Justine de Jonge is a Melbourne freelance travel writer and blogger who loves travelling the vegan road. She also loves blogging about her vegan travels at www.fireandtea.com .
Published December 30th 2012
An organic oasis in the heart of St Kilda
On a bright, sunny day, many beachcombers head straight for the foreshore on Jacka Boulevard while thrill-seekers scour Luna Park for a ride on the 100-year-old scenic railway. Yet, set back from the delighted squeals echoing from the waves and fun-park lies a tranquil community garden.
Veg Out Community Gardens St Kilda is a community garden that thrives on its organic and chemical free status. Over 140 plots can be found on this converted lawn bowls green and each plot is lovingly cared for by private plot-holders or a team of volunteers who, committed to their community, bring this garden into bloom year round.
The grounds have been used for public purposes since 1881, and the garden itself is a meandering mini-maze of herbs, shrubs, cacti and vegetables. From the spinach hugging the soil to the blooms and trees towering above, the garden is a sensory feast for those who are in search of a quick sojourn away from the touristy crowds in St Kilda.
Not only is this community garden full of organic life, there are pieces of local art and sculpture dotted around the plots. Visitors can find a big red bull, nurturing park benches painted in blues and yellows and quirky signposts. In one plot, crockery is set out on a shelf as if the plot is its custodian's open-air kitchen. A chicken coup in the shade houses chickens who scratch and peck in their safe haven.
Visitors are free to enter the grounds and wander to admire the plots and artwork. Visitors can also witness the goings-on within the grounds, and watch volunteers and private plot owners plant, water and compost within the plots. Winding pathways allow easy access for visitors and gates are open each day from dawn until dusk.
Visitors are not allowed to pick flowers or pluck vegetables and herbs. Instead, they can purchase some of the organic produce at the Community Gardens' Farmers Market which is held on the first Saturday of every month from 8.30am to 1pm. The market is located behind the grounds in Peanut Farm Reserve in Chaucer Street. Visitors can also purchase sourdough breads, jams, chutneys, wine and cheeses from a variety of vendors.
If visitors want to get involved around the grounds, there is a Working Bee Sunday on the first Sunday of each month. This is a perfect opportunity for visitors to get behind-the-scenes experience within this working garden while learning about organic gardening principles at the same time.
Visitors who live in the Port Phillip area can also opt to become a Friend of Veg Out. Friends pay $15 and can be put on a waiting list for a plot of their own, or enjoy being a public custodian of the grounds. All monies go back into the garden itself.
There's a sign that encapsulates Veg Out Community Gardens St Kilda well: 'Gardening is an act of faith in the future'. If St Kilda is known in Melbourne for its community spirit, it's these gardens that are nourishing its future.