In Western Australia a group of concerned growers came together, motivated primarily by environmental concerns as the already naturally hostile region has experienced a perceptible rise in temperatures, insects are evolving to become resistant to pesticides and food miles are increasing.
The idea to create a community garden grew from a group of gardeners’ that attended monthly Grow It Yourself (GIY) meetings. This process started back in March 2011. The garden formally opened on the 26th October 2013 and is currently in the third year of operation.
The purpose of the community garden is to create a garden space where the community can work together to learn how to sow, grow, harvest, store and cook food, protect the natural environment, conserve resources, lead a healthy and active lifestyle and network with other members of the community.
The 40 strong Garden community are really pro-active in hosting workshops and demonstrations on a wide range of topics including how to grow vegetables and fruit, organic gardening benefits and skills, traditional skills, home composting, worm farming, recycling, water conservation, compost making, grey water recycling systems, composting toilets, solar cookers, reducing energy at home, how to cook healthy food and lead and active and healthy life.
Clare Palmer, a member of Kalamunda Community Garden spoke about some of the unique challenges the location presents. “The soils in Kalamunda are gravelly clay with lots of rock. We grow all our produce in raised beds. Other challenges the group are presented with is the heat in summer and low rainfall. Most gardeners in Perth have to build shade clothe structures to grow their vegies in the height of summer.”
Luckily nature has presented its own solutions to some of the issues, “The garden is located on an old block and has many mature trees and beautiful old gardens surrounding it. This helps in our success. The biodiversity and natural ecosystems that surround it are mature meaning there are natural predators already established like birds, quendas (bandicoots) and lizards that all help keep the pests down.”
Another huge problem is the pesky fruit fly. Fruit flies attack a wide range of fruits and vegetables and nuts, and as such is a major problem for commercial orchardists and householders alike. Clare says in Australia every person that owns a tree that produces fruit needs to be responsible for managing and controlling their fruit fly populations. “A whole community response is vital. We no longer have easy spray options to kill fruit fly. So we bait, and bag or net our fruit trees if we want to eat any of the fruit we are growing.”
In Perth winters are becoming more mild and spring and early summer have a more sub-tropical feel. In this respect Clare says there are more opportunities “We are now able to grow more tropical fruits like the bell apple, avocado, mango and pistachio.” However “As our chill units fall, we have less choice in varieties of plums, peaches and apples and need to buy low chill varieties.” Ecology is a driving force in the group’s decisions, “We are members of the Wheatbelt and Perth Hills and Seed Savers Network and believe in preserving and valuing our precious seed. We believe in planting seed that has adapted to our local environment. We find that these plants have less pest problems, need less water and grow strongly.”
The garden is flourishing and in its third year of operation, is starting to grow. Like everything, it takes time and engaging the local community is instrumental in its success. “We’ve had some brilliant Open Days, with music and Art and community organisations all joining in.” says Clare. Lots can be learned from the Kalamunda Community and the Gardens they are so rightly proud of.