I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published April 30th 2013
Reconnect With Nature Without Leaving The City
Perth's Top Community Gardens
There's something incredibly grounding about getting your hands into the earth and growing the food you'll eventually put into your body. For most of us in modern urban society, however, this link with the land has all but vanished, and to a greater or lesser degree we have become alienated from nature's rhythms, other people and ourselves.
Over the last decade or two, the Australian way of life has changed dramatically. While once-upon-a-time, a three-bedroom home on a quarter acre block was the norm for most families, these days, higher land prices mean that a large backyard and productive vegie patch are beyond the reach of many. Further impediments include the long working hours and increased stress levels which many people experience, leaving them drained and without the energy to tend a rambling garden. In response to such pressures, the concept of urban community gardens has been rapidly growing in popularity throughout Australia over recent years.
Fern Community Gardens
Communally tended gardens have been part of human society for thousands of years, and throughout the world families and entire villages would (and in many places, still do) gather together to sow seeds, tend crops and finally gather the fruits of their toil. Such gardens were essential for survival: if people wanted to eat at all, it was necessary to grow their own foodstuffs.
In the UK and Western Europe during the early nineteenth century, allotments were established so that the working classes in major cities could supplement their food supply, and were especially popular during times of financial hardship. While community gardens fell into decline during the years following World War II, they persisted, and are now enjoying a resurgence, largely fuelled by a growing environmental awareness, a consciousness that we really are 'what we eat' and the various lifestyle factors mentioned above.
Seedlings at one of Perth's community gardens.
Here in Perth community gardens are enjoying a resurging popularity, with more and more being established around the metropolitan area. While some are simply urban allotments where local residents gather to tend their crops, others are affiliated with bustling community or environmental centres where some of the garden produce is used to cook communal meals. These projects often serve as education centres as well: places where members of the public can drop in and learn the basics of environmentally sustainable living such as organic growing, permaculture design, rainwater harvesting, recycling, creating a compost heap and keeping backyard chooks.
The following are some of the best known community gardens in Perth. Each is unique, offering the wider community a precious source of environmental wisdom, creative inspiration, social connection and natural beauty. Be sure to head to one close by and you'll discover something for the whole family.
East Perth City Farm Located just minutes away from the centre of Perth, City Farm is probably the best-known of our community gardens. Surrounded by multi-story office buildings and apartments, it's a lush green oasis which focuses on educating the public about environmental issues, organic growing, healthy eating and much more. It's also the hub for a vibrant community arts scene, and there is a studio space in an old warehouse as well as many attractive sculptures and murals situated throughout the grounds.
Perth City Farm is a lush oasis amidst the urban landscape.
An initiative of PAN (the Planetary Action Network), the youth branch of Men of the Trees, City Farm was founded way back in 1994. Before its extraordinary metamorphosis, the premises was a scrap metal yard and battery recycling plant: hard to believe as you wander around the productive gardens which now cover much of the property, and make friends with the resident chooks.
A train rushing past the Perth City Farm.
Perth City Farm's resident chooks
Throughout the week, City Farm is a vibrant hub of activity, with a variety of events, activities and educational workshops always underway. A solar-powered cafe is open from Monday to Saturday, and on Saturday mornings (8am - 12 noon) the organic farmer's market is a popular local event. Hanging out at the markets is a pleasant way to while away a few hours and as well as shopping, visitors are welcome to stroll through the gardens, check out the public art and listen to the live music.
The Saturday markets at Perth City Farm are always a hive of activity.
As a community education centre, regular workshops are held at City Farm, both for children and adults, and there are regular presentations by guest speakers. School groups are warmly welcomed, while regular kids' workshops are also held during the holidays.
Perth City Farm
To find out more about Perth City Farm, check out their website. Volunteers are needed from time to time for various projects, so if you'd like to get involved in a practical way send an email to email@example.com or give them a call on 9325 7229.
FERN Community Garden
Situated at the corner of High and Montreal Streets in Fremantle, the Fremantle Environmental Resource Network (also known as FERN) is a unique creative hub which incorporates a cafe, bicycle recycling workshop and meditation yurt into its fertile gardens. The project is managed by Wizard, a friendly, chilled-out environmental guru who is always happy to share his knowledge with whoever happens to wander in.
The entrance to FERN Community Garden
The meditation yurt at the FERN Community Centre.
FERN is also a good place to learn the basics of sustainable living, so when you visit be sure to read the signage detailing the different techniques which have been utilised. Otherwise, Wizard is a great source of valuable information.
FERN Community Gardens
Like most community gardens, FERN emphasises the importance of recycling and one of its most important projects is its bicycle recycling workshop, where old, neglected bikes are given a new lease of life before being resold to new homes. If you have any retired and unloved bikes lying around at home, seriously consider donating them to FERN, as all proceeds from resale goes back into the gardens.
Be sure to donate your old and unloved bikes to the FERN Community Garden!
The cafe is a funky creative space which incorporates outdoor tables amongst the gardens as well as indoor seating. It serves raw and vegan cuisine, much of it home-grown, and is a popular spot for the local community, Fremantle environmental enthusiasts and the student fraternity. Another popular FERN institution is Soupi, a vegan community soup kitchen which is held each Monday (except public holidays) at 7.00pm in Summer and 6.30 at other times of the year. Meals are by donation, and volunteers for food preparation are always greatly appreciated.
The raw vegan cafe at FERN Community Gardens is a popular meeting place for local environmentalists.
The cafe at the FERN Community Gardens offers a relaxed outdoor seating option.
Like all community gardens, FERN relies on its dedicated volunteers, and if you would like to help out, you'll be warmly welcomed. People with all kinds of skills are encouraged to lend a hand, and help is always appreciated in the gardens, at Soupi and in the bicycle workshop.
FERN Community Gardens
FERN is an awesome project, with a warm welcoming vibe. To find out more, including opening times and special events, check out their website or find them on Facebook.
Earthwise Community Garden
Located at 315 Bagot Road, Subiaco, in the grounds of an old pink church, the Earthwise Community Centre is a magical spot surrounded by bustling, trendy Subiaco. Wandering along the shady pathways, amongst lush vegie patches and works of art crafted from recycled items, it's quite easy to imagine that you're in an idyllic hamlet 'down south', and not the city at all.
Earthwise Community Centre
Despite its tranquil and friendly ambiance, the Earthwise Community Centre is frequently busy with a variety of exciting programs. Fridays mornings are a hive of activity with a working bee taking place in the gardens. If you've always wanted to learn more about organic gardening and permaculture, but haven't known where to start, then this is the perfect event for you.
Earthwise Community Gardens
Earthwise strongly promotes the practice of recycling and throughout the gardens visitors can see unique artworks which have been created using recycled household items. Pre-loved appliances such as old baths and fridges have also been revamped as planting vessels and these can also be appreciated on a leisurely wander around the property. Another project which encourages recycling is the Earthwise Op Shop (located in the old church) which serves as a community meeting place, selling pre-loved items sourced from the local area.
A recycled bathtub makes an ideal planting vessel at the Earthwise Community Gardens.
Old fridges have also been used to plant vegies.
Like all community gardens, volunteers are encouraged and greatly appreciated. If you have some free time which you'd like to donate, call Peg on 0422 941 492 or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more, have a look at the Earthwise Community website.
Operating since 1983 at its centre in Fremantle, Apace is a community environmental organisation which aims to help the disadvantaged and educate the wider community about sustainable living. Throughout the year it hosts a wide variety of courses and workshops on topics including bush regeneration, seed collection and organic gardening.
APACE also operates the oldest community gardens in Perth, and runs an allotment system whereby people can lease a plot of land for the purpose of growing their own food. These provide a haven for people who don't have their own gardens at home as well as new arrivals in Australia who come from a farming background. A waiting list exists if you'd like to lease a plot here. To find out more, call APACE on 08 9336 1262 or email them on email@example.com.
If you don't want to lease a garden plot, but would simply like to help out in the APACE gardens or with their other projects, there are also many other opportunities for volunteering at the centre. Take a look at their website to find out more. APACE is situated at 1 Johanna Street in North Fremantle.
Other Community Gardens in the Perth area
As noted earlier, the interest in community gardens here in Western Australia is growing at an unprecedented rate and new gardens are springing up everywhere, not only in Perth but also in many regional areas. For further information about community gardens in Western Australia, check out this website.