Get to know: Deryn Thorpe

How and when did your passion for gardening start?

My mother had a lovely garden, all grown from cuttings from friends’ gardens but I didn’t really start gardening until my 20s when I bought my first home and wanted to create a beautiful outdoor space.  I found working outside and planting flowers and food very rewarding and I quickly became obsessed.

Favourite and least favourite produce to grow?

I love things that are easy to grow and my favourite is probably broccoli as it thrives during the cooler months, is very productive and delicious.  While I also love asparagus it’s a long term crop that needs a rich soil to perform well.  I planted it in a garden bed but the roots of nearby trees, seeking out moisture and nutrients, have invaded the space. This has meant that the asparagus has not done at all well and I’ll have to dig it up and put it in a spot that the tree roots can’t reach. A bath tub or wicking bed is a great spot for asparagus.

What should a novice gardener start with?

Good soil! If you have sand you need to improve it by adding clay to the top 30cm and all soils need improving with compost before anything is planted.

What’s a gardening hack you can share?

Feed edible plants with a brown liquid fertiliser like Seasol PowerFeed or Charlie Carp every week and watch them thrive.

What’s the most common gardening mistake you see being made?

People put plants into unimproved soil.  We say ‘don’t put a $10 plant into a 10 cent hole’.  Plants in Perth sands struggle to survive and even local area natives grow better if the soil is improved with compost. The compost feeds the soil microbes which break compost down into nutrients for the plants.

What underrated produce would you like to see more people grow and use?

Herbs. These are quite expensive to buy (usually $2 to $4 a bunch) and you can easily grow mint, parsley, rosemary, thyme, lemon grass, garlic chives, oregano, coriander (only grows well in the cooler months) and chives in pots on your balcony or courtyard and pick them as needed.

What should you focus on planting if you only have a small garden?

Herbs.  You can use parsley or chives as a pretty edging to garden beds, rosemary makes a stylish hedge and thyme is a fragrant, low, ground cover.  All herbs can be planted into the garden, except mint! Mint is a garden thug and should be confined to a pot!

Indoor plants are very on trend at the moment. What plants do you recommend and what are your tips for keeping them healthy?

My indoor collection is becoming a bit of an addiction!  For a taller plant I like the kentia palm.  It is an Australian palm and grows very well inside and has graceful, arching fronds.  My favourite smaller plant is Pothos ‘Marble Queen’ (often known as devil’s ivy) which has heart shaped, variegated, green and cream foliage that cascades from the pot, though you can also grow it on a pole or trellis.

Most indoor plants are killed by over watering.  Put your finger into the soil and only water if it is dry. A half strength dose of liquid fertiliser each month also keeps them looking good.

What do you see being discarded from the garden that really should be used?

Leaves from deciduous trees.  These are fantastic added to the compost or just heaped onto garden beds where they break down and improve the soil.

We hear a lot about family trade secrets being passed down through the generations, what’s a trademark that you’ll be passing on?

Never store your spring onions in the fridge. Once you buy a bunch use what you need and plant the rest of the bunch in the ground after trimming back the foliage by about half or two thirds.  They’ll establish in a couple of weeks and you can either cut the leaves as needed to use in potato salads and sprinkled on fish dishes or leave them to grow.  They’ll stay in the ground for a year or more but eventually the bulb will grow to the size of a leek. At this stage the bulb is best cooked in a soup or casserole. 

To see more of Deryn, head down to the Kleenheat Kitchen at the Perth Garden Festival from Thursday 11 April to Sunday 14 April. Get 50% off your tickets with Kleenheat’s special member offer