Transformation pending: boring lawn to become edible polycutlture

Photos: Janet Verden

Russ Grayson reports...

IT'S A SMALL POCKET PARK about to become a small community garden — Redfern's James Street reserve is about to be terraformed from lawn monoculture into edible polyculture.

I participated in a consultation with the enthusiastic community gardeners in the good company of Annie Walker, City of Sydney Community Garden and Volunteer Coordinator. We met in the Victorian era terrace house of a family keenly involved in the project, a home like hundreds of others that make up this part of Redfern. The site is not all that far from the traffic stream that occupies busy Cleveland Street, day and night.

The James Street Community Garden site — a bare lawn monoculture about to be turned into an edible polyculture.

The James Street Community Garden site — a bare lawn monoculture about to be turned into an edible polyculture.

This is no bunch of amateurs. The community garden team is impressive for its level of organisation, from meticulously kept minutes to the penchant for flip charts entertained by some. The meeting was businesslike and much was covered.

A view of the area soon to become the James Street Community Garden. The fig was in the way, so the City removed it to be replanted elsewhere.

A view of the area soon to become the James Street Community Garden. The fig was in the way, so the City removed it to be replanted elsewhere.

Bye bye fig

The reserve is a small pocket park behind the commercial car wash on Cleveland Street, not far west of the intersection that takes you into the Surry Hills commercial and cafe strip. At present, its main users seem to be drinkers who conveniently resupply from the bottle shop across the road.  That, however, is about to change.

One thing, however, stood on the otherwise bare patch that will be occupied by the community garden — a young fig tree (not the edible fig, unfortunately, unless you happen to be a fruit bat). But in true Permaculture form, the problem (fig tee) was seen as solution (revegetation at another location) and a few days later a City of Sydney crew turned up with truck and excavator and removed the offending vegetation to its new home. Now, the pocket park stands ready for its terraformation from lawn desert to inner urban foodpatch.

City of Sydney staff and equipment ready to remove the fig.

City of Sydney staff and equipment ready to remove the fig.

The fig is loaded onto a truck to take away for replanting.

The fig is loaded onto a truck to take away for replanting.

New garden on old land

On this patch will soon rise raised garden beds and a tasteful, low steel fence that will define the shape and keep the gardeners' children out of the way of traffic.

The James Street initiative was announced by Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, a couple months ago. It is one of two others that the City of Sydney is involved in developing. One of these, a garden in a different part of Redfern, I had the privilege of working recently with Annie on to establish a core group of gardeners. The City is also moving forward with the establishment of yet another community garden in Ultimo.

James Street is like so may other community gardens in the inner urban area. It is quite small and it is hoped that it will become the focus of community revitalisation, of making productive use of underused public land that is so scarce in the area.

Refernites who would like to learn more and be put in contact with the James Street garden gang should contact:

jsrcommunitygarden[at]gmail.com

Annie Walker, City of Sydney

(Substitute @ for [at] in the email addressws — we use [at] to thwart the spambots that prowl the Net to harvest addresses).

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