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City farm offers sustainable gardening ideas, such as how to build a water device

A new "city farm" in Turner aims to teach Canberra gardeners techniques for keeping their gardens flourishing without chemicals and in often difficult weather. 

Canberra City Farm opened its first city garden this week. On the corner of Watson and Masson Streets on the edge of an oval, the city farm doesn't operate like most community gardens, where members lease plots. Instead, committee president Jodie Pipkorn said the idea was to share tips and tricks for a superior garden.

One technique on display is the "wicking bed", which is designed to help a plant survive the water-evaporating summer months.

Canberra City Farm volunteer Cordelia Dalton said the wicking bed can help gardeners who need to spend time away from their plantation.

"You could go on a holiday and come back and still have a garden, which I think is the beauty of it all," she said.

The wicking bed holds a supply of water underneath a layer of finely mulched soil by using any sort of plastic container as a base.


"For my strawberry bed I've used the kids' sandpit, one of those clamshell things," Ms Dalton said.

"You have space for water at the bottom, and you fill that with gravel or piping so there is a lot of space for the water to be.

"You then have a pipe that feeds water to the pond at the bottom; and so whenever the plants want water they've got it, and when they use it more wicks up through capillary action."

Another tip was using "support species" of plants to lend a stem to their leafy brethren, and avoid spraying unnecessary chemicals.

"Sorrel is a great nutrient accumulator; marigolds around tomatoes and around spinach can get rid of nematodes, and also the bees really like them as well," Ms Dalton said.

"Some smelly plants can be used to confuse predators, like garlic around roses."

Ms Pipkorn said Canberra City Farm members would benefit from different perspectives from others with experience.

"So really, it is about learning from others in the community, building that community aspect where people get to share knowledge and we also have some of the resources needed in place as well," she said.

The garden would hold paid workshops for the public to learn how to use the sustainability techniques in their own gardens.