Community Garden June Update

It’s important to us all that we can identify with and feel a part of communities of people with whom we share common interests and important values. I’d assume that we all share a love of nature and a passion for natural foods, gardens and gardening.  Over the past few years, so many people have reported that they feel a sense of joy as they pass by or wander through our community garden. We are all enjoying and contributing to a sense of pleasure and well-being and, as evidence strongly suggests, long term better health for many in the Alice Springs community who feel a sense of inclusion.

So I appeal to all our members to see themselves as belonging to a Community Garden that serves a social and spiritual purpose and to take the opportunity to engage socially as much as practically possible with their fellow Garden members and plot neighbours.

Working bees, our last Friday of the month social evenings and Garden events all provide great times for sharing, giving and receiving. To date we have stuck with our Sunday morning working bees to provide a regular reliable opportunity to join in, occasionally or frequently, and to contribute for the common good. Join us from 8.30am.

The Garden committee does intend to run a Survey Monkey in the next few weeks to try to identify other times when people might be free and willing to lend a hand. Please respond and join in with your suggestions.

The Garden continues to grow and develop both in pockets and as a whole. There are always many things to note. Here are some action areas: 

  • The new building framework is up. It will soon be providing a small office and kitchen for group activities plus a toilet accessible to all including disabled people.
  • Our small shed is now really far too small for safe storage of garden tools and equipment. If anyone knows of a bigger transportable shed going for not too many $'s  we’d love to hear about it.
  • Our irrigation system has done a pretty good job to date but it would be even better, more economic and much easier for those of us who regularly monitor and adjust our seven individual Galcon timers if it was run automatically using one or two smart controllers linked to a computer app. Changing to a new system is high on the Garden committee’s agenda. Planning, time and money will be needed. Olive Pink Botanic Garden has just installed such a system and seems chuffed with it. 
  • The small hill behind (north) of the Garden is a sacred site but we have permission to clear it of buffel grass and some ongoing clearing is being done especially around the native trees at the base of the hill and outside the Garden fence. Much more buffeling could be done to protect other native trees, shrubs and grasses on the hill.
  • The Garden was designed and landscaped on desert permaculture principles. It has a slight slope downwards of around a metre from the north to the south (front gate). So back in June 2011 three raised mounds or ‘berms’ were built on contour lines running east west across the Garden. The permaculture concept was that rain water running off the hill would be trapped progressively in the swales between the berms and that garden plots would be built in the swales. The mandala garden is north of the first berm. Plots 1-18 are north of the second berm and the remaining plots 19-48 are north of the third berm.  We are currently looking into how we might use some simple small levee banks above the Garden to better harvest that hill runoff as much of the water currently runs around the outside rather than into the Garden.
  • In one major community effort in late 2011 the three new berms were planted with a couple of hundred acacia seedling of various varieties and some 50 mulberry saplings. The aims were to ensure the stability of the berms, provide mulberries for all and to utilise the nitrogen capture and storage capacity of the acacias through regular tree trimming or coppicing and wood chipping. This worked relatively well for a couple of years but then the problems of tree root invasion and plot shading began to grow as many of the trees rapidly grew. We were forced to remove most of the mulberry trees over a couple of years. All were dug out over winter and transplanted either away from our plots or sold on to members of the public for around $60-$80 each. We probably still have another ten on the berms to find new homes for over the next few months. If you are interested let a committee member know. Most of the acacias, particularly the acacia salicinas, have now grown into major trees and we see little choice but to remove them and replace them with much smaller plants of interest to gardeners.
  • As most people are aware the Garden plots are automatically watered every day and we don't want to waste water. For not only that reason but also to foster our aim of healthy and productive gardens and a shared community commitment we are keen to see plots fully used across the seasons.  The Garden committee recognises that time and energy fluctuates for everyone and that sometimes a plot may have to play second fiddle to life's challenges. But we are a community and so we are looking to encourage communication and collaboration to smooth out those bumps where we can. We have begun monthly audits of plots and will follow up with plot holders if it looks like a little help might be appreciated.
  • Students from Acacia Hill, Ross Park and St Philips each have a permanent plot to nurture and quite a few other school classes have been visiting the Garden lately, having fun and sometimes helping out in small ways. Our new bush music machine, the Harmonic Fence’ built and installed in the Garden’s northwest corner by Martin Oostermeyer is proving a popular attraction, not exclusively for kids.
  • Food for Alice continues to harvest from their own and community plots returning some funds to the Garden. This is another community activity well worth supporting. It’s open at ALEC every Saturday morning from around 8.30 to 11am.
  • Geoff Miers has been calling for Show entries and we hope the Garden might put in a display as might some individual plot holders.  
  • The communal strawberry patch is in need of a biennial reinvigoration hopefully over the next few Sunday working bees.
  • The mosaic walls next to the small shed are exposed once more and in need of further grouting and cleaning to preserve their beauty. This work and the other walls built by the work for the dole teams and Ben Wall are a long term tribute to them and a highlight of the Garden. 

Summer has left and Jack Frost has arrived in the Garden. Pumpkin and sweet potato vines have died off leaving a few mature and unfortunately many unripe pumpkins but hopefully many plumb sweet potato tubers to dig up.  Marigolds, egg plants, rosellas, basil and tomatoes are also surrendering to the seasonal change. It’s the time for greens and brassicas in the Gardens and most plots are thriving especially those whose owners were early starters. 

Five stars and a greenshake to all readers who have managed to read from the green community tips of the update down to these fine root hairs at the finish. 

Good cheer

Bruce Simmons

Garden Convenor