A growing Barossa

barossa history

A growing Barossa

words by
luke rothe
>> Gardening paraphernalia 1930’s – 1960’s.
>> E & W Hackett Adelaide seed display stand C.1930’s

The mention of Spring conjures thoughts of warmer weather, and to some Spring signals a time to plant seeds for a Summer vegetable garden.

Barossa settlers cleared land and built humble dwellings from the late 1830s. 

Seeds and cuttings were brought out with them on the first ships, and the establishment of home gardens began quickly. 

Fresh produce in the early years included potatoes, maize, onions and melons. 

After the initial growing season, seeds were saved for following years or exchanged with family and friends.

Within a few years the Barossa’s fertile soil led to large established gardens, including orchards and vineyards. 

Abundant harvests allowed sales of fresh fruit and vegetables to local and surrounding areas, such as Adelaide and the Burra mines.

Nurseries were needed in the Barossa to supply a growing horticultural industry.

Evandale Nursery, near Keyneton, sold a large variety of plants.

The ledgers of Henry Evans dated 1857-1861 indicate sales of onions, carrots, asparagus, peas, cabbage and turnips, as well as fruit trees, roses and bulbs. 

John Frederick Wood was employed as a full time Nurseryman, and by 1862 the Nursery covered an area of ten acres (four hectares).

Wilhelm Ehrke established the Langmeil Nursery around 1900. 

A receipt dated 1905 advertises ‘All kinds of pot plants, flowers, shrubs, fruit trees, etc at lowest prices always on hand’.

For many years W. Ehrke exhibited in local annual shows. 

‘The Advertiser’ February 16, 1911 reported the Tanunda Show results, “Mr W. Ehrke of Tanunda secured the majority of the awards for flowers and pot plants, as did Messrs. Evans Brothers of Keyneton with their cut flowers.” 

While ‘The Observer’ Adelaide March 7, 1914 stated “An excellent display was made of pot and greenhouse plants, ferns and basket plants. W Ehrke was the principal exhibitor in this class.”

>> W. Ehrke, Langmeil Nursery receipt 1904.
>> Albert Kirchner, Freeling receipt & seed packets C.1940’s.

Around the 1940s, Albert Kirchner (1902-1964) of Freeling was selling packets of seeds. 

Albert used his own packets titled ‘Good Reliable Seeds’, but he also used colourful generic packets with his details stamped on the back. 

Interestingly, Albert was also selling Kirchner’s Berg Oil which is a veterinary medicine, suggesting he dabbled in several small business ventures.

‘Yates Reliable Seeds’ were supplying commercially in Australia from the 1890s and South Australia had seedsmen including E. & W. Hackett and E. B. Cox. 

Availability of these brands in the Barossa would have made it difficult for locals such as Albert Kirchner to compete.

Eric Bartsch of Tanunda began growing and selling seedlings to locals in 1951, eventually opening the Barossa Garden Centre in Murray Street, Tanunda. 

Receipts show that a rose bush sold for 70 cents in 1969. 

I still remember my mother buying small onion plants from Bartsch’s shop, with damp newspaper holding the bundles together. 

The original Bartsch production site at Langmeil Road, Tanunda is still used. 

Subsequent generations of the Bartsch family continue operating the Barossa Nursery retail outlet in Nuriootpa, continuing the story of planting, growth and harvest in the Barossa.

Luke Rothe

Local Barossa historian and enthusiast
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