Out of court and into veggies

1Open Garden-9117

A thriving 1000sqm community garden in O’Connor full of organically grown veggies, herbs, flowers and berries will open to the public on the weekend of February 26-27, as part of the Australian Open Garden Scheme.

Until it was re-purposed in 2006, the space on Jarrah Street was a derelict tennis court on land belonging to the Uniting Church in O’Connor.

“The church wanted to use the land for something worthwhile, so they arranged for it to be a community garden through the Canberra Organic Growers Society,” says COGS member Kathy Richards, who was instrumental in creating the garden and has had a plot there from the start.

“It works well for our family – we live in an apartment with no backyard, but we still wanted a veggie garden,” she says. “We came to it not knowing anything about gardening, but the beauty of being involved in a community garden is the wealth of knowledge we’ve gained from more experienced growers. They’re such holders of wisdom. Everyone is happy to share advice.”

Activities planned for the open weekend include organic veggies (grown in the garden), and vegetable and herb seedlings for sale, music and entertainment including juggling and Tongan dancing and singing, Devonshire teas served by members of the church, Tongan food and talks on organic gardening at 11am and 2pm each day.

Everything in the garden, which is one of 12 COGS community gardens across Canberra, is grown without the use of fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides, and it’s all for personal use only, Kathy says.

Divided into 15 plots of 45sqm each, there’s also a communal strip around the perimeter for fruit trees, berry canes, herbs, climbing annuals such as peas and beans, and perennials such as asparagus and rhubarb.

“Everyone uses their plots differently, but we try to keep it low-key,” says Kathy. “We brought in soil and created raised beds. Now we’ve got tomatoes, which have been a bit battered by the rain lately, carrots, zucchini, eggplant, capsicums, onions, strawberries and cucumber. We try new things, sometimes they work and sometimes not, but that’s the nature of it.

“We come here a couple of times a week. It’s a secure, family-oriented garden and the kids love to come and garden with us, and they bring their trikes, run around, play in the sandpit.

“It’s not a bad use of an old tennis court.”

The COGS O’Connor Community Garden, Jarrah St, O’Connor, open Saturday, February 26 and Sunday, February 27, 10am-4.30pm. Adults $6, children under 18 free. Funds raised will go to the Open Garden Scheme, the Uniting Church and COGS. More information at www.opengarden.org.au. To find out more about community gardens or plot vacancies, visit www.cogs.asn.au.

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