Evaluating Sydney’s community gardens

Published 1995 by Russ Grayson

INTRODUCTION

Nearly 20 years after the first sod of soil was turned in Sydney's first community garden, I produced this paper to assist local government, community workers and others make decisions about the use of community food gardens as foci for social development, environmental improvement and food production.

This evaluation is based solely on observations and experience in assisting to set up community gardens, in training gardeners, advocating on behalf of community gardeners and writing about the community gardening experience in magazines and online.

Indicators

In this document, rather than using the conventional Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats matrix, I make use of a set of indicators primarily used for the evaluation of overseas aid projects. I have used similar indicators for monitoring and evaluating aid projects in the South Pacific and have found that they bring a broader contextual overview than simply evaluating according to a project's specific quantative objectives.

Indicators used to assess community gardening in this report include:

  • relevance — to the needs or participants, to garden sponsors and to urban environmental improvement
  • impact — how the gardens have affected the people involved
  • efficiency — how well the gardens make use of limited resources
  • effectiveness — whether the gardens really do achieve their objectives
  • progress — how community gardens have evolved and the trends that are evident
  • sustainability — whether the gardens are self-sustaining and their prospects for the future.

RELEVANCE

The growth of community gardening over the past ten years indicates that more people, community organisations and government instrumentalities see community gardens as relevant to public needs.

The mid-to-late 1990s brought:

  • an expansion in the number of community gardens in the Sydney region as well as elsewhere in Australia
  • an increase in the number of enquiries to the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network from people and organisations interested in establishing community gardens
  • an increase in media coverage of community gardening
  • the entry of government institutions into community gardening.

This trend has continued into the new century.

Social aspects

Observation and informal discussion with participants suggests that the relevance of community gardening has as much to do with social considerations as with food production. Community workers have told me that their primary interest in community gardens is not access to food or nutritional health, but as venues for developing a sense of community.

The value of the gardens as social venues surpasses their role in reducing family expenditure on food or providing access to food for their families. Although these roles have been proposed by people concerned for the wellbeing of citizens on social welfare, the comparative abundance and cheapness of food in Australia reduces the potential for such roles.

Social reasons for participation in community gardening disclosed at Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network meetings, as well as informally include:

  • meeting people
  • forming friendships and working towards common goals
  • community gardens as family-friendly places
  • establishing social bonds that contribute to a sense of community.

Cultural relevance

The cultural relevance of community gardening is evident through the participation of different ethnic groups in community gardening:

  • at Sydney's Waterloo Estate community gardens, Vietnamese, Russian, Indonesian, Australian and those of other ethnic origins garden together
  • at Melbourne's Fitzroy Estate community gardens, Hmong and Vietnamese garden together
  • the nearby Collingwood estate community garden is dominated by Turks
  • the Claymore community gardens near Campbelltown, NSW, are tended by a large group of Tongans and formed part of a resident-led rehabilitation of the socially and economically troubled suburb.

I addition to an ethnically-focused cultural relevance, community gardens foster their own social culture of cooperation and shared responsibility. This culture grows from a community gardening experience that includes the need to share responsibility for the management of an area of land, to solve common problems, to start and keep the garden going.

Relevance to an improved urban environment

As functional landscapes, community gardens are relevant to urban environmental improvement because they bring derelict land into productive use, regreen streetscapes and increase wildlife habitat.

Native plants

While plants grown in community gardens are primarily the exotic species we rely on for our food, some gardens incorporate a small number of native plants, including Australian bush foods. The potential for this, however, is limited by the small size of most gardens.

Exotics carry out much the same environmental services as do native plants — producing clean air, filtering water, providing habitat and diversity in addition to providing food. In this way they contribute to improved environmental conditions.

Relevance to biodiversity

The use of non-hybrid vegetable seeds by some community gardeners serves a valuable role in the preservation of agricultural biodiversity. The seed is obtained from commercial seed companies such as Eden Seeds, Greenpatch Seeds and Diggers Seeds and from the Seed Savers Network, a membership organisation.

Like the biodiversity of natural systems, the diversity of the food plants we eat has been drastically reduced throughout the twentieth century to the situation where it may be more threatened than that of natural systems.

The Seed Savers Network, Australia's major community-based food crop biodiversity organisation, views community gardens as potential centres for seed saving and exchange.

At present, this is held back by:

  • a low level of horticultural skills among community gardeners
  • lack of opportunity to learn seed saving skills; there are too few potential trainers and no funded training programs
  • the need to focus on obtaining land for gardening, on garden establishment and on learning basic horticultural skills among new gardeners
  • the lack of awareness of the work of the Seed Savers Network among community gardeners.

Gardeners at the UNSW Community Permaculture Garden have shown most interest in seed saving and exchange. They collect their own seed for replanting and are members of the Seed Savers Network.

IMPACT

Community gardening in Sydney appears to have had two main impacts:

  • access to fresh, nutritious food using an organic gardening approach; this impact is limited by the productive capacity of the small areas available to gardeners and by the skills of gardeners
  • conviviality – the the social aspect; this is the focus of the growing number of professional community workers interested in community gardening.

Further benefits mentioned less frequently by gardeners include:

  • recreation -physical activity that contributes to the health of participants
  • contact with nature - working in the open and learning about soils, plants and the seasons.

Limitations to food production

There are two models of community gardening practised in Australian cities: allotment gardens, in which individuals have rights to a defined area of land shared gardens - where gardening is carried out in common and produce is shared.

Both approaches are viable and which one is adopted appears to be based on:

  • assumptions held about the two models by would-be gardeners
  • assumptions and assessments by community workers or local government staff promoting community gardening

the shared model is more frequently adopted by people who know each other,

perhaps through the effort of starting a community garden the allotment model may be chosen where the garden is stimulated by an external source such as a community worker and where the people are not well acquainted with each other and, therefore, where there has not been time to establish trust; it may be no coincidence that in situations where this approach has been used in state government housing estates (Waterloo Estate, Sydney; Collingwood and Fitzroy estates, Melbourne) the model adopted has been the allotment.

The preference of gardeners determined by the way the garden is started. Many people prefer to have their own, prescribed area to garden. Many allotment gardens such as Collingwood Children's Farm in Melbourne and the Randwick Organic Community Garden before it was closed, however, have areas for shared gardening.

Randwick Organic Community Garden and Collingwood Children's Farm provide a comparison in size of allotments and the amount of food they can produce:

  • at Collingwood, the large, fenced allotments are perhaps three of four times the size of those at Randwick; they provid a realistic amount of space for the production of a diversity of vegetable and herb crops for a family
  • Randwick Organic Community Garden allotments, at around eight square metres in area, were large enough for a single person or a couple with a child with limited time for gardening, but weretoo small for the gardener seriously planning to produce the majority of their vegetable supply in the community garden.

Impact on local government

Community gardening has made a slowly increasing impact on the thinking of local government and some community workers. Evidence for this has been the steady increase in the number of enquiries to the Australian Community Gardens Network from local government and other professionals.

Interest from local government comes mainly from community services departments, parks and gardens departments (to a limited extent) and waste services departments (whose interest focuses on the potential of the community gardens role in waste minimisation education).

Community garden interaction with local government has, on the whole, been positive. In some cases, local government has provided land for gardens and has provided financial and in-kind assistance. For councils, assisting community gardens offers the opportunity to build cordial relationships with the community.

Developing the potential for constructive links between community gardens and local government presents the possibility of a win-win relationship. So would including community gardens as an allowable landuse in local government planning documents.

Reducing waste

Thanks to funding by NSW government waste boards and local government, community gardens have had some impact on the reduction of household waste through community waste education.

Recycling and reuse form part of community garden culture because:

  • financial resources are lacking, encouraging the use of recycled materials
  • many gardeners have a predisposition towards recycling and reuse
  • some gardens in NSW have been used as training venues for the Environmental Protection Authority's 'EarthWorks' community waste education program.

Organic waste conversion

Composting, the worm-farming of organic wastes and the reuse of discarded building materials for garden construction are demonstrated in most community gardens.

The most appropriate composting methods for use in community gardens are the simplest because:

  • there is no guarantee that compost will be turned regularly to encourage a fast composting process
  • many gardeners have limited knowledge of the composting process and have difficulty in diagnosing and remedying faulty composts.

The best compost the simplest

The ADAM composting method popularised through the NSW EarthWorks program is probably the best known among community gardeners. It has the advantage of presenting composting as a simply process and has proven an effective and fast method when turned regularly.

Other methods haave been used, such as the rotating compost tumbler devised for Cook Community Garden in Sydney's Waterloo Estate. Compost tumblers have a reputation as a reliable, fast method when properly maintained, however anecdotal evidence suggest the Cook Garden tumblers are too heavy to conveniently turn when full.

Worm farms ineffective

Worm farms of the commercial variety are sometimes found in community gardens. , They are used to produce vermicompost, a concentrated fertiliser formed by worm castings.

While a large worm farm could theoretically be built to produce a large supply of fertiliser, the common, small commercial models:

  • produce too little vermicompost to become a major source of garden fertiliser
  • require a knowledge base to operate effectively and to troubleshoot
  • are too costly for community gardens of limited financial means

The funding of instructional signs in some community gardens by Sydney Waste Boards - which show how to make compost - indicates a positive attitude by institutions in the value of gardens as waste minimisation demonstration centres.

Limited capability for waste education

The capacity of community gardens to educate the public in waste reduction is influenced by:

  • the limited interest of many community gardeners in community education; many gardeners want to do nothing more than garden
  • the limited time community gardeners have to allocate to non-gardening activities
  • the limited space available in many community gardens
  • the fact that waste education relies on enthusiastic gardeners with a wider concept of the role of the gardens.

Waste reduction education is certainly a worthwhile pursuit for community gardeners and government, especially the use of community gardens as waste education and demonstration venues, but must be only one focus in a broader strategy of government waste education.

EFFICIENCY

Efficiency in using waste materials

Community gardens are efficient in the utilisation of limited resources. The lack of funding encourages the reuse and recycling of materials:

  • the composting of organic wastes provides a cheap but nutritious fertiliser in most gardens; stable sweepings from racecourses and stables and from the Mounted Police stable in Redfern are used for mulch and compost production in several inner-urban Sydney gardens
  • the UNSW Community Permaculture Garden has sourced food wastes from organic food retailers in the area
  • the Waverley community garden has received regular deliveries of food waste from Macro Wholefoods, a local retailer; in return for accepting the waste, the store has provided the gardeners with non-hybrid vegetable seed
  • discarded building materials are used for garden construction; Angel Street Permaculture Garden, in Newtown, has made use of concrete paving broken up on site to pave garden paths.

Efficiency in food production

Community garden productivity is far below their potential food production capacity.
This is because:

  • gardening skills are generally underdeveloped
  • gardener's time is limited because of the demands of other areas of life; many gardeners attend their crops only once a week; some several times a week if they live nearby, as did some Randwick Community Garden members and gardeners at the Waterloo estate gardens.

Garden productivity could be improved through:

  • adoption of optimal planting patterns (plant spacing)
  • increasing plant diversity (the number of different plant types grown in an allotment) for a balanced diet
  • successional plantings of a particular crop through the growing season
  • access to planting calendars showing what plants to plant on a monthly basis a better knowledge of soil improvement
  • larger allotments in which staples such as root crops (potato, sweet potato, taro) could be produced in reasonable quantity.

Productivity is potentially enhanced where gardeners have access to someone with horticultural knowledge. The UNSW Community Permaculture Garden has benefited by having a trained horticulturist as a participant.

EFFECTIVENESS

In agricultural terms, Sydney's community gardens have achieved a variable effectiveness as food production systems.

At best, they make a minor contribution to family dietary needs, some more so than others. Critical to productivity appears to be horticultural know-how and previous gardening experience.

The comparative cheapness of foods in supermarkets and the availability of social security income is most likely responsible for community food production having a lower profile than urban gardening has in some developing countries.

As previously covered, community gardens in Sydney have achieved some effectiveness as waste minimisation training facilities, thanks to enthusiastic gardeners who want to extend the outreach of the gardens to fulfil a broader social role and to local government and waste board support.

Successful social venues

As social venues, community gardens are quite effective. They provide a valid form of healthy recreation and encourage a sense of involvement in an area while improving the urban environment.

Educational venues

Community gardens are useful educational venues.

Community educators, such as community college courses, make use of the gardens. For instance, Stella Maris Eco-Garden in Manly and the Randwick and UNSW community gardens in the eastern suburbs have been used by adult educators as well as TAFE and local government/ waste board waste minimisation classes.

PROGRESS

Community gardens are informal entities and lack specific objectives against which to measure their performance. This makes the estimation of progress difficult.

One indicator of progress has been the growth in the number of community gardens in Sydney and elsewhere in Australia since the mid-1990s. In Sydney, it took perhaps a decade after the first community garden was opened - Glovers Organic Community Garden in Rozelle - to reach this point. The take-off is partly responsible to: the work of the Community Gardens Network in promoting community gardening media coverage of community gardening in television programs and the print media the interest in community gardens as social strategies by community workers.

Perception

Another way to estimate progress is to think of it in terms of community gardens as a valid form of urban landuse.

Evidence that government and other institutions increasingly view community gardens as a valid use of public open space is provided by:

  • an increasing level of local government interest
  • the involvement of the Department of Housing in making land available to housing estate residents for gardening
  • Sydney,s Royal Botanic Gardens provision of limited support for Department of Housing gardeners
  • the interest in gardens by health services such as Sydney's Street Jungle initiative for people with HIV and by a women's health centre
  • the establishment of the South Sydney City Council community gardens network linking gardens in the local government area
  • the creation, in 2001, of Gardens for Western Sydney by a team of community development and community health workers.

Local government and institutional awareness of community gardening still has far to go. It would be facilitated by including the option for community gardens in local government landuse planning instruments.

Resistance hinders progress

Probably because they come from the community itself, gardeners have met little local resistance to the establishment of gardens.

Where there has been resistance – such as the for a community garden in Glebe in the late 1990s – resident concern usually focuses on:

  • the effect on parking space; this should be anticipated in older, inner-urban areas where streets are narrow and parking limited
  • odours
  • noise
  • vermin
  • alienation of public open space
  • vandalism.

These potential objections should be anticipated in any submission for land prepared by gardeners for local government. They are all valid considerations, some of which have been experienced by community gardeners:

  • odour, for instance, resulted in complaints to UNSW community gardeners from an adjoining tennis club; the smells were the product of a poorly maintained compost; the compost was relocated and the gardeners learned to maintain it in odour-free condition
  • vermin - rats and mice - are attracted to poorly maintained composts; improved composting procedures is the solution
  • vandalism has been experienced by a number of gardens; it usually takes the form of theft of a hose, such as happened in the early days of Randwick Organic Community Garden, or tools; damage to plants may be accidental or deliberate but is not all that common and has not discouraged gardeners; gardens in less secure locations may erect a chainlink fence if they can obtain financial assistance as did Waverley community gardeners from Waverley Council
  • open space is in increasingly limited supply in Sydney and communities could react negatively to proposals for community gardens on public open space; surprisingly, this has not happened and community gardeners are now seen as a valid use of public land.

Indications are that community gardening should continue to enjoy a slow progress and that progress is best measured by criteria defined by the gardeners themselves.

SUSTAINABILITY

Sustainability is the capacity to continue in a more or less self-sustaining manner into the future.

Factors affecting sustainability

A number of factors are important to the sustainability of community gardens:

  • responsible management of the land in a way which meets the needs of the gardeners and the landholder
  • administration - the management side of community gardening frequently eschewed by gardeners, including liaison with gardeners and landholder, induction of new members, organisational meetings, work on common areas (such as weeding and construction)
  • training of new members; one inner-urban garden, for instance, provides no basic training for new gardeners, a practice which lightens the load on existing gardeners but which has alienated some would-be gardeners because they lack an understanding of what they should do in the garden
  • the ability to raise funds to purchase public liability insurance; this is expensive and is an area where local government can assist
  • security of tenure - gardeners require security of tenure if they are to put effort into garden development and management, particularly where high value crops such as fruit trees are to be planted (these take several years to bear fruit); Randwick Organic Community Garden underwent periods of falling participation due to plans by the landholder to sell the land for development - during these periods of low participation, site management became a problem; the possibility of council selling the public open space occupied by Willoughby Community Garden has had a similar impact
  • the capacity to attract new gardeners to replace those leaving
  • the attitude of local and state government landholders to community gardening.

Participation rates affect sustainability

Apart from tenure difficulties noted above, perhaps the greatest difficulty faced by community gardens has been fluctuating participation rates - community gardens seem to swing from too few gardeners to situations where a waiting list is set up to cater for demand.

Low levels of participation threaten the continued existence of community gardens because it sets up a positive feedback loop - too few participants leads to poor maintenance which discourages potential gardeners, exacerbating low participation and an unkempt garden.

For instance:

  • during their peak period Glovers gardeners expended beyond the chainlink fence to terrace and cultivate the slope above; when participation in the garden fell, the terrace area was abandoned to the kikuyu grass as gardeners retracted their activity to a manageable area
  • Randwick garden had a history of fluctuating participation; during periods of low participation the garden became unkempt with weeds taking over paths and invading disused allotments; deliberate attempts to stimulate participation were needed to save the garden.

CONCLUSION

Community food gardens in Sydney are:

  • on the whole, relevant to participant needs
  • have had a modest but increasing impact on the urban landscape and local/ state government thinking
  • utilise resources efficiently
  • with a few exceptions, could improve their food productivity
  • have variable effectiveness as food production systems but are effective as social venues
  • are making progress in becoming an established landuse
  • successful as community environmental educational sites, particularly in waste reduction programs
  • are, on the whole, sustainable because of their low demand on funding and resources.

Challenges

The biggest challenges community gardens face include:

  • security of tenure
  • obtaining start-up funding and funding for public liability insurance (insurance may be covered in some cases)
  • obtaining, training attracting new gardeners
  • maintaining cordial relations with landholders and neighbours.

Community gardening, less than 20 years young in Sydney, has shown itself to have potential as an effective tool for civil society... as places where people come together, grow fresh food, improve local environments and contribute to humane, liveable cities.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Recommendation 1:

Where space permits and where the uses are compatible, community gardens should be designed as multiple-use public spaces:

  • as educational venues - a number of Sydney gardens are used by community colleges, TAFE, private course providers and, in the case of the Randwick garden, by the local Steiner school; Stella Maris Eco-Garden, in the grounds of a high school, is used by the Manly Environment Centre for community environment programs including waste education
  • the use of Randwick Community Organic Garden by the Wildlife Information & Rescue Service (WIRES) for a large cage where injured birds were kept prior to release
  • venues for passive recreation by non-gardening families, for solitude and for social purposes such as the performance and arts at UNSW Community Permaculture Garden

We can look to a small, community-managed, council owned park in Fremantle, Western Australia, as an indicator of how far the potential for multi-use can go. The park, about the size of a local housing block, offers:

  • community food growing terraces
  • childrens' playground
  • a grassed recreation space
  • a picnic shed with pergola roof and table and seats made from reused railway sleepers
  • a 'bog garden' of native wetland plants
  • a 'sand dune' garden separating the park from the footpath and planted with locally indigenous species of beachside dune vegetation, including bush food
  • a stone entrance arch decorated with ceramic tiles made by local school children the harvesting of rainwater from the roofs of neighbouring houses, its storage in an underground tank and its reticulation as irrigation for the community food garden and the lawn area.

As this park demonstrates, the critical resource when it comes to multiple-use design is imagination.
An innovative approach to demonstrating the practicality of appropriate local government policies in multiple-use community gardens has been only partly explored through waste minimisation training. There may be potential in policies such as Agenda 21 and council conservation strategies, for instance.
Multifunctional elements also enhance community garden sustainability because the number of stakeholders - people with a direct interest in the wellbeing of the garden - is increased.

Recommendation 2:

Community garden trainers, government instrumentalities assisting community gardens and community gardeners adopt an approach to garden development and growth that can be summarised as:

  • start small
  • grow from the edges of your present development
  • expand in manageable chunks
  • remain compact and intensively gardened.

This strategy prevents gardens sprawling and becoming difficult to manage because they occupy too much space for the number of gardeners. It prevents gardens become aesthetic eyesores, overgrown with weeds and in disrepair and it allows for more time spent in gardening and socialising rather than cutting weeds and doing repetitive maintenance.
Start your garden development in a single place and work out. A compact, intensively managed garden is a productive garden.
Recommendation 3:

State and local government maximise the potential of community gardens to contribute to the nutritional health of communities and to serve as recreational, educational and social venues by funding the employment of community garden liaison officers/ coordinators. The precedent for this are the bushland and community waste education officers employed by local government.

Community garden coordinators could:

  • promote and encourage local involvement in community gardens by groups such as schools, the aged, the disabled and socially isolated ethnic groups
  • facilitate the use of community gardens for cultural activities, including the construction and display of public art as well as music and poetry performances
  • train gardeners in basic horticulture
  • implement waste recycling, reuse and community waste education programs in the gardens
  • assist in the design and establishment of new gardens
  • demonstrate appropriate local government policies in the gardens.

Recommendation 4:

The Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network, in consultation with local and/or state government staff and planning professionals, develop a set of guidelines on the establishment, construction, management and use of community gardens and associated facilities for the guidance of local government staff.

The guidelines would contain information on:

  • different types of community gardens (allotments/ shared) and opinion and factual information regarding their performance
  • the design of community gardens with reference to social, environmental and land management criteria
  • the types of structures, rainwater harvesting and storage installations and other components of community gardens
  • composting and waste conversion/ reuse systems applicable to community gardens
  • the management of community gardens using the above criteria plus information on democratic decision making to facilitate participatory processes among community gardening groups
  • risk management in gardens
  • opportunities for multiple-use
  • practical, low-cost forms of local government assistance to community gardens.

Recommendation 5:

Make allowances for the establishment of community gardens in state and local government landuse planning instruments.

NOTES FROM THE PRESENT

These notes are added as an update to the evaluation. They were produced in October 2009 and refer to ideas and examples cited in the above document.

In the section on Relevance, the expansion in community garden numbers cited in the report accelerated in recent years. Growth in numbers has been particularly noted in Sydney over the past two to three years.

This might be attributed to:

  • more people becoming aware of community gardening through its coverage in television, in print magazines and online
  • awareness created through participation in the Permaculture Design Course, introductory permaculture design courses and by the work of the Sydney Food Fairness Alliance
  • the rise if food as a significant public concern, stimulated by the acceptance of the likelihood of climate change and its possible agricultural impacts and by peak oil, which may result in higher food prices and supply uncertainties.

Changes since producing the evaluation evident at the time of writing this update:

  • a signifier of growth in community garden numbers are the three community gardens proposed for the Eastern Suburbs, a couple of which are actively seeking land (one in Clovelly; two in Maroubra); they would supplement the three existing Eastern Suburbs community gardens; the local government, Randwick City Council is, in principle, supportive of community gardening and the Council liaises and assists existing and proposed community gardeners through their Sustainability Education Officer
  • on Sydney's northside, one community garden is to start construction, supported by Ku-ring-gai Council; other proposed gardens, still trying to find support from other northside councils, include those proposed for Rydalmere and Epping
  • the City of Sydney, which supports a total of 14 community gardens at present, is favourable disposed to a new garden in Ultimo as well as others not yet in formation; the local food interests of Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, contribute to this; since production of the evaluation, City of Sydney has appointed a fulltime Community Gardens and Volunteer coordinator
  • a new community garden is under construction at Carrs Park, on the city's southside;, a joint initiative of local people and Kogarah council
  • the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network provided a consultation for the proposed Lawson Community Garden in the Blue Mountains, at the garden team's request
  • the Randwick Organic Community Garden, mentioned in the document, has now operated for more than three years at a new location and is progressing well.

Other changes since production of the evaluation concern two of the gardens mentioned in it:

  • the UNSW Community Permaculture Garden was close by the university, an act vigourously but unsuccessfully opposed by community gardening interests in Sydney, including Randwick City Council and local branches of the political party, The Greens
  • the Eastern Suburbs Community Garden, in similar controversial circumstances, was reclaimed by Waverly Council and turned into a council-managed garden on the model of the UK allotments; the dispossessed community gardeners found a favourable reception with neighbouring Woolahra Council and have since established the Paddington Community Garden.

A further impetus to the social side of community gardening is starting to come through the Transition Towns or Transition Initiatives movement, still in its infancy in Australia. The movement focuses on local development and initiative as a means of community building and sustainable infrastructure creation as a community-based response to climate change and peak oil.

Community gardens continue to attract cross-cultural participation, with gardeners largely reflecting the social make-up of the area they are found in. It has been found useful, however, to make use of state government ethnic affairs translators and community workers to take the community gardening message to the ethnic groups that exist in different areas. This remains an effort only implemented partially.

There is anecdotal and observational evidence that the link between sustainability and the preference for planting native plants is starting to weaken, probably due in part to the linkages made in the media between climate change, peak oil and the urban food supply.

Native plants continue to find a place in community gardens, however Sydney-based community garden network people emphasise that this not be done as some knee-jerk reaction of plant nativism, which has become politically and culturally influential, but as a design consideration. The native plants at Randwick Organic Community Garden, for example, were designed to form a windbreak to shelter the wind-vulnerable vegetables and fruits. The native species at North Wollongong Community Garden are similarly used and are slashed periodically as a supply of garden mulch.

A low level of skill continues to restrain community gardens as centres of biodiversity of agricultural species, however some progress is being made and more of the gardens have become Seed Savers' Network Local Seed Networks. This follows the decision of several years ago of the Network to diversify seed production and distribution to decentralised gardens, including participating community gardens. The offering of training in seed curation by local seed savers facilitates the further development of a biodiversity role for community gardens. Even so, progress is likely be be measured rather than rapid.

Since production of the evaluation, a market development has been the number of councils wanting to start their own community gardens.

The author has also since produced two policy directions documents to guide local government in the development of community gardening, one of which included an extensive community consultation process and two participatory site design days. A further council, Woolahra, has developed its own community gardening policy and another is currently before the City of Sydney.

Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network advocates in NSW see policy as an enabling framework for community gardening and encourage its adoption by councils.

The Gardens for Western Sydney team had no further impact after its formation and has disappeared.

The community park in Fremantle looks nothing like it is described in the evaluation. It is now more of a small forest and shows only limited use for vegetable cultivation.

Discussions are underway about producing the set of local government guidelines on community garden development mentioned under Recommendation 4.

Recommendation 5, for making allowance for community garden development in local government planning documentation, can be seen to have started with the two policy directions documents and the involvement of councils in starting community gardens even where they have no policy to support it.

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