Written by Kerrie Alexander

KEEP your vegetable garden simple and organic, and big things will grow. That’s the advice of Hervey Bay’s Ross Cotton who, after three years of growing, is now producing at least a tonne of fresh food a year from an 85 square metre patch in the back of his Scarness home.

Ross said you don’t need fancy raised garden beds and harmful pest sprays to grow the ultimate garden like his, which is packed with the home-grown goodness of spinach, bok choy, turnips, spring onions, oregano, sage, thyme, chives and much more.

The retiree swears by the Back to Eden organic gardening method which can be used in absolutely any outdoor space, even on concrete. It is great for the environment, something Ross is very passionate about.

“A lot of people get carried away with these raised garden beds with thousands of dollars’ worth of timber,” Ross said.

“Your timber doesn’t grow the plants. This whole garden was set up at a minimal cost. “This is an organic gardening method, so it is 100 percent free of chemicals.

“We’ve got to stop destroying the planet. We must leave things alone and deal with nature a lot better.

“This is 100 percent spray free and beyond organic and is proof that we can do it.”

The garden is started with a layer of cardboard placed on the surface, followed by woodchip and Ross’s home-made organic mulch. The seeds are then planted on top and covered by a UV protected mesh to keep the pests at bay.

“There’s no digging, there’s no destroying the soil, it’s all planted on top,” Ross said.

“You could come along and swipe the whole lot off there if you wanted to.

“It’s all been built with my own compost and mushroom compost from the markets, and I feed the living hell out of it.

“It’s non-stop production. Nothing has ever been spelled, as soon as one thing comes out it’s replaced the next day.”

The idea of the BTE garden bloomed after Ross underwent a quadruple bypass three years ago. Being an active retiree, he wanted a hobby that would keep himself and his wife Patricia fit and healthy, and gardening was the perfect outlet.

The garden is my gym, it’s the best exercise in the world.

“You’re bending, your digging and pushing the barrow … I have a chair hanging there and I sit out there quietly and contemplate the world and think about what I’m doing next. “It’s the best thing in the world. Get yourself a garden, you can’t beat it.”

Ross and Patricia can be found in the garden, aptly named The Veggie Patch, most days from about 5am, picking and sorting the produce. A bunch of it of course goes from the garden to their own kitchen and the excess is shared between friends, family and FROG Organic Boxes in Hervey Bay.

“The garden pays for itself, and I live healthy and can supply to other local residents.

“Even when it’s dark, we’ll turn the flood light on and pick at about 5am and pop it in rain water so it’s kept fresh, and it will be packed into compostable bags and ready to go two hours after being picked.

“You can’t get fresher than that.”