Recently I responded to a call out on social media for a person to help a community centre for children develop their garden with more vegetables and fruits. I spend a couple of hours each week at the garden. There are two areas -one for little toddles and babies and one for the 3-4 year olds.
They already have some good infrastructure. They have two chickens! There are two large rainwater tanks, a worm farm and an irrigation system.
The bones of the garden are already set up -shady trees, paths for little feet and trikes, logs for balancing on, sheds for storing play equipment. To the north -through the fence- is a school with a spare block of land, which may one day become a community garden.
It has been really interesting to work in another garden than my own! I have been putting the permaculture principles I have studied privately (not done a PDC) into action. One of the best things I did was take a sketchbook and try to draw what I could see of the garden -it helped me identify the watering scheme and its possible problems, the big trees on the boundary and the shade they provide, the opportunities to get more plants in the ground and where.
There are three raised garden beds. One of them had three very stressed eggplants in it. I built a rough shade structure over it to give it a break from the baking sun, and put some dwarf beans in, just to help with nitrogen fixing and to fill up the bed. I was pleased that some of them have come up after just one week!
The other two raised beds are even drier and more dead than this one! We need COMPOST and MULCH before we can plant anything in them.
Apparently the irrigation system failed over the summer - I think between Christmas and New Year, when the centre was closed and we had that distressingly hot 8 day period of extreme weather. Several trees died -a couple of young citrus and an dwarf apple. In an institutional garden, unlike a domestic setting, there was no-one to notice that things were going wrong. The centre needs a back up plan!
There is a covered play area with a solid roof which could be another opportunity for rainwater harvesting, and a couple of big sheds, which could also have gutters and tanks added. Maybe if there were some more volunteers like me, we could have keys to the garden and go and check when the centre staff are not working, and use the water from the water tanks to make sure the garden stays alive?
I have been working on reviving the compost system. There was one compost bin, which was about a third full of very dry weedy stuff. As well as the buckets of prunings I can bring from home, I was given several buckets of roughly made compost from a neighbour- and the plastic bin they had been in! One of these buckets of compost I spread on an empty raised bed, and the others I have added to the compost bin. Today someone has offered me three bags of shredded paper, which will add to the bin I am filling. The new bin will be used when the first is full, so we can have one filling and one turning.
The staff are working on an application for a grant to help us get some tools and some plants.
In the middle of the dreadful news from Ukraine, and the IPCC report, and the terrible floods on Australia's east coast, this project has been a blessing.
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I read and enjoyed this book by Fritjof Capra
You might also like this one from the ABC
"Forget everything you thought a garden was. And everything you thought a gardener was supposed to do. Your job in the Planthroposcene is to stage plant/people conspiracies to keep this planet liveable and breathable. Your primary commitment will be to support plant growth".