Our garden is almost a year old
It’s hard to believe that the community garden on Davis Street has been growing vegetables for almost a year. That also means that my family has spent a year down in Melbourne after moving from Darwin. A bit like the seedlings planted in the community garden our life in Melbourne has blossomed into a wonderful experience for our entire family.
The City of Melbourne Council approved and had installed a biofilta wicking garden. To be honest I expected after a year that it would have been damaged. It hasn’t. There are some accidental events caused by curiosity of young people rather than any bad intent.
Kensington really does offer a fantastic lifestyle for anyone who embraces it. Davis Street which is a small truncated Street, not a cul-de-sac has this amazing community garden at the end of the street which only has six houses.
These houses overlook a great little park called Parsons Reserve. Even now as I write this I can hear the sounds of children’s voices as they play in the park. Beyond the garden at the end of Davis Street a small bluestone lane or right-of-way provides walking access for those people who might be visiting the park taking their pets for a stroll or heading up to Newmarket Street for a meal at one of the very many restaurants there or to catch the public transport into town.
The children and their parents are always fascinated by the small strawberries that grow in the two community patches that are in the two corrugated iron growing bins on either side of the grey plastic growing plots which are allocated to local residents.
I remember last year probably in October a couple of lovely young children hung a bag of sunflower seeds from one of the street signs near the garden. This bag had sunflower seeds in it with a note encouraging gardeners to plant sunflower seeds to see who could grow the largest sunflower. I managed to grow two sunflowers and two other plots grew one each. The combined size of my two flowers was less than the size of the smaller sunflower out of the other two.
Don’t overcrowd the pot Mark – Okay – lesson learnt (maybe)
That said I have been able to grow traditional cucumbers, kale, spring onions and various types of Asian green leafy vegetables. I even have a few plants of the mighty Carolina Reaper Chilli growing in the plots as well. But of course the best ones are growing in another plot where I did a bit of guerrilla gardening and planted some seeds. Those plants are on the verge of producing their first fruit.
I noticed these little red leaves that appeared in my top plot and I was just about to pull them out as weeds, when I discovered they are red coral lettuce babies from when last year’s went to seed… now for someone from Darwin that is cool because most of our soil would be leached and you certainly wouldn’t be getting any lettuce just popping up.
I have to balance that success with the fact that I nurtured what looked to be a green leafy edible plant but after I pulled one of the leaves off to check and noticed a white milky substance exuding from the break in the leaf I discovered that I had been cultivating a weed.
Shiso or Perilla seeds were passed to me the other day. Also called the beefsteak plant or purple mint it is used in Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese and other foods. Like so many herbs it’s also reputed to have healing properties and antioxidant qualities.
Over the summer the cherry tomatoes that were planted have borne fruit and ripened on the vine. Surprisingly the strawberry plant continues to produce fruit throughout the year although they very small. I have seen young children and the odd adult come over and look through the strawberry bush in the hope that they will find a red prize – many do.
I also have a few beetroot which are ready to harvest and I have been using the leaves in salad although I have to say they are tougher than the baby beetroot leaves that you buy from your local supermarket. There can be no disputing the value of the fibre in these leaves though.
So as we approach the one year mark, what can be done to improve the “value” of the community garden. There has been talk that to use a retail term we have had “shrinkage” – folks not contributing to the watering or growing who have been harvesting. At the end of the day if the produce is eaten it doesn’t matter. Indira Naidoo who is in this space of growing vegies in small places… is featured in a news piece.
Her comments about gardening being a kind of meditation resonate with me. Not that I work in a stressing environment, but the in same way people love their pets I am driven to help a plant survive.
So I’m hoping to get a number of small signs put up on the signposts including a QR code that links to maybe this blog or to the Facebook page so we can continue to share information about community gardening and the social value that it presents. I have a very good friend who lives in Singapore and she maintains a community garden in the building that she lives in. She shares information about the plants in that garden with people who pass by and stopped to comment on how nice the garden is. I think it is lovely that I’m doing the same thing in Melbourne and my friend is doing it in Singapore. Both giving and receiving the satisfaction of social sharing face-to-face with strangers.
…and because I am in education… please check out veggycation. You will be glad you did.