What an amazing enterprise the Community Gardens situated by the Domain are. I felt that it was only a few years ago that I wrote an article on the gardens and their founding member, Joan Farrell, and the challenges they faced. A quick search and I discover it was June 2009. What enormous changes have taken place since then. It is hard to believe it was 11 years ago.
During those 11 years the gardens have flourished and grown beyond recognition. How heartening it must be for those founding members to see new members with their passion and enterprise taking the garden to splendid new levels [literally]. Joan and Ted very happily encourage new members to help out and take some responsibility. I was fortunate indeed to catch one of those new members at the gardens and have a thorough look at them.
Fridays from 8am until 10.30am is still the time the garden is open to volunteers. Even an hour is incredibly helpful and there is no ‘previous experience’ required. A bit of weeding, trimming and picking is extremely useful. The time that it takes to pick is often overlooked but of course is hugely important. Most of the produce is donated to local community groups but everyone shares it. Anyone interested would be given a very warm welcome. The psychological benefits of gardening are well known by all gardeners. That, an increase in skills and the camaraderie which working with a group creates, has encouraged the highly motivated volunteers who regularly turn up.
When Alison first arrived she said rabbits were a problem. Initially they built individual wire cages to protect the plants and when that proved successful the plan for the fences that now protect the produce was formed. And wonderful fences they are. All built by women Alison proudly told me, pointing out the neat edging of the paths through the centre of each garden. The soil is beautiful. Above the clay pan which is about a metre down the soil is loam. Years of adding nutrients to the compost they began with 11 years ago has contributed to the crumbly friable soil they enjoy now. I noticed small liquid fertiliser tanks in the garden beds at the ready to feed the plants
There is a comprehensive future plan where every square inch is productive in some way. Function and form are key principles that the group are working towards including more community involvement. They envisage designated areas for eating where food from the garden can be cooked and enjoyed. I suggested a pizza oven having seen one at the Dignan Street Community Garden in Pt Chevalier. Certainly a picnic area which would be enjoyed by the community and the volunteers. The more the
community is involved, the more the area can be utilised. The addition of flowers has brought colour and form to some areas. I believe when there is beauty everyone enjoys and looks after it.
A roof over the existing sheds to collect water and a water tank are part of future plans, and a stall run at the gardens over the Garden Ramble weekend was a great success. In my last article I was less than generous with my grass clippings. That needs to change.