BEN Lobegeier's garden is getting ready for the winter season.

A vital step in the transformation process is making sure the ground is in peak condition.

An important ingredient to help crop fertility is pigeon poo.

"It is very good manure and you don't need much of it, works like chicken poo," he said.

Other ingredients in the soil of Ben's to-be vegetable patch include lime, dolomite, some mixed fertiliser, a few trace elements and some cow poo.

"It has taken me a decade to build this soil up, it is at its best combo," he said.

"I ripped the existing ground up when we moved here 10 years ago and kept adding compost and mulch to it."

The likes of cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, peas and onion will grow in the spot.

"A bit of alkaline in the soil helps to sweeten the brassicas up," Ben said.

But around the soil are patches of other crops.

One even has roots overseas despite strict quarantine rules.

"Grandma smuggled the leeks into Australia 55 years ago, her sister still grows those leeks in Belgium," he said.

"Gardening is on both my mum's and dad's side of the family going back generations.

"Mum and I mainly work on the home garden."

With a bit of everything around, the garden is for self-sufficient purposes.

"It saves a lot of money on grocery shopping," he said.

"I like to make a salad, or sauerkraut, or cooked cabbage with a bit of bacon.

"We have rosella, which is a hibiscus, and you can use it to make rosella jam."

Not all years have gone smoothly.

"Some seasons have been disastrous, like when a bug ringbarked the beans," he said.

Before crops make it to the big arena, they need to pass their training.

"In plant boxes, we have crop seedlings growing, like cauliflower and broccoli," he said.

"They need to be kept in the shade, and when they're big enough, I take them out."

Mulching hay and compost is vital to the garden's health.

"I have six compost bins on the go. They've got kitchen and garden scraps, and newspapers ripped up into shreds," he said.

Ben, who has bipolar, said gardening was good therapy.

"It's a hobby but I'm amazed you can't get it on prescription," he said.

"It helps with the bipolar as its gives you a purpose and is very healing.

"You really reap the rewards through the crops that you harvest and the food you get."

The Kapaldo location means some crops can go all year.

But not corn.

"Corn did really well here this summer, it can be sometimes hard to grow," he said.

"You need to plant them in short multiple rows for good pollination and it needs a lot of water."

Previously, when Ben lived in Coominglah, he stuck more strictly to seasonal crops as temperatures dropped to as low as -3 degrees in winter.

Ben loves to give and receive new seeds to add variety and spread the garden love.

"Some are passed through family and we are keeping the biodiversity going," he said.

Trees grown at the property include fig, pecan nut, mandarin and banana.

Around the house is a greenhouse and a variety of pot plants, but Ben's mum is more in charge of that part of the garden.

Among the vegetation are growing dragon fruits.

"The flower of the dragon fruit only comes out at night time," he said.

Ben has 37 years of gardening experience - that's as long as he has lived.

Over time, he has developed tips to a successful garden.

"You need plenty of mulch, do crop rotation and the crops need to learn to live with less water," he said.

Ben waters about once a week, with water pumped from a nearby dam.


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