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Jenny in Newport

“It’s the little unexpected joys that make community gardens so special”

The first My Smart Garden event I went to was at Altona Community Garden. I learned how to plant a citrus tree using the bare-rooting technique which was very interesting. You can learn about gardening by Googling, but when you attend a workshop it’s an educative experience that engages the five senses. You touch plants and soil, you listen and have dialogue with presenters, you’re tasting garden produce, you’re smelling compost and blooms, and looking at the wonder of nature. Like gardening, attending workshops is a sensory experience and that’s why I really enjoy both.

I became a member of the newly established Altona Community Garden, because it was easier to visit than Yarraville Community Garden where I’d been a member for a number of years. I’m also a member at Braybrook Commons Community Garden. The three gardens offer different gardening facilities and experiences but I’ve found that 99% of gardeners are really friendly good people and welcome all sorts of diversity.

I wasn’t necessarily looking for friendship, but we all share this common interest in gardening and it’s like people who love football: as soon as they watch footy, they’ve forgotten their worries. When you’re gardening you’re just one hundred per cent into it. So I’m making good friends who share the highs and lows of gardening, exchange gardening tips and swap produce! However it can be frustrating when you’ve grown something from seed, nurtured it and then someone pinches it, but that’s part of the community gardening experience.

I returned to Yarraville Community Garden for another My Smart Garden workshop on Growing Vegies from Seed recently, and I’ve just signed up to another one at Yarraville to learn about Organic Pest Control. The program has an extraordinary range of free workshops and the network of events offered by all Councils is incredibly valuable. If you’re a gardener and you can’t find something useful, you must know everything!

I enjoy contributing to community gardens as a volunteer, especially since my son won’t let me near his garden! There was a call to members for someone to help make signs and I’m originally a graphic designer by trade, so we made signs for all the trees. At the moment I’m painting a mural at Altona Community Garden with activities for kids. No matter what skill you might have, you will be able to make a valuable contribution to the development of a community garden.

My apartment building doesn’t accomodate green waste collection so I started Bokashi composting or rather fermentation to stop sending food scraps to landfill and for the Bokashi liquid to feed my indoor plants. It works well; I don’t need to buy fertiliser or change the potting mix anymore, and now that I bury the Bokashi directly into my plots at the community gardens, the plants thrive and I hardly need to buy any vegetables! The team at Altona Community Garden have started a Bokashi Buddies Pilot Project with support from My Smart Garden. We’re teaching fifteen other locals residing in small residences and apartments the benefits of the Bokashi fermentation process. We are also encouraging them to share their experiences with each other, to troubleshoot, and to deposit their Bokashi at the garden for the production of compost.

Community gardens are especially important for people living in apartments who can’t access a viable space for a garden. As well as connecting with nature, the beauty is that you share produce, knowledge and conversation. You think you’re just going to go and garden, but you’re not. You’re going to meet people that you wouldn’t normally meet. For example, I’m hopeless at carrots, but I have lots of beans. So I look for someone who’s good with carrots so we might swap. And when kids visit the garden, I love to chat to them: ‘Oh your name’s Olive, we’ve got an olive tree!’. It’s the little unexpected joys from these interactions that make community gardens so special.

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