Featured artist: Shannon Crees

Gardening

Featured artist: Shannon Crees
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Environment

Gardening

Gardening in MarrickvilleInner West Council encourages the growing of food organically as well as taking steps to increase the levels of native biodiversity across the local government area. The information below describes some of the ways that citizens can become involved in this through gardening.

A word of warning

All inner west gardeners should assume their soil is contaminated unless the soil has been adequately tested by a contamination specialist. Common contaminants in the inner west include  heavy metals such as lead (usually from paints and historical leaded fuel use) and hydrocarbons (usually from petrols and imported contaminated soil to level sites  - a very common practice in the past).

As a precaution, assume all soil is contaminated before gardening and take appropriate measures to limit exposure to you and your family. 

  • Test soil you plan to grow in. Vegesafe provides free heavy metal testing and is a good first step
  • Grow vegetables in raised garden beds with clean imported soil
  • Always use gloves
  • Wash your hands immediately after handling soil
  • Mulch, plant or pave or turf exposed soil

 

Free workshops

Both Council and the Green Living Centre offer a range of free workshops relating to gardening and other sustainable living topics. These cover areas such as permaculture, composting and wormfarming, keeping chickens in your backyard and growing food without digging. A schedule of upcoming workshops at the Green Living Centre can be found here, while information about workshops run by Inner West Council can be found here.

Permaculture

'Permaculture' is a term that relates to the concept and practice of 'permanent agriculture' where agricultural and ecological theories are fused in the creation of diverse, productive, efficient and sustainable landscapes.

Modern thinking about permaculture generally relates to the issue of sustainable food production and can be successfully applied to both small back yards and large farms.

There are a wide range of free resources available online and published in books. An important Australian based organisation is the Permaculture Design Institute while a number of local groups have formed in Sydney to learn about, develop and promote the practice of permaculture.

Wormfarming and composting

Starting a wormfarm or compost is an excellent way of creating fertiliser and organic material for a garden while also making great use of kitchen scraps and garden clippings. Free workshops are offered through the Green Living Centre and Inner West Council, where you can learn everything you need to know to confidently start and maintain your own worm farm or composting system.

'No-dig' gardening

Rich organic garden beds can easily be created without digging the existing soil. The No-Dig method involves the layering of materials such as lucerne, straw and fertiliser and letting these decompose into a rich living soil. Workshops on No-Dig gardening are run regularly through the Green Living Centre.

Community gardens

If you don't have the opportunity to keep a garden where you live, then joining a community garden may be a great option for you. Not only will you be able to either have your own plot or help maintain a communal plot, you will be able to learn from and share your experiences with other people from your area. There are a number of community gardens in the Marrickville area and information about them can be found here.

Organic gardening tips

  • To control caterpillars on cabbages, mix 1tbsp of molasses in warm water with 1tsp of dishwashing liquid. Spray this on the leaves making sure you cover both sides of the leaves.
  • Keeping a hive of native stingless bees will help with pollination of your crops. See the Australian Native Bee Research Centre website for more information.
  • Avoid putting weeds in to the compost bin as this may help them to spread through your garden. Put them in the Council green bin or place them in a plastic bag in the sun until they have fully decomposed into a rich (but smelly) fertiliser.