We love Brunswick! But we don’t love the stark, treeless, concreted spaces that are all too common there, and all over Melbourne. This post is about two such drab corners which are now lush, productive gardens, or ‘diamonds’, if you will.
The story begins back in September of 2014, when we built a small garden next to Jewell Station in Brunswick. This garden was somewhat of an experiment, we wanted to see what happens if we built a garden in a public space and just let it go. We painted on the wall: “A garden for the people… plant, harvest, take care of and enjoy!”.
And people do! All sorts of people regularly drop into the garden, pick some herbs or edible flowers and love their community a little more for it (we hope). However, without any formal ownership of the garden, harvesting and enjoying became more popular activities than planting and maintaining so the garden became a little run-down. But to every problem there is a solution: we found some wonderful volunteers who managed to re-established the give/take equilibrium by visiting the garden weekly to give it the attention that it needs. We also planted hardy, perennial plants that produce reliably and generously so that there is enough produce to go around (things like rhubarb, lemongrass, rosemary, alpine strawberries, pansies and bay).
And then, in July this year (2016) we were given some more space nearby and even some money to build a second garden. Starting a community garden is not usually as easy as being handed a sunny piece of land (albeit concreted) and some cash, but in this instance we’ve been lucky enough to team up with the developer NeoMetro. Developers tend to have a lot more land and money than community organisations and NeoMetro happen to be generous with theirs when it comes to the greater good, so it is a happy partnership indeed! They’ll be turning the whole area into a “New Urban Village” next year (complete with community garden).
So, we got to designing and building a second garden. We took into consideration these very important factors:
The ability to grow lots of food
The garden beds we made are wicking beds (check out this video on how the wicking component is constructed), which are water efficient and have 1.3m2 of growing space each. We fill them with fertile veggie mix mixed with a bit of sandy loam to aid drainage. This ensures that the plants have the nutrients, water and air that they need.
The garden is volunteer-built and the plots have been allocated to locals (giving preference to those who helped us build it), and the cafe next door (Phase One). We’re also holding events every fortnight until the end of the year to create opportunities for getting together and sharing, check them out here.
We used recycled and local materials wherever possible. We were able to source some pre-loved bamboo stakes on Streetbank and some fantastic soil conditioner from the organic waste digester in Melbourne University’s Union House (just down the road in Parkville). All of our plants were sourced from CERES organic nursery in Brunswick East. Once empty, the pots that our plants had come in were returned to CERES for re-use. We also installed a second-hand worm farm at the garden to process food scraps and make rich fertiliser for the garden beds.
This garden is going to be shifted around as the New Urban Village goes up around it, so being easily forkliftable is a must! This is why we used the super tough Mega Bins as the containers for our wicking beds.
A bloody good time!
We have the best volunteers that a not-for-profit could ask for – we just provide some gloves, shovels and cake and they bring the fun! Special thanks to Phase One for our delicious lunch made from 3000acres-grown ingredients including rhubarb, thyme, parsley, lemons and pansies.
This garden welcomes new community members, so if you’d like to get involved, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most photos are thanks to our amazing photographer, Julianne Piko @neighbour.good. Check out her Instagram here.