Toni Salter is The Veggie Lady. She has a passion to see organic gardening principles adopted by everyone. She has helped hundreds of people, just like you, grow great tasting, healthy food in their own backyards – from inner city balconies to those living on acres and everything in-between.
As a qualified horticulturist, Toni has been teaching community education classes both privately, at her home, as well as through various community colleges and local councils around Sydney since 2003.
She has also featured as a talk-back guest on ABC Radio helping gardeners solve their gardening problems organically and has been a guest presenter at a number of gardening shows.
To help as many people as she can, The Veggie Lady has developed on-line information and resources to help the general public to grow their own, including FREE planting guides and monthly checklists.
Toni also spends her time running horticultural therapy programs, developing sensory gardens through a number of organisations including AFFORD (Australian Foundation For Disability) and Diversional & Recreational Therapy Australia.
When I started growing my own veggies for the first time, I was hopeless! I did everything wrong: I planted the wrong things, at the wrong time, in the wrong spot. I did, however, manage to get a meagre amount of salad to eat. Thankfully, I wasn’t dependent on this for survival because there was barely enough to put on the side of a plate, no more than once a week.
Now, I’m pretty well self-sufficient in fresh produce as long as I choose to eat what’s in season in my area.
So how did I get from insufficient to self-sufficient?
Well, it’s been a process of education, experience and learning to take advice from other gardeners.
Ever since I had a garden of my own, I’ve always enjoyed pottering around and planting something that was reasonably cheap and appeared easy to grow. I had more failures than successes at first. Occasionally that would discourage me, but I’d always come back and have another go after I got some “new” information or ideas.
Passionate about learning more, I decided to do a horticulture course so I could get the “real” information. This gave me the fundamentals in how to grow things well and I learnt that different plants had different growth habits and requirements. With all that under my belt, I took to the veggie patch with a gusto. Then I started to get some real results.
But before long, my thriving veggie patch was stricken with pests and diseases. Now most of my horticulture training showed solutions to these problems using harsh chemicals. Knowing how potentially dangerous some of these pesticides were, and being pregnant with my second child and still breast feeding my first, I decided that there had to be a safer way.
It then became my personal challenge and pursuit to find out how to successfully grow my own produce organically.
Back then, you couldn’t just go to the supermarket and buy organic food. Most of the organic produce I’d seen at a farmers market was small, blemished and just looked unappealing. Being so much more expensive than conventional supermarket food, I simply couldn’t afford to eat organic food at this stage of my life.
I figured that if I could grow the basics myself, then the money I’d save could be put towards buying the organic food that I couldn’t grow. I set up a little co-op of safety-conscious mothers from a women’s group that met at my local church. To those who didn’t know me, I became known as “The Veggie Lady”.