How does your garden grow?
The number of known Uniting Church affiliated community gardens has doubled since 2010. From Potts Point to Broken Hill, on rooftops, former car parks and in front yards, church space is being made leafy in order to nourish local communities.
If you have a church-based garden or are interested in starting one, Uniting Earthweb wants to hear from you. Resources are available on its website to help churches begin and keep gardens growing.
It’s all about the gardeners
How do you find a place for a garden in a densely populated urban space?
The Wayside Chapel’s new roof-top garden combines the best of park life with enviable city views, helped along by its new ambassador Indira Naidoo (author of The Edible Balcony).
Wendy Suma, Manager, Community Building Programs, and the Rev. Graham Long from the Wayside Chapel explain.
When did you start your community garden?
WS: Our garden started in a back lane about five years ago. It was very narrow and dark but is called Hope Lane, so we hoped that we could grow something there in pots to beautify the space and to gain some experience in creating the right conditions for growth. Since we have moved into the new Wayside Chapel building about one year ago we have created a garden on the rooftop.
Why grow food?
WS: The new building is a green space, so we are trying to engage in lots of ways to ensure that we create less of a carbon footprint. The garden helps with contributing fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables to our growing program of food service. This includes food in our low-cost café, meals for Indigenous people, cooking classes for people with mental health issues, street-based young people and so on.
Why in a church context?
GL: At Wayside we struggle to understand the concept of church that concerns itself with singing songs on Sunday. We understand salvation not as a psychological matter but as a real life matter. Salvation as “experience” takes all the power out of the gospel. Salvation must mean that people eat, are clothed and are engaged in a journey that leads to life, now and beyond the grave.
Does your garden serve a purpose not directly related to food?
WS: Food production is only a small part of the reason for gardening. Creating community, living skills, recycling, nurturing, engagement, meeting our neighbours, beautifying Kings Cross, learning responsibility and gaining self-esteem.
Who maintains it?
WS: Everyone is welcome. Some people take a huge interest in it and work hard to maintain it. Others might just visit it. But all contributions are most welcome
What is growing at the moment?
WS: Herbs, fruit and vegetables and a few flowers to invite the bees. We also have composting, a worm farm and will soon add a beehive.
What has the response been from the community?
WS: There is a lot of interest from regular community members and from neighbours. The involvement of our ambassador, Indira Naidoo, helps to publicise the space. City of Sydney will run sustainability workshops in the space and Community Greening have helped us with plants and advice for many years.
Who visits the garden?
GL: We allow the garden space to be just a nice place to hang for all people. Most of the work in the garden is done by participants in our program for people with long-term mental health issues. No-one is up there (because it’s on the roof) without a staff person to supervise. Our garden sees people of every kind involved from street dwellers to those living in $4 million apartments down the road. The wonderful thing is that often these vastly different people work side-by-side in a way that dissolves the differences between them.
Top gardening tips?
WS: Our mission is all about “meeting and moving”. Gardeners learn to engage with the garden and in turn they learn to engage with other gardeners. They learn hope as they see tiny seeds grow into plants, and they learn to cope with disappointment when the cockatoos come and destroy the fruit. I know this isn’t strictly a gardening tip but our garden is less about plants and more about gardeners.
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