Gardening in Good Company

Exciting things are afoot in the Ashwood College Permaculture Food Garden. Volunteer gardeners keep coming back to sow and plant, weed and mulch, fertilise and water in our unique community garden. The Ashwood College Permaculture Food Garden (ACPFG) is a communal garden where we all pitch in with what needs doing on the day, and at the end of the session we harvest and take home the bounty. Sometimes the bounty doesn’t make it home, as was the case with the mulberries in November. They were delicious!

Ashwood College is a state secondary school with very large grounds, some of which have been dedicated to the permaculture food garden. The land belongs to the school, but the garden is open to the community. We garden with support and encouragement from the Ashwood College Council and the Principal, Kerrie Croft.

Our garden is thriving. There are more than 2000 square metres of land, 200 metres of cyclone mesh fence, 55 fruit trees, two 75 000-litre rainwater tanks, a shade house, a pergola, a pizza oven, bath tub wicking beds, culinary and medicinal herbs, and beehives.

There are nine different types of apples, three varieties of pear trees, a peach, a nectarine, an apricot, two matching avocados, macadamias, a mulberry, a lemon tree, a feijoa and an olive tree. And there are three different types of figs!

In March this year, the chickens returned to the garden after a three-year absence. Foxes took our hard-working ladies in 2010 but we now have electric poultry fencing. This mobile type of fence gives us the flexibility we need and also provides safety for the chickens. Check out our Facebook page – or, better still, come and check out the chooks for yourself. The ACPFG is open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 10am, and during summer from 9am.

Our Reason for Being- sustainable gardening is complex

When we started in 2007, we thought the main purpose of the garden was to grow food. Over the years we have learnt not only that it takes time to build soil and soil fertility, but that to garden sustainably is complex. To our surprise and delight, the garden’s main product over the last number of Gardening in Good Company years has been gardeners. In the process of turning a large grassy field into a productive space, many people have come to the garden, helped out enormously, learned what they needed to learn, and then moved on to confidently develop their own gardens.

Workshops and Courses

When you arrive for the first time, you’ll get a guided tour to introduce you to the garden. Next, you get to work alongside one of the experienced gardeners.

For those who would like a more structured approach to learning sustainable gardening principles, we run classes and courses. The main course is called Food Gardening Step-by- Step – a hands-on, practical series that puts together the building blocks of a successful, chemical-free garden. These steps include Compost, Topsoil, Weed management, Seeds and seedlings (including transplanting), Integrated pest management, Propagation, Water and more. Other specialised classes on topics such as pruning are held at the right time of year, so that they can be learnt in a practical way.

In January 2015 we’ll be running Food Gardening Step-by-Step in a Summer School format, allowing you to attend all eight sessions in the course of two weeks.

Growing your own food is like printing your own money

Access to fresh whole food is fundamental to good health. Ashwood College is located in what’s technically known as a ‘food desert’: there is no fresh whole food within walking distance. Take-away food shops, yes; fruit and veg, no. A weekly community market has been established at Amaroo Neighbourhood Centre where you can purchase fruit and veg at wholesale prices. Now that the chickens have returned to the Ashwood College Permaculture Food Garden, we’ll be ramping up vegie production, and with the fruit trees beginning to come of a productive age we look forward to regularly contributing fresh food to this community market. Meanwhile, all local residents are invited to come and help out.

Facebook page: Permaculture Food Garden

Enquiries: Mariëtte 0414 588 821 and Jean 0418 346 342

Mariëtte Tuohey
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