Deep in industrial Mitchell, a little patch of country

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Convenor Narelle McLean… “Our gardeners might have a balcony for a few pots but no space to grow more.”

AN allotment-style garden in a thriving patchwork of flowers and veggies is tucked away in the back of Mitchell.

The Canberra Organic Growers Society garden’s 20-year government lease is due for renewal in 2020, says Mitchell volunteer convenor Narelle McLean, but she’s hopeful the garden will continue.

“We cover the greater Gungahlin area and our gardeners might have a balcony for a few pots but no space to grow more,” she says.

“As well as the obvious health benefits to growing organic food, there’s the social side, too, for people who are old, lonely or not well.”

Visited by nosy cows and kangaroos looking for shade at the southern end of Hoskins Street, the garden is one of 12 COGS gardens in the ACT with the philosophy of growing food for personal use without fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides.

“People plant interesting things, there’s primarily what grows each season, and we have more unusual plants like this tall corn that’s actually maize grown by a Kenyan family,” says Narelle.

“There’s also tomatoes, pumpkin, capsicum, chillies, garlic, Asian greens, leafy veggies and now the winter veg is going in.

“The cows come around so we sometimes give them our offshoots, and we get the most beautiful birds, though some are destructive, of course.”

Narelle says the Mitchell garden has 55 gardeners across 43 plots, ranging in size from 24sqm to 60sqm.

“Most of our gardeners work or study, there aren’t many retirees but there’s a lot of expertise and people are happy to share knowledge,” she says.

Photos: Holly Treadaway

“It’s so colourful and varied here in terms of age, nationality and professions. We’ve got a one-year-old up to an 81-year-old, and families from China, Japan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Kenya, UK, Brazil, Netherlands and Portugal who often grow produce from their countries.” 

The garden received a community grant in August that Narelle, 74, says was used to replace the fence and gate to improve security.

Members pay an annual levy to cover things such as water and insurance.

“We rely on donations and fundraising, and we’re very proud of the shed and undercover area that we funded by doing Bunnings barbecues,” she says.

“Members can bring young families and the kids can sit here and draw, or they can come for a cuppa and share some cake.”

People tell Narelle they can’t believe how rural and quiet it is, she says.

“There’s the gum trees, the open air, no traffic. The model aeroplane club and Icon Water are nearby, but we’re fortunate as it’s so peaceful,” she says.

“We’ve got fruit trees and flowers up the front, and our bees produce honey from the gardens.

“I keep getting requests to go on the waiting list.

“In the winter the wind blows through, but that’s gardening, you stick on your hat and coat and away you go.”

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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist with a particular interest in homes and gardens.

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