For all of us who dream of the country idyl…a place where we can grow fresh fruit and veggies…maybe keep a few chooks?  Well, there is no excuse.  
Meet four Bendigo locals who are making the best of their suburban backyards and creating a beautiful, sustainable life in the process.

Writer: Amy Doak – Photographer: David Field and Anthony Webster

Robbie Bayliss was practically born with a green thumb. With two grandfathers who taught him well, Robbie is now teaching others how to get the most out of their space.
“I always loved gardening,” Robbie says. “I have great memories of spending time in the vegetable gardens that both of my grandfathers had and ever since I can remember I’ve had some sort of food growing – even in containers. Now that I have my own house, there is a veggie garden, herbs and lots of fruit trees.”
Robbie’s garden, a 1000 square metre block in Long Gully that he has been cultivating for 12 years now, is also home to two dogs, one cat, three chooks and two ducks. “I love gardening, fresh food and getting my hands dirty,” Robbie admits. “The joy of picking food from the garden and eating it before it gets inside…and sharing it with family and friends.”
“I’ve got a four bed rotational system going,” Robbie explains. “This helps in the organic principles that I try to uphold. Different crops go into a different beds each year, which helps reduce disease and helps the soil to replenish, with the help of manures and compost.”
When we spoke to Robbie in early spring he had garlic, beets, silverbeet, bok choy, lettuce, snow peas, broad beans, rocket and spring onions. “I love it,” he says. “It’s really my escape hatch. I go out and weed and plant and get my hands dirty and forget about the world for awhile.”
Whilst Robbie says there is a lot to love about his garden, it’s not without its challenges. “Water during summer is the biggest thing.  Oh, and time. I sometimes don’t always get the chance to get into the garden, especially during winter. That means the weeds can get away from me before I know it. I find it hard to keep it tidy too. I am a rather untidy person by nature and as much as I try to be neat, it doesn’t always work out.”
Robbie is a part of the local Facebook group Produce Swap Bendigo. Over the years he has joined a number of Bendigo gardeners’ groups and he says that it’s a great way to get started. “On the Facebook site I have managed to reconnect with friends and we also swap fruit and veggies which is great when you can’t grow everything you want or you grow more than you need. Having joined these groups, I have noticed more and more people having a go. It’s a great way of working out what is growing in the garden and what grows in the area. Someone can post an image and ask ‘what’s this?’ and usually someone can help out. Also, knowing other people’s success stories can encourage people to have a ‘grow’.”
So what are Robbie’s tips for the novice gardener? “Start small.Choose a sunny spot and just have a go. A large tub or pot is all you need to try your hand at a heap of veggies and herbs. Don’t aim too high, think of things that grow well locally and remember that dirt, compost and manure are your friends.”
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