The magic of community gardens lies in the mixed bag of lollies you meet occupying the “other” patches. It’s the transformation of the “other” (akin to that magic of winter to spring) from an unlikely pairing, the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in Twins kind, to fellow gardener. Brought together through a mutual love and respect for the veggie patch, this is community.
Maybe you are limited to a balcony that receives as much sunlight as Tromsø, Norway in Winter. Or maybe your gardening habit is helping to set your sights on expanding your veggie empire onto the streets . Or perhaps you’re looking to grow more than plants and actually grow community with the silver lining of locally-sourced food.
Much like Christmas with the extended family, you don’t really get to choose who belongs to your community garden. There’s always that uncle who overstays his welcome and offers way too much gardening advice. There’s the helpful aunty always dropping over excess produce and swapping seeds. There’s also the cool cousins who you promise to catch up with throughout the year, but only ever seem to meet at family events/ at the garden. It’s this rag-tag bunch that makes community what it is; you may have nothing in common but gardening and that’s where the learning begins.
There’s so much to learn from the way that other people garden and a community garden provides the perfect canvas. You can learn the to-do’s from thriving nearby patches and the do-not’s from that struggling patch that never seems to get watered or mulched. We had never thought to blanch leek stems with cardboard toilet rolls, but thanks to visiting a community garden this hack is top of mind when the season rolls around.
It’s too narrow to believe that public land gardening plots first emerged in Britain during the early 19th century. However around this time plots were allocated to the poor by the British Government, allowing people to grow flowers and vegetables in designated public spaces, which gave rise to allotment gardening. But food has always been grown in community.
We have isolated the “food experience” to the point of either delivery straight to our door or the quick get in and get out of the supermarket and you know we are definitely throwing our headphones in and using the self-checkout. However, it doesn’t have to be like that. We can embrace our oddball neighbours and grow our own produce aisles that are seasonal, fresh and haven’t travelled very far at all.
Check out the Community Gardens Australia website to find your nearest patch. Below we have also listed Community Gardens around Melbourne we’ve had our eye on, that may even become a part of your community. Even if its not possible to get a plot it’s always nice to know what’s possible to grow in your own backyard.
Pentridge Community Garden
At Pentridge they won’t lock you into your own plot and throw away the key. Rather than focus on personal plots Pentridge is about communal gardening. Members plant and maintain the garden together. It’s a lovely way to meet neighbours and means there’s always something tasty to harvest.
Location: 1 Stockade Avenue, Coburg
Bellfield Community Garden
Bellfield Community Garden is a not‐for‐profit organisation run by local volunteers. The purpose of the garden is to establish and maintain an accessible sustainable community garden, a community gathering space and an educational and recreational green space that encourages community participation and interaction.
Location: Oriel Road, Bellfield
West Brunswick Community Garden
West Brunswick Community Garden is a friendly, welcoming place with communal beds, personal plots and a community composting hub. They are always excited to welcome new members and there’s many ways you can get involved. You can access the large communal gardening space and use of all tools and materials at any time with their Communal Gardening Membership. Or if you want to support the garden and deposit your kitchen and garden waste in the compost they have a Friend of the Garden membership too.
Location: Behind Moreland Child Care Centre, 49 Everett St, Brunswick West
Using small plots of disused land, Fareshare Kitchen Gardens are growing their own vegetables as well as use rescued produce to cook free nutritious meals for people doing it tough. They grow next to the railway tracks in Abbottsford as well as the Baguley's farm in Clayton South. You can volunteer and get your hands dirty in the garden growing food for those that need it most.
Location: Check out the Fareshare website to sign up to volunteer.
Rushall Garden is part of the North Fitzroy Community Gardens Group (NFCGG), a non-profit organisation that formed in 1997, with the aim of establishing a community garden in North Fitzroy. The NFCGG proposed a garden with both individual allotments and space for communal gardening projects.
Location: Thomas Kidney Reserve on Rushall Crescent (behind the grassy knoll opposite the end of Kneen Street).
Veg Out is an organic, chemical free community garden run by volunteers and located in St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia. What was a former lawn bowling green is now a bayside community garden. They even run a Carrots by Candlelight event come Christmas time.
Location: Cnr Shakespeare Grove & Chaucer Street (Behind Acland Street, near Luna Park)
Springvale Community Garden
This community garden is a thriving garden full of vegetable patches, flowers and herbs. The garden has a wide multicultural membership base with many members from different nationalities able to guide those with English not as their first language.
Location: 1 – 7 Morwell Parade, Springvale
Selandra Rise Community Garden
Selandra Community Garden cultivate community. Embracing this sense of community, members can also choose to donate their excess produce to the Transit Soup Kitchen and Food Support.
Location: Heritage Park, Selandra Boulevard, Clyde North
Wilsmere Station Community Garden
Willsmere Station Community Garden has 50 individually-allocated growing plots and is also open to the community for their communal food forest, providing seasonal opportunities for harvest sharing. This is the place we wandered into and saw a bunch of leeks getting their stems blanched by a bunch of bog rolls. Thanks.
Location: Cnr Willsmere Road &, Carnegie Ave, Kew VIC 3101
Hawthorn Community Gardens
Hawthorn Community Gardens were established in 1980. Across its two locations it boasts 86 garden plots. Their aim is to involve everyone in the community, no matter their age or physical ability. Members are encouraged to donate excess produce to community pantries.
Location: There are two gardens, one at 381 Riversdale Road, Hawthorn East and the other in Linda Crescent, Hawthorn.
Avondale Heights Community Garden
The Avondale Heights Community Garden is a non profit community group and their message is simple: “to make use of unused public land by providing access to all residents so that they may experience the joys and health benefits of gardening, following organic and sustainable principles.” We can get around that in a big way.
Kensington Stockyard Food Garden
This community of Kensington locals have a vision: “to sustainably grow vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers, increase local biodiversity, create a vibrant meeting place, encourage mindfulness and well being, encourage self sustainability through a participation model where we all help each other, and, of course, to feed our community”
Location: Cnr Bluestone Street & Serong Street, Kensington
EVEN FURTHER NORTH
Food is Free Ballarat
Food Is Free Inc. is a grassroots, community led not-for-profit group benefitting all Ballarat (Australia) citizens with a focus on those experiencing disadvantage and has a core purpose of assisting and promoting food security and community cohesion and inclusion. Food Is Free Inc. operates over two sites : Food Is Free Laneway and Food Is Free Green Space, both situated within a short walk of each other in Ballarat. We love them because we got to spend some time with Lou and her team when we helped add veggie crates to the space. Their whole ethos is in the name and an idea we often bring ourselves back to.