Michael and I, we moved from Sydney to Melbourne in June 2007. In August 2008, together with three other households, we started a communal vegetable patch at the back of our block of flats. There are only two blocks and each block contains only four units. We are in the front block with a good sunny exposure in the afternoon.
We are lucky to be where we are in St Kilda. This is one of the few places where there is so much unpaved/un-concreted land making up the surrounding common area.
For the initial veggie patch, we put in our money, time and effort. We build raised bed using red gum sleepers, we also put in a 750lt rainwater tank, a compost bin and river stones to landscape the area, and a few rose bushes and star jasmine to attract bees and other beneficial insects.
A year later in August 2009, Body Corporate was impressed with what we have done with the otherwise unused area of the land, gave us the permission and budget to recreate another vegetable patch at the back of the other block of units. In fact, Body Corporate asked us if we could create one similar to what we have done in the front block.
Since this was going to be paid for by the Body Corporate, it was only fair to invite every single household to be part of this project. Getting dirt under the nails is not everyone’s cup of tea, only one household from the back unit, in addition to the three already involved in earlier initiative, registered an interest in the second veggie patch initiative.
One fine Saturday, we all pitched in time and effort and by the end of the day we have another vegetable plot. Similar to the first one, this one is also a raised bed vegetable patch made of red gum sleepers and it too has a 750lt rainwater tank and two compost bins.
We grow seasonal vegetables and we keep it as organic as possible. At the moment we have carrots (both heritage purple and normal), potatoes, and broad beans growing. Leeks and kales have just gone in and should be ready by late spring. And we still have plenty of warrigal greens and silver beets form last summer. They have lasted well throughout the winter, providing us with much needed leafy greens. We also had some salad greens and beetroots over the winter.
Our vegetable patch doesn’t supply us with all our fresh produce needs but it certainly provides some supplement, depending on what is growing and thriving. Last summer, we had an abundance of silver beets, chillies, salad greens, warrigal greens and tomatoes, plus some zucchinis, cucumbers, beans, okras and beetroots. This small harvest represents a small saving in our grocery bills but a deeper understanding of food production and the multifarious issues of food security.
For me personally, growing my own food is neither new nor bodacious. In many communities, this was a way of life up to a few decades ago. Living in an urban setting like St Kilda, it is a way of connecting with my neighbours. We take turn hosting neighbourhood dinners and often in the summer time all the households would get together for a picnic around the veggie patch and in doing so brings us closer as people and creates a sense of community.
In fact for my 50th, Michael had organised a surprised garden party in the veggie patch. Nothing could be more than perfect; celebrating, feasting and sharing a meal amongst graceful tomatoes bushes and beans on trellis.
If you are interested in building a raised bed but don’t know how and want to find out more, leave me a message on the Q&A page.
And spring is in the air. So bring out the seeds and potting trays.