6 Questions: Peter Cundall, gardener, 89

“Good gardeners know when to work hard and when to rest”

Peter Cundall

If gardens could talk they would say Peter is their beloved patriarch.

Peter needs no introduction to the gardening community but for those just starting out Peter appeared on television program Gardening Australia for many years.   Peter’s last broadcast was in 2008 at the age of 81.

Gardenhood recently caught up with Peter at his home in the Tamar Valley, Tasmania to talk about his own garden story.

When did you first toil the soil?

I was 12. The war had just started, every house had an air raid shelter and you had to cover it with soil. I couldn’t bear to see it wasted, so I planted vegetables. When we were sheltering from the bombs, all I was thinking about was my precious vegetables growing overhead. I grew beetroot, carrots, a few cabbages, some onions. It was lovely.

Growing Up in Manchester, England, your father beat you and your mother.    What did this teach you?

Total opposition to any form of violence, especially against women and children. I’ve never smacked my sons; to hit teaches them to hit others. I don’t know how I escaped that trap.

Did you end up in Tasmania because you love Gardening?

No (laughs).  Army posted me to Tasmania and I loved it so much I stayed!   I’d go out into the wilderness, with nothing more than a pack on my back and some food. I thought, ‘This is the nearest thing to paradise I’ve known’. It’s probably the most unbelievable climate for growing fruit and vegetables anywhere on Earth.

What’s the most frustrating mistake gardeners make?

Inexperienced gardeners work too hard. They go around on their hands and knees pulling out weeds when it’s much easier to just dump a bale of mulching material on the weeds and smother them. Good gardeners know when to work hard and when to rest.

Should every Australian have a vegie patch?

Yes.  If you have a little bit of fertile soil, or a few pots of it, healthy soil means healthy plants. If you eat healthy plants you get healthy people.

You’re 89. Where do you get your boundless energy?

A combination of hard physical work, plenty of rest, and above all eating the food you grow yourself. When I kick the bucket, they can just shove me in the nearest compost heap so I’ll still be working.

Although brief Gardenhood enjoyed catching up with Peter Cundall.    What a treasure of a man, a true gardening legend.

You can catch Peter on ABC 936 Talkback radio every Saturday between 6 – 9 am.