Vincent Vella, hoe in hand, at his garden plot at CERES community environment park.
Vincent Vella tends to his garden plot at CERES Community Environment Park.

Little green pockets of productivity and activity, community gardens are everywhere around Victoria. From inner-city Melbourne where they coax plump produce from what were once empty plots in Collingwood to bustling suburban plots with a view of distant blue hills in Nunawading.

Community gardens come in all shapes and sizes, which makes sense when you think the only common ingredients are enthusiastic gardeners, sprinkled seeds and mounds of home-cooked compost.

Whether you roll up your sleeves and get involved or watch organic life unfold as you walk past, community gardens represent a return to simpler times where every neighbourhood was a village. These were places where people swapped whatever they’d grown or made and had time to chat because they lived by the same schedule as their plants.

Community gardens are places to share interests and tips. Are your tomatoes not as ripe as you’d like? The answer is not hard to find.

Community gardens are a statement of sustainable living. One of the most prominent, and prolifically planted, is at CERES in East Brunswick, where the organic produce is part of a carefully managed natural circle – from the food in its café to the compost-rich and chook-fertilised soils that grow it.

Such shared green spaces are a practical necessity in places such as Box Hill. Many gardeners here don’t think twice about using their plot to put food on the plate for their families, often several generations at once.

Box Hill Community Gardens president Brian Pell says the gardens foster a great community atmosphere where people soon get to know fellow plot-holders. Most people would know each other,he says. There is a great sense of community and sharing of ideas.

Brian says the gardens, which cost just $35 a year to rent, are so popular there is now a two-year waiting list for those wanting to join.

Vern, a plot holder at the Kensington Community Garden, says he doesn’t have room for a vegetable patch at home (he lives in a flat) and is grateful for the opportunity to exercise his green thumbs – especially on his herbs.

There’s nothing better than eating something you’ve planted yourself, he says. And it’s all organic.

To find a community garden near you, go to www.communitygarden.org.au

The Department of Health and Human Services recognises the value of community gardens and is supporting their development across the public housing sector.

Don Anderson feeding the chooks at CERES
Don Anderson feeds his chooks at CERES.

Why community gardens work

  • Build a sense of community through participation in a common enterprise.
  • Improve nutritional health by increasing the production and consumption of fresh, organic, locally grown food.
  • Improve amenities by diversifying and beautifying public open space.
  • Reduce environmental impact by reducing food transport and recycling waste.
  • Create purposeful recreation by getting people growing food.

Did you know?

Australia's first community garden was established in Nunawading in 1977.