Cogs Approach | Garden Rules | The 12 Gardens

About The Gardens

COGS operates twelve community gardens in the ACT region, at Charnwood, Crace, Cook, Cotter, Dickson, Erindale, Holder, Kaleen, Kambah, Mitchell, Oaks Estate and O’Connor. These gardens are dedicated to the application of organic principles and practices and promoting the spirit of community within each garden as well as fulfilling COGS objectives in the wider community.

Each garden has its own character, but all are consistent in their dedication to the strict application of organic principles and practices and promoting a sense of community through cooperation, sharing of know-how and resources and connection to the wider community.

The community gardens are a great way to learn about organic gardening, grow fruit and vegetables for you and your family and connect with fellow gardeners.

Most of the COGS Community Gardens maintain a waiting list for plot allocations.  While it is not essential to become a member of COGS in order to be added to a garden wait list, COGS members do receive priority over non-members when a plot becomes available in the nominated garden. Non-members must join COGS in order to commence gardening at a COGS garden when advised by the Garden Convenor that a plot has become available.  

Gardens are administered by a Garden committee and a Convenor who have been elected from amongst the gardeners. Plot holders pay an annual levy (the fee for the current year can be found on the Join Us page) to cover the costs of the maintaining the garden, such as tools, repairs, water and insurance.

For more information about how the gardens operate, see The COGS Approach below.

Most of the COGS community gardens operate on land licensed by the ACT Government for this specific purpose.

To find out more about the community gardens or plot vacancies, please contact COGS or email members@cogs.asn.au.

The COGS Approach

Organic Standards & Principles

The COGS Constitution states that “organic gardening principles must be complied with at all times in the community gardens”. While COGS is not engaged in commercial agriculture or horticulture it has adopted the National Standard for Organic and BioDynamic Produce as the overarching standard governing its practices in community gardens. Organic certifiers in Australia are required to apply this standard as a minimum for products placed on the market that claim to be produced under organic or bio-dynamic systems. To give practical effect to this policy, COGS also applies the Australian Certified Organic Standard – specifically, its General Primary Production and Crop Production Inputs standards – in its operations of community gardens. Australian Organic (AO) is a preeminent certifier in Australia. The Australian Certified Organic Standard is comprehensive and detailed in terms of permitted materials, one of the strictest in Australia and aligned with relevant international standards. Approved inputs and products under this standard are readily identified by gardeners and consumers by the Australian Certified Organic green bud logo.

In its simplest terms, organic gardening is the cultivation of plants as part of a sustainable management of a healthy eco-system without the use of artificial fertilisers or pesticides or herbicides. It aims to work with nature to optimise the conditions for healthy plants (and food), constantly improving the health of soils and managing pests and weeds through preventative and biological controls.

The organic gardening principles applied by COGS can be summarised as:

  • Maintenance or enhancement of the quality of the garden environment, including the protection of biodiversity.
  • Sustainability through use of recycling and biological cycles in the garden that minimise use of external inputs, including energy, water and non-renewable resources.
  • Production of naturally safe, high quality nutritious food.
  • Maintaining or improving the fertility of soils.
  • COGS experience with community gardens in Canberra since 1982 has proved the practicality of applying organic principles to grow nutritious and plentiful fruit and vegetables in an environmentally sustainable manner in an urban environment.
Working together

The community aspect of COGS gardens is emphasised in the COGS Constitution:

“…garden committees are behoven to administer gardens in a manner which promotes the spirit of harmony, fair-mindedness and goodwill amongst gardening members. Likewise, individual plot holders are to conduct themselves in a manner which promotes the same spirit, the spirit viewed by COGS to be essential to a true sense of community well-being”.

Community values are essential to the shared processes in the garden (eg composting) and the development and maintenance of communal facilities (eg sheds and water reticulation), common areas such as pathways and sharing gardens and fruit trees. Gardens will often have working bees.

Garden Administration

The overall administration of COGS gardens is the responsibility of the COGS committee, although the gardens are expected to manage their ongoing operations implementing the General Garden Rules and Policies. The day-to-day operation of the gardens is delegated to individual garden convenors who are assisted and advised by local garden committees. Garden convenors and committees are elected by all plot holders at the Annual General Meeting of each garden that is usually held in August or September each year.

Gardens are funded through annual plot levies that cover the cost of insurance, water, repairs and maintenance and depreciation. All plot holders must be financial members of COGS and pay all plot levies when due.

Garden Rules

General Community Garden Rules [COGS Constitution – Appendix 4]
Code of Ethics

It is the desire of COGS that the community gardens made available for COGS members will provide a display of the practical application of organic principles, and a splendid example of co-operative endeavour.

To this end, the garden committees are behoven to administer the gardens in a manner which promotes a spirit of harmony, fairmindedness and goodwill amongst garden members. Likewise, individual plot holders are to conduct themselves in a manner which promotes this same spirit, a spirit viewed by COGS to be essential to a true sense of community wellbeing.

General Rules

The rules set out below are to be used by all community gardens operating under the auspices of COGS to standardise the way in which gardens are to be administered. It is not the intention of COGS to micro manage the individual gardens, but it is the desire of COGS that the community gardens should by the use of these general rules, be able to provide a splendid example of co-operative endeavour and a good corporate image and to display the practical application of organic principles.

  1. Garden members must be financial members of COGS.
    • When watering in COGS gardens, all plot holders must abide by any rules relating to watering that are issued by the COGS Committee from time to time.
  2. Organic garden principles must be complied with at all times in the community gardens.
  3. All members holding a plot in a community garden must garden in that plot without the use of non-organic pesticides, herbicides or inorganic fertilisers.
  4. The members of each garden must democratically elect a Garden Convenor (chairperson) and a garden committee, consisting of a levy collector (where appropriate) and such other members as may be necessary. The names of these people and the positions to which they have been elected should be given to the COGS Secretary at the time of the local election.
  5. Garden convenors shall be informed of agenda items to be considered at meetings of the COGS committee which affect the community gardens and garden convenors shall be entitled to attend meetings of the COGS committee and may exercise a vote on garden matters.
  6. Each garden must have a democratically agreed set of garden rules, which should be endorsed by the COGS committee and not be inconsistent with these general garden rules. A copy of current garden rules for each community garden should be held by the Secretary of COGS.
  7. In the first instance, infringements of the garden rules should be dealt with by the garden committee. However, if unresolved these should be brought to the attention of the COGS committee by the garden convenor for resolution by whatever means the committee determines necessary, including use of a mediator where appropriate.
  8. Garden convenors should act as mediator in resolving disputes in gardens where possible.
  9. One garden committee member for each garden should be responsible for equitable plot allocation and keeping a register of plot holders, a list of vacant plots and a listing of applicants for plots and for the safe keeping and allocation of garden keys. All members must inform the plot allocator when plots are no longer required and ensure that their key is returned when they no longer have a plot in the garden. At no time can plots be transferred between members without the approval of the garden committee and the keys should never be given to non members.
  10. Community garden rules may make provision for a maximum plot allocation and any such restriction must be written into their garden rules. No exceptions shall be made for individuals and all members should be treated equally.
  11. Plot holders should not interfere with other plots or other members’ property.
  12. Members may not remove tools, implements, hoses, etc (which are the property of COGS) from any garden without the express permission of the garden committee.
  13. Damage to, or unauthorised removal of garden equipment should be reported immediately to the garden committee and, where necessary, reported by that committee to the appropriate authority.
  14. Plot holders and other members are responsible for the actions of their children, pets and guests.
  15. Garden committees shall make rules restricting the access of dogs and cats to community gardens.
  16. COGS members should only be a member of one community garden unless they can establish that they are transferring from one garden to another.
  17. Plot holders shall not grow produce for commercial sale or engage in other commercial activities at the garden.
  18. Garden committees may determine specific rules in relation to appropriate matters, including:
    • levies, but note that no levies may be collected without prior notification in the COGS newsletter of the nature and amount of the specific levies;
    • disposal of rubbish;
    • cultivation of canes and other invasive species, including prohibition of particular plants;
    • maintenance, including working bees, and emergency procedures; and
    • use, cleaning, repair and replacement of garden equipment.
  19. It is the responsibility of the last member leaving a community garden to lock gates and sheds, regardless of whether or not that member opened them or used garden equipment.
    1. The plot holder of any plot which in the reasonable opinion of the Garden Convenor, in consultation with the Garden Committee, has been in an unkempt, derelict, overgrown or neglected condition, for a continuous period of not less than two (2) months, may be given written notice by the Garden Convenor by post or email that the condition of the plot must be rectified within a period of thirty (30) days from the receipt of the notice to the standard of a reasonable well-maintained plot. If the condition of the plot has not been rectified to that standard within that period of thirty (30) days the plot may be resumed by written notice from the Garden Convenor to the plot-holder, and no refund of the plot fees will be payable.
    2. Any plot which in the reasonable opinion of the Garden Convenor, in consultation with the Garden Committee, has been abandoned may be resumed by the Garden Convenor by giving written notice to the plot-holder at the plot-holders’s last know email or postal address. Resumption will take effect upon the giving of the notice.
  20. All activities in community gardens, including but not limited to lighting of fires and burning off, must be undertaken in accordance with all relevant laws.

In the use, administration and enjoyment of community gardens members should note that it is good policy to leave gardens in a better organic condition than you found them.

COGS Community Gardens Policies
Garden members responsibilities
  1. Garden members must at all times comply with the COGS General Community Garden Rules as set out in Appendix 4 of the COGS Constitution and the local garden rules in place in their garden.
  2. Members plots must be maintained throughout the year. Unattended or neglected plots may be resumed according to the conditions set out in the local garden rules.
  3. Garden members are expected to contribute to the maintenance and upkeep of the communal areas of a garden. This involves regularly participating in activities such as working bees and mowing/whipper snipping/weeding communal areas.
  4. Garden members are expected to attend garden meetings and participate in the electing of garden convenors and committees and in the determining of local garden rules.
  5. Garden members must comply with any ACT Government water conservation measures in force as notified by ICON Water.
  6. Members are responsible for their private property left in gardens or a gardens’ sheds.
Water Conservation

In the interests of water conservation, the COGS Committee does not permit the use of sprinklers in community gardens at any time.

Herbicides in gardens

The COGS Community Garden Rules (clause 3) do not permit the use of herbicides on garden plots. The COGS Committee allows the use of organic herbicides registered by the Australian Certified Organic (ACO) in common areas of a community garden (eg pathways) provided their use is approved and supervised by a garden committee and consistent with the restrictions on these products imposed by the ACO standards; that is, they are only used as part of an integrated weed management program, which includes physical controls such as cultivation.

Livestock in gardens

Apart from bees, Garden members are not permitted to keep livestock in a COGS garden.

A garden committee may approve the keeping of bees by a garden member providing:

  • the member is a registered beekeeper in the ACT and the hive(s) is also registered;
  • the number of hives is limited to that agreed by the garden committee;
  • hives are kept in a location that minimises any hazard to people in the garden; and
  • the member beekeeper complies with the ACT Government’s Code of Practice for Beekeeping in Residential Areas of the ACT.
Wildlife-friendly netting

The only netting permitted in COGS community gardens is material that is wildlife-friendly and properly secured to prevent birds, mammals, reptiles or other wildlife becoming trapped with serious risk of injury or death (see the Wildlife Friendly Netting page)

COGS banned the use of thin nylon mono-filament netting in 2014.

The use of CCA and Creosote treated timber in gardens

The use of timber treated with copper chromium arsenate (CCA) or Creosote is no longer permitted in any COGS garden. The COGS Committee has in specific cases allowed this treated timber to remain in a garden where it was installed prior to 2007.

Structures permitted in COGS gardens

Garden rules in individual community gardens may set specific conditions for erecting structures in individuals plots such as:

  • compost bins;
  • those which support growing plants eg trellises; and
  • those which support approved bird netting to protect crops, provided that concrete footings are not used.

Structures in communal areas which do not require specific individual approval by the Committee are:

  • a communal lockable shed;
  • pergolas;
  • green/glasshouses;
  • trellises and bird netting support for communal crops.

Sheds, pergolas and green/glasshouses must comply with the appropriate Australian Standards, eg footings for pergolas must comply with AS2870 and timber members must comply with AS1684.2.

Any structures, other than those listed above, require approval by the COGS Committee before construction begins. All structures must be safe and must not pose any risk to other gardeners or the general public.

All structures must be of an aesthetic standard appropriate for the surrounding neighbourhood and of sufficient standard not to bring COGS or the garden into disrepute. The final arbiter of the acceptability of the aesthetic standard of any structure will be the COGS Committee.

Thinking of Establishing a Community Garden?

COGS has prepared a paper that provides information and links to resources to help those interested in establishing a new community garden in the ACT called Thinking about establishing a community garden in Canberra? Please consider downloading and reading this document before contacting COGS for further information.