Permablitz #220 – Ferntree Gully
It’s a chilly morning for the first day of summer as volunteers trickle in early for Permablitz #220 at the Church of Christ in Ferntree Gully. They are here to help build a community garden.
“I saw the potential to transform our large block of land into a community garden so that surrounding neighbours and the larger community could benefit from it”
While Emma greets the excited volunteers carrying spades and garden tools, and handfuls of egg cartons, cardboard and newspaper for sheet mulching, members of the congregation are preparing morning tea and lunch for the fifty-plus volunteers.
A horticulturist with a background in plant prorogation, Emma recently completed the Permaculture Design Course (PDC) with Pete the Permie in Ringwood. She had a dream to turn the land into a community garden but she knew she needed help. So she contacted Permablitz and the design team of Nat K, Martijn, Jon, and Martin jumped on board to make her garden a reality. Each designer brought something unique to the project.
After Emma announces a rundown for the day, the enthusiastic volunteers set off, starting with the fenced-in children’s area. A pile of raised garden beds, donated by Bunnings several years ago, is put to use once again, with volunteers assembling eight of the beds. Each is lined with a textile barrier, then layered with cardboard, egg cartons, newspaper and compost using the lasagne method. Volunteers bend wire mesh into arches and install them between some of the beds to grow climbing plants, such as raspberries. Along the fence, logs of wood are re-purposed into steps for children to play on. Strawberries are planted into the nooks and crannies between them.
“Nat K designed the garden beds to grow a mix of sensory plants, flowers and berries for the children to explore,” says Emma.
In just two hours, the overgrown weeds are gone and the rejuvenated garden has taken shape. While the volunteers work away on the garden, Emma’s partner installs a rain tank, paid for through a grant with Knox City Council. Another volunteer with carpentry experience dismantles old wooden pallets and transforms the planks of wood into a mud kitchen for the kids. Near the entrance of the church, a group of volunteers work away on a large area of grass, installing more raised garden beds and wheelbarrows of mulch between them.
Before we break for lunch, Jon entices the kids over for a worm farm workshop, using a converted old bathtub as an example of repurposing disused items. The children are excited to pick up the worms and place them in the prepared bed, along with food scraps.
By lunchtime, the clouds hang low and heavy as the famished volunteers delve into the lavish spread of sandwiches and salads with large cups of tea and coffee consumed to replenish their energy.
With most of the major tasks completed, the afternoon is devoted to workshops and plantings. Martin hosts a three-bay composting workshop, giving us insight into the different methods of composting and tried-and-true methods that work. At the back of the children’s garden, volunteers begin constructing a tepee that will act as trellis for climbing vines and for children to play in. To finish off a productive day, Martijn and Monique present a social permaculture workshop with activities that highlight the importance of community in creating gardens. All of the volunteers participate and contribute wonderful ideas on how they can grow their community garden and engage the wider community. As the clouds unload rain in buckets, it signals the end of another successful Permablitz with close to fifty volunteers installing nineteen raised garden beds and planting fruit trees.
Emma says, “As much as I look forward to our harvest, I remind myself that the success of the garden should not always be measured by how much food we grow, or the number of volunteers we have at working bees, but rather how people feel when they visit our garden. It’s about community, big or small, coming together to learn, share and build friendships. I hope that our garden encourages and motivates others to get out into their own gardens to prove how easy it can be to grow your own food.”
If anyone would like to join their community, they meet every third Sunday of the month at 11.30 am. They welcome all people of different faiths, backgrounds and ages. People can also follow the garden’s progress by joining their facebook group, FTG Community Garden. https://www.facebook.com/groups/309191836442631/