Goonellabah man Noel Collins pictured in his vegetable garden.
Goonellabah man Noel Collins pictured in his vegetable garden. Jacklyn Wagner

The green reaper

HE'D DENY IT, but Goonellabah gardener Noel Collins is a poster boy for the guerrilla gardening movement that wants to turn council nature strips into edible produce.

While some retirees are out playing golf or sinking a beer on the porch, 75-year-old Mr Collins and his wife Bronwyn can be found tending their roadside veggie patch and fruit trees - right next to busy Ballina Rd on RTA land.

It all started with an innocent desire to trim the waist-high lawn over his back fence over a decade ago.

"This was all rubbish when we started - it was a snake haven," he said of the large strip of land between his back garden and Ballina Rd.

"The grass was waist high - we used to mow it by hand."

Now he's got trees of oranges, lemons, macadamias, pecans, limes, custard apples, bananas, as well as passionfruit vines (that's just the fruit), and it's mostly spray free.

After a few years the RTA came knocking and he thought he'd have to stop - instead they asked him to lease the land, take out some insurance, and patted him on the back.

"They appreciate what I do," he said.

Now he has people pulling up to the vegie patch and asking for his gardening advice.

"I'm no horticulturist," he said. "I'm a self-taught gardener."

However, he does have years of experience, having started growing food on his family's farm from the age of 10.

"We had it hard and we learnt how to look after ourselves," he said.

Mr Collins sees it as a great way to stay active in retirement.

And it's not just the vegie patch he maintains, but the entire 1ha nature strip behind his property, along with a neighbour.

"I mow it and keep it clean, and I spray all the road and nature strip for weeds - that's why it's always so beautiful."

 

NOEL'S TIPS

Create good rich soil using horse manure and mulch.

Turn the ground with a rotary hoe every time a new crop is planted.

Always water fresh plants with seaweed fertiliser.

Plenty of love and affection.



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