Leni Teng definitely has a way with plants – a nurturing, positive, practical and clearly successful way to grow vegetables and herbs. High energy and passion seem to benefit the plants she propagates with her husband, Paul, and family of four young children at Willow Grove.
Their five acres of organically grown vegetables & seedlings are sold through farmers markets and at the farm gate. Six years ago, when looking for an income from working at home, Leni began germinating vegetable seedlings for sale at markets. Any plants left over from the markets were planted out in paddocks and grown for sale as mature vegetables.
Leni stated that, years on, the demand for organic produce is so great, they can’t keep up. They grow up to 60,000 plants per annum, all sewn by hand. A seed saving strategy is practised, where seeds are dried for the future.
Their rich Gippsland soil is nourished with home made compost, fish emulsion, worm casings and a special compost brew. Wheat is grown as a manure crop prior to pumpkins and potatoes being planted.
90% of the weeding of paddocks is also by hand, based on a view that the impact of machines creates disharmony for plants. Mulched hay and animal manures are used to minimise weeds. Plants are monitored for indications as to needs for lime, nitrogen and other nutrients.
In the hot house, Lena’s domain, and where all seedlings are started, music is played for both plants and workers, mainly classical, soft music. Outside, Paul does the paddock work by tractor. However, when it comes to planting out the seedlings in rows, the whole family works together.
Their own food garden is close to the house for accessibility, with self sufficiency and independence being important living principles for the family.
Outlets for their special produce include Yarragon market, fruit shops and greengrocers in Melbourne via a wholesale co-operative, Baw Baw Food hub and Christies at Traralgon. Further, by arrangement Leni provides a soil and planting consultancy for private gardens.