Q & A with Deryn Thorpe

Based in WA, Deryn Thorpe is a fanatical gardener, who is passionate about communicating her love of gardening to others. Deryn also hosts Australia's #1 Gardening podcast - All the Dirt.

Deryn hosted Paul West and Darryl Nichols to chat Grow It Local back in 2019, check it out here.

How did you first get involved with gardening and growing food? Was there a pivotal experience or moment?

While I had grown a few vegies in rentals I started gardening seriously when I bought my first house in my late 20ies. I finally had the garden space I craved.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking up growing?

Either start with something easy or something that will save you money. I’ve always grown herbs as I love cooking and think that paying $2 for a few sprigs of rosemary in the supermarket is outrageous! All the sun loving perennial herbs like chives, garlic chives, rosemary, oregano, thyme and parsley are easy to grow. If you cook casseroles and soups grow a bay tree in a pot a they’re too big for most gardens unless you prune religiously.

What’s growing on in your patch right now?

Herbs of course and spring onions – they are so architectural and you can just buy a bunch from the supermarket, use one or two and plant the rest (cut the foliage back by 2/3s). It’s that easy.

During the covid lockdown we built two wicking beds in the front garden surrounded by my roses and cottage perennials. They are much more successful than normal garden beds if you live in suburbia as the tree roots can’t invade the good soil. Tree roots will travel a long way to get to a vegetable patch! Wicking beds are great in summer too because you have water available to plants all the time.

I use big ‘self watering’’ (wicking) pots for the rhubarb as well as it needs regular moisture and afternoon shade! I did not have much success with this plant until I used the pots.

In my dedicated vegetable bed I have planted tomatoes that I started off in small 10 cm pots. I always pot the small seedlings you buy from the nursery or those started from seed into these pots before putting them into the patch. You’ll have more success with all your vegetable seedlings (especially in hot climates) if you do this.

 In the wicking beds I always grow lots of silverbeat and some Asian greens are they are super easy. In the cooler months my favourite vegetable is broccoli. I have just harvested my garlic crop which will leave some room to plant beans – I love beans and they are a great warm climate crop!

What is your favourite edible to grow and why?

Garlic because it is expensive to buy and easy to grow.

Can you tell us a little about All The Dirt?

‘All The Dirt’ is Australia’s most popular gardening podcast and was started by myself and Steve Wood in 2017. We both have worked in the garden media (radio, TV and print) for many years.

We release a podcast fortnightly and have produced more than 120 podcasts covering all areas of general gardening as well as specialised plant topics, garden science, food growing and sustainability.

In 2018 and 2020 the podcast won the audio award at the Horticultural Media Association laurels (held biannually) for the best garden audio.

Over the years we have interviewed many of Australia’s garden and sustainability legends.

Any favourite moments from the pod so far?

It’s hard to choose, our most popular podcasts are the ones Steve and I record each season talking about what to do in the garden at that time. We always talk a lot about the veggie patch I’ve loved our chats with presenters from Gardening Australia too. Other favourites:

·     Ep 111 A chat with Clive Blazey, the founder of the Diggers Club.

·     Ep 93 Matthew Evans from Fat Pig Farm about farming, feral animals meat production and the ethics of eating it.

·     Ep 77 and 24 Evolutionary bottanist Monica Gagliano on plant communication and cognition. Plants can think and remember and she explains how her experiments proved it.

You can download any of our podcasts to your phone from your favourite podcast app for free or find them on our website www.allthedirt.com.au

Top 3 favourite veg to cook with? Any tips on using the whole vegetable to reduce food waste?

·     Broccoli is a great plant to grow as you can eat all of it – the leaves, stem and flower buds. I know that some people throw away the stalk but in America I’ve seen it sold separately as ‘woccalli’ as it is great sliced and used in stir fries. I like it in soup too. I make a sweet corn soup (fry chopped ginger root and garlic, add a can of creamed corn, veggie stock and some fresh sweet corn kernels and boil briefly until corn is just cooked. Then just before I serve I add sprigs of broccoli and sliced stem to the boiling soup for about a minute, turn off the heat, stir in some light soy sauce (to taste) and then add a few broccoli leaves and serve sprinkled with chopped spring onion leaves, a splash of sesame oil and fresh coriander. Yum!

·     I also love sweet potato as it is very versatile as you can eat the young leaves in a stir fry. I recently discovered how to make baked sweet potato chips crispy by tossing them in a container with a little corn flour (add some onion powder and salt for flavour). Spray chips with oil and bake in the oven, turning and respraying half way through. 

·     Cherry tomatoes are fantastic baked! I cut them in half and with cut sides up sprinkle them with chopped thyme leaves, salt and a dusting of icing sugar and then bake them in a hot oven until they are just a little dehydrated. The flavour is so intense!!!

Whose patch would you most like to checkout and why?

I work as a garden tour guide for ASA Cultural Tours www.asatours.com.au and take people on garden tours in Australia and in 2022 am off to the Channel Islands. If you’re into a stylish vegetable patch you can’t go past the one that landscape designer Paul Bangay has at his country home in Denver, Victoria. I’ll be visiting it again in March 2021 on my ‘Victorian Designers and their Gardens’ tour which gives an exclusive look at some outstanding gardens rarely open to the public. Paul Bangay’s garden is both productive and stylish!

Top 3 favourite songs to garden too?

I usually listen to podcasts while I garden (true I am not just saying this because I produce one). Conversations, Branchout and The Bookshelf are three I really enjoy, other than my own of course.

Do you compost and if so why?

Always!!! Two reasons: it stops garden and household food waste going into landfill and it provides almost free (I add some manures and sometimes straw which I have to buy) nutrients and soil conditioner for the garden. It’s a win-win.

A favourite garden-inspired recipe you love?

 I love to cook and eating is one of life’s great pleasures. I like this recipe as you can substitute whatever vegetables you have on hand.

Vegetable slice


5 eggs

1 large zucchini grated

400g carrot, potato or pumpkin, peeled and grated

1 ½ cups of corn kernels or frozen peas

1 medium brown onion, peeled and diced

2 tsp of dried mixed herbs

Large handful of chopped fresh parsley or dill

¾ cup wholemeal self-raising flour

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

3 tablespoons parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons of pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

½ a teaspoon of salt and ground pepper

Cooking spray oil

1.   Preheat oven to 200 degrees or 180 fan forced

2.   Whisk eggs in a jug with salt and pepper.

3.   Squeeze excess liquid from zucchini and add it and all other ingredients (except parmesan cheese and pepitas) into a bowl. 

4.   Pour in eggs and stir mixture until well combined.

5.   Spray a large baking dish with spray oil and put in the mixture.

6.    Flatten with a spoon and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and pepitas.

7.   Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until firm and golden brown.

8.   Rest in the pan for 10 minutes before cutting into slices.

Serves 6 (with a side salad)