When I moved to Footscray I got really excited about finding out what was going on in the local area. The first My Smart Garden event I went to at the Maidstone Community Centre was fantastic and introduced me to the community garden where I ended up getting a plot. I’ve met heaps of people through the workshops and I’ve learned about other things going on in the community.
I grew up on a farm and we always had a vegie patch but I didn’t care as a teenager. I’d only grown herbs before so I was definitely a beginner when I started. Moving into our new home I really wanted to make my nest and learn how to tread lightly and not leave such a mark on the world. Once I knew about the program I dived in – I think I’ve been to about six workshops now and when work gets too busy for me to attend I look at the notes and tips online. The events are things that you would have to pay for normally and they’re only becoming more and more popular in my experience – they book out so quickly!
I did an edible weeds workshop and found out that many of the weeds in my garden like nettles, chickweed and purslane are edible – I used to pull them out, I had no idea! Then I was able to show other community gardeners how to eat their weeds too. I’ve learned about how important soil is. I’ve also learned what worms do and don’t like and how to compost. I now use natural methods of pest control like beer traps for slugs and snails and I plant lots of flowers like borage to attract bees. We also use greywater on the garden in summer.
I never thought I’d grow things like fennel! Now I’m picking bulbs to take down to the farm to eat with mum. I won a heritage quince tree so my family is really looking forward to those too. I always have staple greens growing – spinach and kale – and I didn’t think I’d attempt broccoli, asian greens and coriander but even with a small garden I still haven’t had to buy any bok choy or coriander this winter when I thought I’d have nothing. It’s a bit like learning to cook from a recipe book. Once you have an understanding of the method you can experiment and make it up yourself. It doesn’t always go right but I’ll feel confident to have another go. I’ve picked bags of rocket for friends. It’s such a nice feeling to share fresh produce straight out of your garden.