Feature

How to Start a Community Garden

Green Lifestyle

More community gardens are popping up around the country than ever before. So we asked landscape designer Darren Taitoko for his expert insight into what makes a happy and functional communal garden.

Nurturing Your Neighbourhood

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“People today are wanting to have a better control of where their food is coming from and how it’s produced, and they’re realising that they can do this with their own vegie garden,” says Darren Taitoko.

“Plus, many of us are looking for way to reduce our carbon footprint and this is a great way to start.”

Darren has 25 years’ experience in designing community landscapes. Among his latest projects is a communal garden at Katandra Rise, a residential community in Melbourne featuring environmentally sustainable, six-star homes and cycling paths over six hectares of parklands.

“I knew straight away that Katandra Rise was the perfect environment for a community garden,” says Darren, who has a strong personal interest in urban farming. “Creating a community garden within a residential development is a great way to introduce the concept to the local community, and we expect to see this take off and become part of something much larger.”

Darren stresses the importance of ensuring that the local community is fully supportive of creating a garden. He sees this 7.2 x 25 m plot as a great testing ground for the uptake of more gardening activities by residents and the local school, and is in discussions with the developers to create a much larger garden in coming years. Residents are offered monthly gardening workshops and provided with communal tools. Space will be given to the local primary school for students to experience the benefits of growing food.

“From an urban design perspective, many urban places are becoming increasingly more impersonal and gardens a lot smaller,” Daren says. “I see the community garden concept as a way to bring communities together again.”

If you want to get involved in your local community garden, it’s worth knowing that there are a few ground rules to help things run smoothly, as Darren explains.

Darren's 5 Tips for Community Garden Etiquette:

• BE A NEAT FREAK.
Keep it tidy, use the compost bins, put equipment back where you found it and let others know when you’re going to be away so they can look after your section for you. If you’re not planting anything during winter, cover your section or grow a suitable ‘green manure’ crop to reduce weeds.

• ASK BEFORE YOU SPRAY.
Many communal gardens are organic, so herbicides and weed killers are likely to be a no-go. Research ways to get rid of pesky visitors without chemicals.

• SAY HELLO!
Get to know your fellow gardeners – they will offer a wealth of knowledge and can help you out with some quick and easy advice when you need it. You may even decide to share your produce with your new friends!

• CONVERSE ABOUT THE RESOURCES.
Some community gardens are lucky enough to operate from recycled water tanks. Chat to your co-gardeners about ways to save water. Try mulching often to reduce water consumption.

• SEEK PERMISSION.
Ask your neighbours before bringing your furry friend in and keep an eye on your pet – a dog that digs will make other gardeners huffy!