6 February 2024

'You need to start planning earlier': Fiona Buining to teach Canberrans to grow food year round at SLA workshops

| Lucy Ridge
Join the conversation
Group of people planting seeds in trays

Fiona Buining (centre) teaches a workshop about growing food. Photo: Suburban Land Agency.

The Suburban Land Agency (SLA) Display Village in Whitlam has announced a calendar of monthly gardening workshops in Whitlam, led by farmer and educator Fiona Buining of Ainslie Urban Farm.

Following the success of a December workshop titled ‘Growing Food in Small Spaces’, the SLA has teamed up with Fiona to run a program of events called ‘Growing Food Through The Seasons’ aimed at getting more Canberrans gardening and growing their food year-round.

While recent UC studies show Canberrans love to grow tomatoes over the summer months, growing food in winter presents a unique set of challenges. However, Fiona says that planning and understanding how much growing time plants require can overcome those challenges.

“Most people don’t realise that for your garden to be productive in winter, you need to start planning much earlier,” Fiona told Region.

“People just tend to fill their garden with all the summer stuff.”

Fiona wears overalls and stands in a greenhouse surrounded by microgreens

Fiona Buining runs Ainslie Urban Farm, where she grows and sells microgreens and has a productive food garden. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Fiona explained that many winter crops need to grow over summer to be fully grown before the frosts, improving the flavour by making the plants sweeter.

Allocating space in your summer garden for winter crops early gives these plants the opportunity to grow. Fiona said that while it’s tempting to leave your tomato plants in for as long as possible to ripen those final few tomatoes, the law of diminishing returns is at play, and it’s worth ripping them out early to make space for your winter veg.

“There is a certain level of ruthlessness you need in the garden!”

READ ALSO Where are the cheapest veggies in Canberra?

Workshops will focus on composting and carbon capture, raising seedlings, planting fruit trees and managing pests in the garden. While participants will benefit from attending multiple workshops, each event is designed as a standalone unit. Fiona will revisit basic skills like soil preparation each time but will otherwise deliver unique content.

Minister for Suburban Development Yvette Berry said: “Growing your own food is one of the most rewarding, affordable and exciting things you can do in your home garden.”

“As a keen gardener myself, I encourage Canberrans to make the most of these fantastic, accessible workshops.”

Seedling tray with netting

Workshop participants will leave with seeds to plant in their own garden. Photo: Fiona Buining.

Beginner gardeners are encouraged to attend, and the workshops will suit those with a backyard or even smaller spaces like a balcony or courtyard.

“It’s a great opportunity and not just for residents of Whitlam: it’s for anyone who wants to grow food, no matter where you grow it,” Fiona said.

The workshops will run for two hours and contain a mix of theory and practical elements.

Where: Suburban Land Agency Display Village in Whitlam
When: 10am to 12pm

  • Saturday 2 March – Grow Green: Soils, potting mixes & fertility
  • Saturday 6 April – Composting & Carbon Capture
  • Saturday 4 May – Maintaining a Healthy Garden: managing pests & diseases
  • Saturday 1 June – Fun with Fruit: Growing Fruit Trees
  • Saturday 3 August – Raising Spring & Summer Seedlings
  • Saturday 7 September – Spring into Summer: Get ready for Summer growing
  • TBC October – Planting a Verge Veggie Garden
  • Saturday 2 November – Planning Year-round Food Production.

To register your interest, visit the Suburban Land Agency.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.