The concept of community gardens dates back centuries as a traditional style of land use in Europe and the UK, and has become a worldwide phenomenon that is often promoted in ‘food’ shows such as River Cottage. The first Australian community garden was established in 1977 in Nunawading, Victoria (the garden state). So how did the idea of a Mirboo North Community Garden come about? Eric Walters from the Grand Ridge Brewery thought that it would be a great idea to create a community garden on a property opposite the brewery, which belongs to the brewery, to provide the Grand Ridge Restaurant with fresh produce, as well as to allow Mirboo North residents to grow and access their own ‘home’ grown produce.
To get the ball rolling, Eric enlisted the aid of his niece Rosanne to design a garden that would meet the needs of the restaurant and to provide areas for the community volunteers to cultivate whatever they chose as appropriate. And to make this idea work, Eric agreed to send Rosanne to a Permaculture Design Course, which would assist in the design and creation of the community garden. While still studying, Rosanne roughed out a design and then engaged a local landscape gardener, Alex Loudon-Shand, to begin the process of marking out and excavating the garden’s foundations. Once the markings were complete, Alex commenced the excavations; however, given the sudden onset of very wet weather towards the end of July, the excavations have had to be put on hold for the moment.
While the layout and excavation is just the beginning of the community garden, another important aspect was deciding what sort of plants would be suitable, given the aspect of the land, the prevailing weather and seasons, as well as what would be required by the restaurant. Now the intent of the community garden is to involve local schools in the management and maintenance of ‘their’ garden, so a bit of fun and fantasy will be part of the design. There will also be raised garden beds, to enable wheelchair access and participation and, when the garden is ready for planting, an experienced gardener will guide the volunteers on the planting and maintenance of the garden.
As development progresses, Grand Ridge Brewery staff will undertake the ongoing management of the community garden to ensure that it meets the fundamental design criteria and it’s hoped that the basics will be complete before Spring arrives. In the mean time, the search for a cadre of dedicated gardeners to become involved in making this project a success is underway. Knowing that Mirboo North has many very enthusiastic gardeners, I suspect that there won’t be any shortfalls in volunteers.
I’ll continue the story in subsequent parts, detailing the development of the community garden, the people involved and the produce that is grown in the garden.