Urban Food and Community Gardens
- Written by: Adam Gatt Penrith City Council (02) 4732 7777 (02) 4732 7958 firstname.lastname@example.org https://www.penrithcity.nsw.gov.au 601 High St Penrith NSW 2750 Australia
Whether you have a spacious backyard or a small balcony, growing your own food brings numerous benefits. From enjoying fresher and healthier produce to saving money, reducing environmental impact, and fostering a deeper connection with nature, cultivating your own vegetable garden is a rewarding and sustainable choice.
Planning your garden
Location: Pick the right spot. Somewhere that receives 6-8 hours of direct sunlight is ideal. Ensure that the soil is well-draining and not prone to waterlogging. A garden that is easy to see and visit is more likely to get the attention it needs.
Style: Decide what style of garden works best for you depending on your space. Consider a kitchen garden, a veggie patch, a vertical or hanging garden, a container garden, a raised garden, or a windowsill herb garden. The options are limitless!
Planting in your garden
Soil is the most important component for your veggie garden. Ideally, it should have a mix of mineral particles and organic matter. Veggies and fruit require large amounts of soil nutrients for optimal growth, so once they are established you should keep them well-fed with fertiliser. Water is also essential for growing healthy food, so keep in mind how and when you’re going to water. You can group plants according to their water needs.
Choose plants that are suited to your garden type, the season and Penrith’s climate. Decide whether you are going to use seeds or seedlings. Seeds are much better value for money, but seedlings are easier and less time consuming.
Organic pest control
You can keep your garden healthy with organic natural pest control. Diverse planting that includes herbs and flowers, planting companion plants, using protective nets, practicing crop rotation, and manually removing weeds and pests encourages a healthy garden.
Home remedies are often very effective in pest control such as setting traps using beer for slugs and snails, linseed oil for earwigs, soap spray for aphids, and horticultural oil (vegetable oil and dishwashing detergent) to control most pests.
Gardening is an ongoing learning process, so don’t be afraid to experiment, ask questions and seek advice. Below is a list of links that may be useful in your gardening journey. You can also check out the Upcoming Events page for any upcoming veggie workshops.
Community gardens are becoming more popular across Australia. They strengthen communities, connect people and promote sustainability. They take many different shapes and forms, but the heart of the concept is working together to grow fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables.
There is an existing local community garden, which allows residents to get involved at Mamre House, Orchard Hills – Mamre has community garden space for people to volunteer or have their own plot, as well as a farm space for refugees.
Or check out community gardens adjoining Penrith:
- Western Sydney Home Produce Swaps, Penrith – This is a Facebook page for local gardeners to connect with each other, swap produce as well as hints and tips on growing veggies. Please note it is private Facebook page so you’ll need to answer a couple of questions to be added to the group.
- The Secret Garden and Nursery, Richmond – The garden offers programs for people with disabilities and mental health issues. The general community can volunteer or have their own garden patch.
- Hawkesbury Earthcare Centre, Richmond – The Centre focuses on broad sustainability and permaculture principles. They have a demonstration building and garden, as well as offer a range of activities and workshops.
- Blacktown has several community gardens where fresh organic food is grown.
A local gardening organisation may also be of interest to you:
- Permaculture Sydney West Inc. – PSW provide support in applying the principles of permaculture to urban homes, schools and community gardens. The group offers information evenings, garden blitzes, seed saving, workshops and community garden support.
- Penrith City Garden Club – The Club provides a range of activities, catering for members’ interests, in all aspects of gardening. Activities include engaging speakers on a variety of topics on their club nights, visiting other gardens of interest and social activities.
You could also get involved in your local Bushcare group to meet more people in your neighbourhood and help protect our local environment.
Can I start a community garden on Council land?
If you are a hard-working and committed gardening group, you may decide to start up your own project on Council owned or managed land.
Penrith Council has developed a Community Gardens Policy and Guidelines to assist community groups plan, design and establish community gardens.
Contact the Sustainability Team at SustainabilityTeam@penrithcity to discuss your ideas. To be successful, community gardens require substantial community involvement in planning, decision-making, garden management, day-to-day activities and maintenance.
What about a community garden on land not owned by Council?
Gardening groups that would like to start up a community garden on non-Council owned or managed land are encouraged to contact Council.
Proposals need to be discussed during planning, as requirements can vary significantly depending on the location and zoning of the subject land. We will help you through the process, so you can understand requirements early.
Where can I get funding for my community garden?
Starting a community garden requires funding in order to pay for physical items such as garden tools and plants, as well as public liability insurance and incorporation. Information on how to obtain funding for your community garden group can be found on Council’s Grants webpage.
Do you have any other information to help me?
There is a wealth of information available on community gardens. Some great sites for helpful information can be found at:
- The Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network which is an informal, community-based organisation linking people interested in community gardening around Australia.
- The South Australian Community Garden Resource Kit which contains great information on starting up a community garden with advice from experienced community gardeners as well as research in community development, project management and sustainable gardening.
Or check out what other countries are doing such as:
- The American Community Gardening Association whose mission is to build community by increasing and enhancing community gardening and greening across the United States and Canada.
- The Canadian City Farmer whose website is a collection of stories about their work at City Farmer in Vancouver, Canada and about urban farmers from around the world. They teach people how to grow food in the city, compost their waste and take care of their home landscape in an environmentally responsible way.
- Or the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens in the United Kingdom supports, represents and promotes community-managed farms and gardens across the UK.
Where are local community gardens?