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Sustainable Garden Design Workshops – Event Round-up (Adelaide, South Australia)

A series of free Sustainable Garden Design Workshops were held at various locations around Adelaide, South Australia, over the past couple of months and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the one held in the suburb of Salisbury, along with quite a large number of other people. All of the events were basically booked out, which shows the growing enthusiasm for creating sustainable gardens.

The day was hot, but the participants were eager and undaunted by the heat, as they soaked up the gems of knowledge our guests had to share!

Mark Caldicott, from the Radio 5AA Garden Show and a mainstay of the Norwood Garden Centre was first up. His presentation, ‘Environmentally Responsible Gardening’, gave quite an in-depth look at some of the important factors to consider when creating a sustainable garden.

His segment covered:

  • Observation — Using observations skills to work with nature, following natural patterns and clues. Observing interactions between the plants themselves and with wildlife.
  • Soil — Testing for soil type, organic content, wetability, drainage and pH. Understanding soil types and how to work with what you have. How to change soil pH, and the wonders of compost for helping with this!
  • Climate — The importance of knowing your climate and using plants which thrive in it. What flourishes naturally in your area? Even weeds can give clues!
  • Water — A rain gauge is an important tool in your garden, so that you know the rainfall for your specific location. Catching water with rainwater tanks and overflow ponds. Sensible watering techniques. Stopping evaporation with mulch.
  • Feeding — Healthy soil = healthy plants. Feed your soil organic matter in the form of mulch and compost… and let the insects and microbes do their job!
  • Pests and Diseases — Insects… friend or foe? Why is it here… how does it fit into my bio-system and what affect might killing it have? Natural pest and disease control. Companion planting. Healthy gardens are less susceptible.
  • Plant Selection — Think before planting, or disposing of, any plant. What could the consequences be?
  • Sharing and Caring — Sharing excess seedlings and plants with your neighbours, thereby creating community along with spreading resilience.

Full of practical tips, and framed within a sustainable perspective, this session was both informative and enjoyable.

A short break, with refreshments provided, gave us a chance to stretch our legs and talk further with Mark or our fellow attendees.

Pam Gunnel and Jenny Bates from the Lochiel Park Community Garden followed the break.

Pam Gunnel and Jenny Bates with fellow community garden member

Pam and Jenny at Lochiel Park Community Garden, getting the next generation of gardeners involved in some fun!

Jenny at Lochiel Park with some of their produce

Their presentation ‘How to Grow Edible Plants in Your Garden Sustainably’, was full of practical hands-on knowledge, discussing such considerations as:

  • Sunshine — Become familiar with the sun pattern of your garden, throughout the day, and throughout the seasons. Capture the sun’s warmth with garden features and the way you plant. Most fruits and veg need at least 5 hours of direct sun per day.
  • Shelter — A lot of plants require some shelter from the wind and the burning sun. Windbreaks such as tress, hedges, tall plants and walls can be of help. Plants with big leaves, such as pumpkins, can help shelter more shade loving plants such as lettuces, or new seedlings in their initial stages.
  • Water — Edible plants require a substantial supply of water. Water features can help create cooler, moister micro-climates. Don’t forget the food plants that can be grown in water, such as watercress.
  • Good Soil — Feed your soil! What you put in, you get out. You can’t expect food grown in depleted soil to provide the nutrients it doesn’t get.
  • Bugs Pests and Diseases — Don’t rush into the destruction of ‘bad’ bugs. The good bugs need them! Provide the right elements for habitat and allow nature to create balance.
  • Minimising Waste — Reduce, reuse, recycle. Any waste generated has to go somewhere.
  • Making it Easy and Fun — Save time, effort and energy. Make it safe and make it enjoyable! Planning can generate success… and nothing creates enthusiasm like success.

Also mentioned was the Community Gardening in SA Resource Kit (PDF), a very useful, in-depth guide to starting a community garden project.

These two women were a delight, and their pride in their community garden shone through.

One of the sponsors of the event was Jeffries, the company that recycles the ‘green waste’ for much of Adelaide’s green waste collection service. Their motto is “Your waste is our resource.” A Jeffries representative gave an eye-opening look into the whole process — right from collection of our ‘green bins’ to a ready-to-sell product of soil, mulch or compost. Apart from material from ‘green’ bins, some of the ‘waste’ they use are restaurant and supermarket food waste, street sweepings, grease trap waste, timber pallets and crates, winery waste and even road kill and beached whales! It is certainly a much more involved process than I ever realised, and as more and more green waste is collected, the operation has grown in tandem, to a now massive size! Although a promotion for this company (which does great environmental work in its own right) this presentation was equally as fascinating as the rest of the day.

A healthy lunch of wraps and fruit platters was then provided, and it was very pleasing to see that vegetarians and vegans were also catered for, which is often not the case.

Geoff Booth, Urban Biodiversity Officer for DENR, followed lunch with a presentation called ‘Biodiverse Backyards and Corridors’. He spoke of his involvement with ‘Backyards for Wildlife‘ and the ‘Million Trees‘ project. He shared with us some of what has been happening within the City of Salisbury Biodiversity Corridors, which includes direct seeding and planting of several parcels of land. A recreational trail network is also being established throughout. Geoff also talked about how we can help extend these corridors by creating our own biodiverse gardens, thereby providing even greater habitat to wildlife in the area. A very interesting man with an obvious passion for his work!

Geoff Booth

New Beginnings — Gawler Buffer Restoration Site

Unfortunately, the last scheduled speaker was unable to make it to the Salisbury event, due to other commitments, so we ended the day a little early, but with plenty of handouts and thoughts to mull over. There was a great vibe about the whole day — a feeling of community and sharing. It was exciting to see grassroots enthusiasm and learning in action. I’m certain that everyone took away some very important messages and ideas to think about… and hopefully to act upon!

These workshops have been held for three years now, so I would imagine, with the hugely enthusiastic turn-outs to those held this year, that they will continue for the foreseeable future. So, if you live in or near Adelaide, South Australia, do keep an eye open for the next batch!

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