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Market Gardens

Along with domestic food production in backyards, market gardens traditionally supplied most of Melbourne's vegetable requirements. Early gardens were located along Merri Creek and the Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers, and from the 1840s English, Scots and Irish families established gardens in the sandbelt localities of Brighton, Moorabbin, Bentleigh and Cheltenham. Following the gold rush, many Chinese immigrants moved to the metropolis and established market gardens, mostly along watercourses in northern and eastern suburbs including Heidelberg and Coburg. These gardens made a vital contribution to the metropolitan vegetable supply until the early decades of the 20th century, when increasing taxes and rates, combined with rising land values, made subdivision a more lucrative proposition for the landowners. The 1920s saw the commencement of Italian market gardening in Werribee (still an important area for vegetable production), and the introduction of motorised trucks. These joined the traditional cavalcades of carts piled high with vegetables which would converge on city markets and return to the gardens laden with manure from urban stables. In the 1880s some growers also fertilised their crops with nightsoil purchased from contractors. World War II necessitated a large expansion in vegetable production. While semi-rural districts such as Glen Waverley were noted in the prewar decades for their well-ordered countryside of orchards and market gardens, by the late 1950s the once substantial acreages of growers like Jim Stocks, the Cauliflower King of Ashwood, were being subsumed by suburban expansion. Where once vegetables grew within a few hundred metres of Camberwell Town Hall, postwar developments in transport and post-harvest technologies have seen even outer suburban market gardens increasingly replaced by large-scale capital-intensive vegetable farms located further from the metropolis.

Andrea Gaynor

Monk, Joanne, 'The diggers in the trenches: a history of market gardens in Victoria 1835-1939', Australian Garden History, vol. 4, no. 1, July/August 1992, pp. 3-5. Details