The Diggers Club believe the humble gardener can be the secret weapon in combating climate change.
The Diggers Club was founded in 1978 by Clive and Penny Blazey and sustainability has always been at the core of everything they do. Whether this has been in championing heirloom vegetable and flowers seeds in the face of corporatisation, planting water-saving gardens or preserving historic houses and gardens such as Heronswood (circa 1857) and The Garden of St Erth (circa 1854), Diggers has always been much more than a typical garden company.
Diggers is a business and now a Foundation around preservation and heirloom seeds.
What is the difference between heirloom seeds and other types of seeds?
Heirloom seeds usually pre-date the 1950’s and are ‘open-pollinated’, which means that pollination occurs naturally via wind, insects and birds. This preserves the characteristics of the variety as they are bred ‘true-to-type’.
Heirloom seeds embody their cultural and biological provenance, preserving diversity and safe-guarding heritage that can be traced back through generations.
In comparison, hybrid seeds (which were introduced to farmers and gardeners in the 1930’s) are produced by the deliberate and controlled crossing of two distinct varieties. Hybrid seeds do not produce ‘true-to type’ in the next generation, so the grower cannot save seed for the following season and must return each year to the seed company to buy more seed. This shifts seed ownership from the community of growers to seed companies.
As commercial seed companies across the world concentrated on new hybrid varieties (mostly for ease of transport and long shelf life), many old favourite heirlooms that had been passed down from generation to generation were lost forever.
Our mission is to make sure that these treasured varieties are saved and available for future generations of gardeners to come. We now list over 600 unique varieties of seeds , which are all trialed and proven in our own gardens first to ensure success in yours.
What are some of the techniques that Diggers uses to ensure quality seeds and plants?
All of our seeds are tested and grown in our own Diggers gardens first to ensure that they will perform in our members gardens. First, we grow any ‘new’ introduction for one season to check that it produces a stable and recognisable harvest and that this is an accurate representation of the variety. Once we are confident that a variety is what we think it is we set about producing a seed crop.
All the seed we grow ourselves are carefully hand-processed to
Diggers has its own gardens that are open to the public. What is the role of these places?
Our own gardens of Heronswood and St Erth were the first officially certified organic gardens in Australia and it is through these demonstration gardens that Diggers helps to educate Australian gardeners to engage in the story of sustainability and seed heritage.
Our gardeners curate an ever-changing collection of rare and beautiful plants, that help show gardeners how they can combine different colours and textures to create an inspirational garden of their own. Each of our different gardens has a unique feel, which plays to the different climates and growing conditions of each garden.
The gardens are open year-round for visitors, with Diggers members getting free unlimited entry.
Diggers has now become a foundation. What is the purpose of the foundation and what are some of the projects it is supporting?
Clive and Penny Blazey established The Diggers Foundation in 2011 to ensure that the gardens and legacy they established in heirloom seed saving will continue to be available for future generations of gardeners to enjoy.
The Diggers Club is now owned by The Diggers Foundation, with all proceeds from membership and product sales being used to help deliver our Foundation programs on tree planting, seed saving and education.
We believe that the humble gardener can make a world of difference.
What else does Diggers do aside from grow seeds?
So many things! Our mission is to help gardeners grow beautiful and productive gardens for a sustainable future. We do this through:
- Education – from our thought leadership articles in our magazines right down to practical day-to-day support and guidance in our lively members Facebook Group. We’re here to ensure that our members succeed and continue to grow as we believe that a gardener never stops learning, and have recently relaunched our face-to-face workshops.
- Products – Our passionate team of gardeners are constantly evolving our range to ensure that our members have access to the best range of seeds, rare plants, trees and bulbs available, with a particular focus on the unusual, rare and hard to find varieties.
- Experiences – We love creating unique experiences for our members that can’t be found elsewhere. From our gardens, through to our new seed savers garden, free seed offers for our members, workshops for kids, our nurseries and even the opportunity to stay in a glamping tent in the beautiful St Erth. Gardening brings such joy to so many people and we love sharing it all with our visitors and members.
How does Diggers see gardening as an antidote to climate change?
The simple act of planting a tree and allowing it to grow in your garden is an obvious way of locking up carbon. The tree itself converts atmospheric carbon into the tissues of the trunk, branches and leaves while the roots and associated mycorrhizae underground also contribute to carbon sequestration as they support a myriad of subterranean lifeforms.
On a local scale, plants provide cover for the ground that absorbs heat from the sun and of course shade for our houses and backyards. It has been demonstrated that private gardens contribute significantly to reducing land surface temperatures in urban areas with temperatures 5-6 degrees C cooler where gardens are planted.
Another way that gardening can help mitigate your contribution to carbon emissions is by growing your own food in a vegetable and fruit garden. By producing your own food, you are avoiding costly and energy intensive transport, package and storage, but not only are you making a positive contribution to the planet, but you will get to savour the flavour and freshness that only homegrown produce can provide.
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Today, we support over 90,000 members Australia-wide, all gardening and learning with Diggers. Our members enjoy six seasonal magazines per year, 20% savings on all products online, up to eight free packets of seeds per year, access to our supportive members only Facebook community for support and advice, free entry to our gardens and more.