With open mid-week and weekend gardening sessions, the Dairy Garden is a collective effort to nurture seedlings into ongoing seasonal harvests. If you happen to help out when the tomatoes are ripe, you will find yourself rewarded with pockets full of tasty red treats and maybe the odd chilli pepper.
This is the opposite of competitive, individual allotment cultivation, and so much more fun!
A small mid-week crop. Copyright 2015 ScribblyGum.
Supported by Willoughby council, the garden is managed by knowledgeable volunteers and a band of ad hoc members from the local community. The garden is a collection of raised beds and small trees, which produce a surprising variety of vegetables, herbs and fruit, helped along by a thriving worm farm. It backs on to a bush land reserve with popular walking tracks, a shady playground, car park and toilets.
We had intended to head straight for the playground, but got distracted by the sign to the garden. Despite being complete gardening novices and arriving unannounced. we were welcomed and trusted with gardening activities as if we were regulars.
Whilst our children gleefully harvested a pumpkin with a small machete, I came across native blue bees, golden orb spiders and fragrant, rampant mint. We gave the olive tree a brutal haircut and did some haphazard watering, and in exchange, made countless mini discoveries about how food really grows.
For novice adults (or those with no garden) you can learn a huge amount just by listening to tips and tricks from regulars, such as how worm pee is the ultimate concentrated liquid fertiliser, or the difference between good and bad ladybirds (it's all about the spots!).
For the more experienced, the Dairy Garden allows you to work with a wider range of fruit and vegetables than you may have space for, or confidence to try at home.
As for children, it can be hard getting them to leave. Everything is organic so once they have tired of digging, watering and planting, you can let them munch leaves, fruit, vegetables and herbs, safe in the knowledge that nothing has been sprayed with chemicals.
Be warned, organic also means some healthy exposure to the highs and lows of nurturing a seedling. One week you are gutted by finding your seedling has been munched by a snail, snapped off by a cockatoo or dug up by a rat, but the next you delight in a fully ripe tomato that has survived the perils of the local wildlife and is yours to enjoy!
Keeping a watchful eye over the new beans. Copyright 2015 ScribblyGum.