ACT News


Digging into community gardening

DRIVING through the streets of the growing Gungahlin district, you start to wonder if you're driving in circles.

Boasting modern back to back concrete housing and buildings all seemingly identical, it is clear that the typical contemporary house and apartment structure does not come fitted with a full and flourishing backyard.

For some Canberrans, especially in our harsh climate, buying a cactus is the only answer. But for others like Robyn Power, convener of Kaleen community garden, there is a better alternative.

The Canberra Organic Growers Society (COGS) implements community gardens across Canberra, a site in which local gardeners and growers can come together and grow fruit trees, vegetables, flowers and whatever else the heart desires. Garden plots are designated to each member who can come and go as they wish to work on their garden which is fully equipped with a water system.

Since 2007 Power has been developing a keen green thumb at the Kaleen community garden.

What is really special about these gardens is each have their own character and all use organic methods.


"I do it because I like fresh food and I do not like pesticides,'' Power said.

''So we grow what we can, we vote with our feet and don't shop in big supermarkets that are promoting large industrial type farming that are cutting out the small farmers."

And from the way Power's eyes grew glossy, it was clear that her interest was far beyond a passion for gardening.

Power believes being a part of a community garden not only gives you fresh produce but also life-long friendships and access to people's secret recipes.

"We started having Friday morning teas where we would all swap recipes and bring a plate of homemade food to taste test," she said.

As Power shared her fondest gardening moments and memories of raising her grand kids in the garden, it was obvious that for Power, community gardens and getting your hands dirty play an important role in growing up.

"Our daughter comes with her four boys, our other daughter comes with her husband, they have three plots, and our third daughter lives in Tasmania so we would always travel to see her and bring a basket full of fresh vegetables in the hope that they would learn how much better fresh vegetables are for them," she said.

You could never have guessed, but Power gave up a busy career as an artist, abandoning a paintbrush in the studio for a shovel in the outdoors, but she admitted maintaining the garden is not as easy as it sounds.

However, the amount of time and love put into the garden has certainly paid off. You can also grow exotic species of fruits and vegetables that are not available in the shops, save money by learning how to save your own seeds and being able to cook food from scratch, entirely made straight from your garden, Power explained.

"When you taste a vegetable or fruit that has naturally had time to ripen in a garden, the flavour and taste is remarkable," she said.

And as Power unravelled the wrapping off the pesto dip she had kindly brought in, the fragrant aroma conveyed just that.

"I just love the vegetables, the taste of fresh produce and the feeling of sitting down at dinner to a plate of all different vegetables and thinking, gee, we grew this."

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