoos away.
Christopher Gregg is an inspiration.
Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.