The habit of growing vegetables

It’s nearly spring in Adelaide and already there are signs of new life with blossoms, and gardens are becoming colourful again with all kinds of flowering plants.

Pansies, Brooklyn Park, August 2022.

Some people I know are beginning to think of their summer vegetables and what they might plant. A couple of enthusiastic gardeners have already dug over their soil once, have welcomed the recent rains and are getting ready for the next steps. Sometime in September, they’ll start their seedlings – tomatoes, capsicum, eggplants, basil, corn and lettuces – which they’ll harvest in the summer months.

Even when the first generation of the Veneto market gardens retired and sold their land, most retained a backyard large enough for a decent vegetable garden. They continued the contadino tradition of using their property to grow vegetables and fruit trees. Some of the people interviewed for the Veneto market gardeners’ oral history project spoke about their parents and their habit of growing vegetables.

For example, Norma Camozzato nee Ballestrin,  remembers that her father, Giuseppe Ballestrin, maintained a vegetable garden using the same methods that he had used previously on a larger scale. She compares Giuseppe’s approach to preparing the ground with her own practices which she infers do not reflect the methods of the market gardeners in the first generation:

Giuseppe Ballestrin – 50th Wedding Anniversary, 1984. Photo supplied by Joanne Camozzato.

In the back garden. Dad had a beautiful garden. I mean, he treated that back garden as a market garden. He’d dig the earth two or three times before you planted anything in that. He’d put the manure in and dig it in, not like us and just plant things here and expect them to grow. No, he really looked after that.
(Norma Camozzato nee Ballestrin OH 872/37, 21 September 2016, 26).

Silvano and Amelia Zampin sold their land in Findon in about 1974 or 1975 and retained enough land for a vegetable garden. One of their daughters, Virginia, remembered the transition for her father:

Silvano (Gerry) Zampin, Findon, late 1970s. Photo supplied by the family.

They had a block, he [Dad] retained a block on the side of the house so he could just potter around if he wanted to plant a few vegies or tomatoes. He had one nice big one [glasshouse] there. And he used to like getting into that and going around and yeah, that’s just what he wanted, and he had a few lemon trees and all fruit trees around.
(Virginia Rodato nee Zampin OH 872/43, 15 March 2017, p. 24.)



Another of Virginia’s sisters, Sandra, recalled that her father grew enough vegetables in retirement to deliver to the family:

Silvano and Amelia Zampin’s Golden Wedding Anniversary, 1981, with their daughters. Photo supplied by the family.

Dad still kept a few beans and tomatoes and stuff to keep himself busy and he’d bring us all around a handful of beans, you know, just to see how we were going and keep us with fresh veggies.
(Sandra Semola nee Zampin, OH 872/44, 27 April 2017, 26).


Diana Panazzolo nee Santin recalled that her father, Romildo Santin had a busy retirement after he and her mother, retired from the market gardens:

Dad used to come here and do all the gardening, his at home, as well. The blocks weren’t overly big so he had a little vegetable patch around the fish pond but … we used to call him the handyman of Kidman Park because everyone used to come to him to fix things, a washing machine, a dryer, or the car wasn’t going or something’s wrong in the house. He was that sort of person.
Diana Panazzolo nee Santin, OH 872/27 13 September 2013, p. 26).

Dino Piovesan, Seaton, 2021. Photo by Alex Bennett.

Another person interviewed for the project , Dino Piovesan, remembered growing tomatoes after he finished working the family market gardens at Bolivar:
I had a row of tomatoes right down by the backyard, at the back fence and the fences in those days, you could easily look over the fence and chat to your neighbour and one time I was down the back there, and the guy came up to me said: ‘Those tomatoes of yours, they look like gum trees.’
Well, I knew that if you wanted a good crop of tomatoes, you had to fertilise them and you had to put mulch around them and then you would be successful.
And I can distinctly remember this guy saying: “They look like gum trees.”
And they were a healthy crop of tomatoes that I had here.
(Dino Piovesan, OH 872/17, 23 September, p 60).

A selection of a day’s picking – carciofi at the Marchioro farm, Bolivar, 5 September 2019. Photo by Eleonora Marchioro.

Johnny and Eleonora Marchioro continue to grow carciofi (artichokes) at Bolivar, and their season is very close now. People find it difficult to wait to taste these vegetables which are available in late winter/early spring for a few precious weeks.

See a previous blog on this website for a description of the artichoke season at the Marchioro farm -and a recipe for making stuffed artichokes:

The first-generation Veneto market gardeners and their sons and daughters were proud of their identity as market gardeners in their community and most continued to work a garden and grow their own produce after retirement. And today I’m sure that we all know people who are getting their gardens ready for the 2022/2023 summer vegetable crop in Adelaide.


Madeleine Regan
28 August 2022




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