Erindale Community Garden

Article and Photos: Didi Sommer (Canberra Organic – Autumn 2021)

Erindale Community Garden
Erindale Community Garden

We may be the smallest in scale of all of the COGS community gardens, but we are an inventive and enthusiastic bunch of gardeners. Our youngest ‘gardeners’ are between 2 and 4 years old and our more ‘experienced’ is 77 and going strong. The garden looks lush and feels like an oasis in these trying times of the pandemic.

We have a real mix of expertise, with some very experienced gardeners who are happy to share their wisdom with all, and others who are novice gardeners but eager and keen to learn and experiment. There is also a wonderful sense of community and we all have fun and enjoy our regular Saturday ‘working’ bees, and of course harvesting our produce and sharing with others.

Our three-bay compost heap system is the ‘stomach’ of our garden and our pride. Working the compost is definitely far better than a gym class and provides exercise in the fresh air. We enjoy reaping the rewards for our muscle efforts with sweet smelling compost for our plots. We grow borage and comfrey to use as accelerator plants in the compost.

We are celebrating new beginnings at Erindale after a tough year in 2020 and following many great challenges which included weeks of bushfire threat, smoke that made gardening without a proper mask almost impossible and then COVID-19. This was alongside the unexpected departure of our Convenor and other gardeners.

However, we have certainly come out stronger at the end of 2020 with several young and enthusiastic gardeners joining us and even electing to join our new garden committee. This has seen our garden become a tiny slice of paradise that is filled with laughter and joy. We have developed a vibrant community spirit that is inspiring everyone. Our new plot holders have settled in well and we meet regularly for (COVID-19 safe) activities.

Our two new COGS garden signs are on display and we are very proud of them, with one of our new gardeners decorating them for Christmas with some red tinsel. A friend of the garden made some lovely frames for them out of recycled timber that we had sourced. We selected two prominent spots and utilised working bees to install them. The new COGS signs attract lots of positive feedback from the people who live nearby or who pass by our garden on the way to the Erindale shops. The new signs have also provided a great starting point for conversation about organic gardening and what we are growing in our garden.

We have found at our garden we can forget all our worries and immerse ourselves in positive thoughts, joyful creativity and COVID-19 safe activities. We have harvested lots of garlic (several varieties), parsnips and artichokes and are saving seeds from our best selected plants (e.g. various Asian Greens, purple kale, parsley and nigella). We also participate with the Canberra Seed Savers ‘Library’ and held our second seed savers workshop at the nearby Erindale Community Centre.

We grow mainly heritage seedlings and many of our seedlings were raised by our gardeners. One of our younger gardeners has developed a real passion for growing heritage seedlings and shares them with the group. Furthermore, one of our Korean gardeners is saving seeds from her Japanese heritage cucumber she is growing this year. Her recipe for Korean kimchi is also a big hit with all gardeners.

To assist with a bountiful harvest of vegetables and berries, we are keen to create a vibrant ‘pollinator corridor’ at the garden. We are inspired by Julie Armstrong’s local community group ACT for Bees and her passion to create safe pollinator corridors across the ACT. Julie founded ACT for Bees some years ago when she realised that our pollinators were declining rapidly for various reasons including use of herbicides, pesticides, and limited food sources.

Comfrey, borage and flowering herbs at the garden attract bees and pollinators throughout the year. We have found the herbs and flowers that are favourites with the bees and pollinators are lavender, basil, lemon balm, valerian, thyme, rosemary, oregano, mint, sage, anise, tarragon, summer savoury, stevia, sunflowers, calendula, cosmos, nasturtiums, Queen Anne’s lace, lemon verbena, dahlias and salvias.

Sunflower in full bloom. Photo: Didi Sommer
Sunflower in full bloom. Photo: Didi Sommer

We are also currently harvesting lots of varieties of zucchini and cucumbers and are hoping for our many varieties of tomatoes to ripen soon. This is in addition to harvesting strawberries, blackberries, rhubarb, beans, spring onions, garlic chives, parsley, mint varieties, Asian greens, several varieties of heritage cucumbers, beetroot, Malabar spinach, silver beet, rainbow chard, chives and many herbs.

Our heritage pumpkin varieties, cucumbers and beans are climbing up the growing arches and structures that we built in the past months and the Jerusalem artichokes are providing good windbreaks, as our garden is quite exposed. Chillies, capsicums, corn, eggplant, bush beans, potatoes, ocra and soya beans are also all flourishing. As gardeners, we also like to experiment with some lesser known veggies too, planting ginger, tumeric and lemongrass in pots, which we keep in our small grow house.

We are very happy to be able to share our enthusiasm and joy for organic gardening with the people in the neighbourhood and are sharing surplus veggies and herbs. We also welcome visitors from other COGS gardens. Please contact me if you are down south in Tuggeranong and wish to come for a chat and see what’s growing on our plots. We are also happy to share any surplus seeds.

Wishing all COGS gardeners a plentiful harvest, favourable growing conditions for 2021, great community spirit and a safe year ahead.