Recipes for success for community gardening

The Victory Gardens team has been gathering as much local information as possible about community gardening as we embark on a process of establishing a small edible garden in the Hunter St Mall in Newcastle Australia.

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Growing is underway in the Hunter St Mall

In the several months it has taken to realise such a dream, we have engaged with many community gardening enthusiasts, change agents and place makers who have offered a hand and their knowledge,  to help set this inner city garden off on the right foot. It feels good to have tapped into this generous and lively community as we approach spring and the launch of the garden in September.

Our nearest neighbour, the Sandhills Community Garden and its coordinator Chris Everingham has been a wealth of knowledge. Chris has shared with us practical information such as finding the right approach to managing community gardens, hints for keeping gardens ‘ticking over’ as well as subjects like kids in gardens which we learnt has also been condensed into a handy reference – The Community Garden Manifesto!

Handy all right! Newcastle has a Community Garden Manifesto?! Not just a ‘hints and tips’ document but a “Manifesto”, how impressive and how lucky were we to stumble across this, thanks Chris!

In 2010 Associate Professor Jenny Cameron from the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Urban and Regional Studies and Fig Tree Community Garden’s Craig Manhood took 22 community gardeners from eight operating community gardens (and three community gardens-to-be) on a bus trip visiting each garden and condensed their discussions into a handy resource for people like us!

Key to our success in the Hunter St Mall will be the extent to which we are able to create a garden that becomes a place for everyone to own and be a part of. We have seen some early positive signs of this with anonymous colourful yarn bombing who we later found out was Lisa Who from Curve Gallery and guerrilla planting from Shannonleigh Organics farmers. Shannonleigh has operated a day time organic market in the Hunter St Mall for some years and have taken it upon themselves to add compost to the garden as well as the odd miniature pineapple and apple mint. Their involvement is very welcome and much appreciated!

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Yarn bombing by Curve Galleries Lisa Who at the Hunter St Mall

Another wonderful source of information, a little further afield, is Habitat in Harmony Community Garden. We find ourselves gravitating back to this gem of a place time and time again! Habitat in Harmony Community Garden is proudly nestled in Belmont North! It is a wonderful example of volunteer led community farming. A dedicated bunch of volunteers maintain a large productive community gardening network.

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Habitat in Harmony volunteer enjoying planting in the warm sunshine

Habitat in Harmony’s activities are integrated with other important community services affiliated with the Belmont Neighbourhood Centre such as Men’s Shed, Response, House with No Steps and Headspace. On our first visit we encountered high school students and families lending an extra hand to build trellises, a new home for a native bee colony and work on developing the garden’s composting system. There were plenty of visitors calling in to purchase a bunch of in-season produce. Volunteers Brian, Doug and facilitator Chris Brown stepped me through the philosophy of the garden and their committee structure. Habitat in Harmony has  been servicing the Belmont community for over 20 years and prides itself on delivering a lively and safe sanctuary for all.

A trip to this community garden is never complete until the car boot is filled with bags of compost to take back to the Hunter St Mall.

Luckily in Newcastle there are community gardens in many suburbs and if you haven’t stumbled across them yourself they are well worth a visit. Work is underway by Mark Brown from Purple Pear Farm to coordinate a directory of activities across Newcastle’s community gardens such as shared seed banking. Whether you live in Cooks Hill, Kotara or are near Ash Island, there’s sure to be a productive community garden worth exploring!

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