If you love the idea of growing your own food but lack the space to do so at home, then why not start a community garden with other like-minded people in your neighbourhood?
Since a desire to be clean, green and sustainable is Brisbane’s long-term vision for the future, it’s easier than you think to establish a community garden near you. Keep reading to find out what you need to get started.
Gathering your group
The Brisbane Community Garden Guide is a good resource for people who are looking to start a community garden. It notes that:
“To begin a community garden, it takes a great deal of time, commitment, energy and a strong network of like-minded community members to bring the vision to life.”
It suggests answering the following questions to find out if it is the right project for you:
- Do you have an established community group that wants to do this project?
- Is there enough interest and energy within the group to sustain the project in the long term?
- Is a community garden the most effective way to address your community’s needs, e.g. for food security, social opportunities, health promotion, environmental improvement or learning about sustainability?
It provides a detailed checklist that you can use as a starting point to clarify your aims and objectives.
One of the best ways to learn about starting a garden, and garner enthusiasm for the project, is for your group to pay a visit to a few existing community gardens to see how they operate, what kind of plants they have and the challenges or advantages of certain sites.
Brisbane has over 30 community gardens in many different environments. Talking to the people that work there will give you the chance to discuss different types of sites and the growing conditions, i.e if it’s sunny or shady, exposed or sheltered. You’ll also be able to find out what plants are best suited to your local soil and growing conditions.
Again, the Brisbane Community Garden Guide has a list of questions you can take with you.
Here are a few examples of established community gardens:
This community garden has been running for over 10 years in South Brisbane and grows nearly 200 varieties of vegetables, fruit and herbs, as well as butterfly and insect attracting plants.
Across the river to the west of Jane Street is another community garden, located within the grounds of Toowong College. It focuses on growing organic vegetables in beds and sustainable water use. It has been running for 12 years.
Located in Indooroopilly, this garden has been running for 7 years and operates as a shared space for the community. It focuses on growing food and other plants, educating children and caring for the environment. It holds regular working bees on weekends to harvest crops, put in new plants and maintain the garden.
Choosing a site
Site assessment is critical to evaluating the potential risks, opportunities and threats to the project. For example, if you’ve decided you want to keep animals, such as chickens, ducks and bees on the site you need to consider the safety and security of the area.
Another important thing to note is the accessibility of the site for bulk deliveries of things like compost and mulch, and the storage of these. While most gardens provide gardening tools for members, you’ll also need a place to safely lock these up when not in use.
Funding the site
There are lots of ways you can access funding, including enlisting assistance from the Brisbane City Council. They offer Community Garden Grants that range from $1000 to $2500 for local non-profit, community-based groups that wish to set up gardens on Council-owned and other land. There is an annual funding round where grants are applied for, reviewed and applicants notified of the outcome. These grants can cover such things as tools, materials, irrigation, operation expenses, education of group members and publicity to educate the wider community.