Part of the Walyo Yerta community garden within the Adelaide Botanic Garden. Photo by Gillian Vine
In South Australia, there is a push to have more community
gardens so that people will eat more fruit and vegetables.
''Our definition of a community garden is an edible garden,''
explains Jo Staniforth from the state's Department of
Environment, Water and Natural Resources.
A former teacher, Jo has statewide responsibility for
Unlike many who worry about the loss of gardening skills, Jo
is upbeat, saying ''the knowledge and experience are out
there; all it needs is to connect them''.
Older gardeners often have local knowledge that can be
invaluable in crop selection and problem-solving.
In a city, finding spare land for gardens can be an issue.
Churches, schools, councils, marae, businesses and even
individuals may have a site that can be utilised.
In Adelaide, the management of the botanic garden provided a
spot and volunteers took it from there.
The Walyo Yerta garden, as it is called, produces a range of
fresh organic produce - including peaches, potatoes,
tomatoes, corn, herbs and silverbeet - protected from damage
by netting-covered frames and with old CDs as bird scarers.
''It's going well and the potential is huge,'' Jo says.
Forget the popular image of an organic garden being
weed-filled: Walyo Yerta is kept neat by the volunteers who
obviously believe that there's no point in letting weeds
gobble up the nourishment.
Even tidier is the community garden in front of St Andrew's
Hospital, where the rosemary-edged herb garden forms the
centrepiece. A group of revolving compost bins ensures
neatness and minimal odours.
In New Zealand, it has been estimated that it costs at least
$2000 to get a community garden under way and Jo has plenty
of advice for those wanting to get started.
''It is a mistake to think that councils are obliged to help
with land or cash,'' she says, adding that people should make
use of all local resources before applying for grants or
If you do get a grant, treat it as a one-off rather than
assuming it will be an annual source of funding. That means
keeping an eye on finances long-term.
''Many [community garden committees] don't know how to be
self-sustaining. Structure and governance are vital,
essential from the beginning,'' Jo says.
''Be innovative and imaginative in getting the local
community involved,'' she says.
Those community connections work better, she maintains, than
looking for handouts and often lead to donations of useful
materials - sleepers, old bricks and compost, for example.
And her final advice when asking for help is to ''be cheeky,
but with a smiling face''.
- Gillian Vine visited Adelaide as the guest of the South
Australian Tourist Commission.