Come together: Sydney’s community gardens

James Street Community Garden Image credit: City of Sydney

This story first appeared on former NRMA site Living Well Navigator on November 11, 2014. Image courtesy of City of Sydney.

There’s a lot to love about community gardens. Aside from bringing neighbourhoods together to socialise and grow, tend and eat from a shared garden, there are also plenty of green benefits.

Sydney is home to 20 community gardens and three community verge gardens (where garden beds are established on the nature strip) – and it’s a trend that looks set to grow in popularity. We spoke with Raewyn Broadfoot, the City of Sydney’s community gardens and volunteer coordinator to learn more.

How would you describe a community garden for those who are not familiar with them?

The city’s community gardens are unique spaces that encourage residents to develop a self-managed garden. The main aim of community gardens is to grow organic produce crops of vegetables, herbs and miniature fruit trees. This contributes towards the development of a sustainable urban environment by composting food scraps and using organic gardening methods. They also provide opportunities for social and community development.

How are they run?

They are initiated by the local residents who work within the City of Sydney’s community gardens policy and guidelines. The group develops a management plan and a garden design for approval by the council or the landowner. The city’s community gardens and volunteer coordinator helps the groups by providing technical advice, training, donation of materials and assistance in development and construction.

How many community gardens are there in Sydney? How did most of them come about?

At the moment the City of Sydney has 20 community gardens and three footpath community verge gardens.

All of these gardens have been initiated by local residents and have the ability to grow crops to supplement their household groceries and to educate their children about where food comes from. Also, to compost food scraps and garden debris into a humus to be placed into the garden to add nutrients to the soil for produce growing.

Some of the community gardens have started by applying for a City of Sydney’s matching grant. These funds assisted in the construction of their garden.

Has interest in community gardens risen in recent years?

We receive enquiries from local residents to join an existing community garden within the city or to start a new community garden on a regular basis. Community gardens have increased within the city over recent years and are becoming very popular across Australia and worldwide. This is through a growing awareness of food security, climate change, healthier lifestyle and sustainable living within the local community.

Why do you consider community gardens important? And what are the benefits to the community?

Community gardens are very important to our local communities, as they encourage a diverse range of residents to participate in gardening.

The benefits of community gardens include:

  • the ability to grow your own vegetables and herbs
  • developing friendships with local residents
  • supplementing your weekly groceries
  • sharing tips on growing crops and cooking recipes amongst gardeners
  • learning new skills and sharing ideas

What’s the nicest story or feedback you’ve received about them?

A highlight is to see a new group go through the processes and gain approval for their garden and plant or harvest their first crop. It’s satisfying to see their big smiles as they share stories and gardening tips. That’s what community gardening is all about.

How can people get involved?

Residents can visit the City of Sydney’s web page and find their local community garden on the location map and contact the group to get involved. They can also contact us if they want to start a new community garden within the City of Sydney area.

Raewyn’s five tips for a successful community garden: 

  1. People – A diverse range of people and skills.
  2. Site – An ideal space with great access to people and sunlight.
  3. Style – Keep it simple in the beginning.
  4. Structure – A well thought out management plan to provide structure to all group members is essential.
  5. Promotion – Encourage local support and more people to get involved in the garden