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1920s: The garden of Adelaide

The Sturt River was the cornerstone of village life. It supported a large number of fruit and vegetable gardens

This information is part of Stories of the Sturt River, an interpretive trail where you can listen to the history of the Sturt River at six state-of-the-art signs along a 3km stretch of the Sturt River Linear Park walking and cycling trail from Warriparinga to Oaklands Reserve.

Early decades of 20th century

There were a great number of market gardeners in the Marion district, with properties ranging in size from 1 to 25 acres.

During the period after World War I, a large number of commercial fruit and vegetable gardens flourished on the flood plains of the Sturt River.

The garden of Adelaide

Cauliflowers and cabbages were grown in the winter months and bunch vegetables such as carrots, swedes and turnips were planted in winter to be ready for spring markets.

The mild winters permitted production throughout the year. Market gardens flourished, earning Marion the title of 'the garden of Adelaide'

Marion was renowned for its high-quality table grapes

Almonds and stone fruits thrived on the conditions, as did high-quality table grapes for which the Marion district had become renowned.

At one stage, Marion supplied up to 90 percent of the table grapes sold in the Adelaide markets.

Grape varieties

By growing many varieties, growers ensured the supply continued from January through to April. Some of the varieties included Muscatel, Sultana, Doradillo, Black Mammoth and Ladies Fingers.

Glasshouses flourished

Glasshouses flourished in Marion from the early 1920s. They made winter production of vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers possible.

In the early days, water used in the market gardens was pumped by windmills, using a steam engine or from bores.

Italian immigrants

After World War I, Italian immigrants searching for work and a better life settled in South Australia.

Several spent their first years in Marion, working as labourers on properties owned by local farmers, such as the Duncan, Laffer and Hersey families.

Often living in their barns or sheds, they laboured in their market gardens; then leased glasshouses, until they eventually established themselves as market gardeners in their own right.

Did you know? Table grapes from Western Acres, Marion were of such a high quality that they were served to Queen Elizabeth when she visited Government House in Adelaide in 1954.

Prominent growers in the area included the Duncan, Quick, Pethick, Western and Laffer families.

Did you know? Some streets in the district are still named after these families.

 “In the early days at Marion, they used to cart their fruit and vegetables in vans, trolleys and spring drays, slow-moving, horse-drawn vehicles, over roads filled with ruts and lumps, with side tracks of dust or mud."  -  DOLLING, A. 1981, THE HISTORY OF MARION ON THE STURT

Stories of the Sturt River video

You can listen to all this on a video on YouTube:

History and cultural heritage

The City of Marion recognises the importance of preserving our cultural heritage, valuing the past and planning for the future.

Our cultural heritage is precious and irreplaceable. It includes stories, memories, events and traditions as well as landscapes and places, buildings and objects that have significance to our local community.