In 2007, the garden was established within the grounds of the Ashwood High School, using the mandala system, based on Linda Woodrow permaculture principles.
Inspiration for the garden was prompted by a fresh food desert prevailing in that area of the Melbourne suburb, Ashwood. It was spearheaded by one of the school council parents, Mariëtte Tuohey, supported by the former school Principal, Kate Long.
As an incorporated not-for-profit volunteer-run organisation, it aims to encourage like-minded people who wish to learn about growing their own food, sharing their food-growing knowledge, learning more about basic permaculture principles and basic chook care, and engaging socially with others in a friendly garden atmosphere.
The garden has a Management Committee that meets monthly and is governed by the Associations Incorporation Reform Act 2012 and registered with Consumer Affairs Victoria. We have public liability insurance, incorporated association rules and a code of conduct. Our volunteers attend the garden on open days each Wednesday and Saturday.
We have a chook roster in place for one person to tend the hens each day. New volunteers are always welcome, membership is only $10 per annum and there are no waiting lists or assigned plots, we all garden collectively.
It is a self-funded garden, relying on sale of mulch, plants, seedlings, produce, membership subscriptions and grants. The money is used to buy chook grain, seeds, seedlings, fruit trees, mower fuel, animal manure and tools. Grants are sought to support larger infrastructure projects i.e. the construction of permanent composting bays.
The garden covers over 2,000 square metres, and contains about 60 fruit trees, several wicking beds, a shade house, pergola, pizza oven, a chook dome protected from foxes by a small electric fence, composting facilities, worm farms, beehive, and two 75,000 litre rainwater tanks. The rainwater tanks are fed with runoff from the roofs of nearby school buildings.
Our fruit trees include:
Granny Smith, Early McIntosh, Sturmer Pippin, Gala, Cox’s Orange Pippin, and Orange Blenheim apples; Josephine, Red d’Anjou, Doyenne du Comice, and Nashi pear;
two white and a black variety of fig; and mulberry, almonds, feijoa, lemon, orange, pomelo, macadamia, olive, guava, apricot, plums, nectarine, peach, cherries, quince, varieties of plum, peach, blueberries and loquat.
We move our chook dome every month depending on the condition of the planting circle it is located on. Once the hens have been moved from a circle, it is prepared for planting. Depending on the season, our plantings include heritage tomatoes, root vegetables, pumpkins and other gourds, Asian greens, beans, green leafy vegetables, summer salad vegetables, melons and marrows and brassicas.
Our recent activities have included the delivery of a free wicking bed construction workshop, our end of year celebration using the onsite pizza oven. We have in the past been part of Duke of Edinburgh and community placement activities of students from Ashwood High School.
We currently have eight working compost bins, which we maintain using some coffee grounds and food preparation scraps (vegetable, of course) from cafes, sawdust, occasional private kitchen scraps, and donated and bought animal manures.
We have an area set aside for deposit of wood chip mulch by commercial tree loppers, with the wood chips used in the garden for mulching paths, chook dome and fruit trees. The wood chips are available for sale to members of the community ($2 per bag, or $10 per trailer load).