Sunday, December 12, 2010

Growing in the Community

Since I was unable to obtain an apartment with a yard when we moved to Australia, I thought it would be good for me to join a community garden and hopefully get a plot. Randwick council has a community garden located a little ways away from our house. It’s pretty cool – it has shared plots, offers lots of workshops, and even has a few chickens. As of yet, I had not made it to any workshops, but on Saturday I finally managed to get to an Organic Gardening Basics workshop.

As anticipated, I had a lot of fun and learned a lot too. We built a compost pile and went over the basics of a no-till garden (also called the “lasagna method” of composting). It’s a method of building the soil by composting in place. You then plant seeds in your compost pile, which grow into plants while the materials around them break down. This eventually creates a fully composted plot, with rich loam instead of hard packed dirt or sand. It can even be done in a raised bed on tile or cement.

The requirements for getting a plot in this garden are semi-strict: you have to attend 3 workshops and 3 working bees. Fortunately, the workshop I attended will count for all of my workshop requirements since the lady who ran it will be having a baby soon and there won’t be any workshops for a little while. There is a planned workshop on edible weeds in February and one on permaculture in March, both of which I hope to attend.

Since I got a late start, I don’t’ know if I’ll be able to get a plot this summer. However, one benefit of the no-till method is that the compost surrounding your plants generates its own heat, and therefore keeps the roots warmer in winter than if they were planted in the ground. I’m hoping to get a plot and plant some late summer crops for harvesting in the fall with this method. In the meantime, I’ll be gleaning all the information I can form the workshops and working bees, in the hopes that I’ll be able to use it someday when we have a garden in our own backyard.


Anonymous said...

What is a working bee? Sounds like everyone working their plots at the same time. Would this help to create greater knowledge sharing, labor sharing - or what?


Anonymous said...

Hmmm-- I recall reading somewhere long ago that having too much decomposing material in your soil robs roots of oxygen. I have never observed this and don't know if it is true. I have never been concerned and recently put a lot of beach "trash" into the hole when I planted sea grapes and they look great.


L said...

Mom, the garden has a lot of shared areas that need work, like the chicken pen, the woodchip/straw piles, the shed, etc. The working bee makes sure those areas are taken care of.

Dad, I've been learning in composting that you need to have two types of material -- carbon materials ("brown" materials like sticks, leaves, etc.) and nitrogen materials ("green" materials like grass clippings, food waste, etc.). If you have too much of one or the other, the right organisms don't move in to decompose the material -- making it smelly or not decomposing it properly. I would think this would also not attract enough earthworms to aerate the soil. So that may be the problem with too much decomposing material in your soil. Also, to plant in the lasagne garden, you make a hole in the pile and fill it with finished compost. So the roots should be able to get oxygen from the compost until the earthworms move in and aerate the pile. Here's a link to the lasagna garden: