CIVIQ Specification Manager Danny Brookes writes about his encounter with a flourishing community garden on Adelaide’s coast.
I landed early on a Saturday morning for a worktrip out of Sydney. The office had sent me down to Adelaide to check up on a couple of recent product installations, take some photographs, and report on how they were performing in the local area.
It was a nice opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of the nation’s commercial capital, into a city with a steadier pace of life and a beautiful community vibe. “The air is clear, there’s better beer in Adelaide”, Ben Folds once famously sang, and spending the afternoon visiting our installs at Henley Beach certainly testified to this.
Specifically, I was here to visit the Henley Community Garden, a charmingly down-to-earth community plot originally set up in 2012 with the purpose of connecting locals through the art and craft of organic fruit and vegetable growing using permaculture principals.
During my time, I met a handful of gardeners who told me about the garden’s history, its unique features, the best crops to grow – and I even scored a few organic squash along the way!
I was here to meet John Klopp, a founding member, and to catch up with him after our company had installed a new outdoor FlexiDisplay community noticeboard at the garden entrance.
John and a handful of volunteers kindly showed me around the garden, explaining its design and operability, and of course updated me on how the new noticeboard was performing.
The Henley Community Garden is a cosy affair, with 40 garden beds servicing the 60 subscribed users. Most gardeners grow vegetables, although I noticed a lot of sunflowers in full bloom on my outing, as well as a small number of perennials and fruit trees.
Gardeners pay a $40 annual fee for access to a garden bed, which is allocated to them for a three year period, where they can work on their own plot or help others on a shared patch.
The most popular harvests include zucchinis, sweetcorn, tomatoes, beetroot and herbs, although the volunteers also produce their own honey (in collaboration with the Adelaide Bee Sanctuary) from three rather glorious beehives.
(Volunteers had just recently extracted 28kgs of honey from the hive a few days before my visit – apparently they are very placid bees).
The facility caters to gardeners of all ages, from younger couples to retired residents.
I was amazed to see so many locals sharing the garden on a weekend, having a great time in each other’s company through the shared joy of gardening.
It was also lovely to see how a team of dedicated volunteers could build up a productive garden with such simple (and often salvaged) materials.
A highlight for me was learning about the sophisticated drip irrigation system designed by a now-retired hydraulics engineer.
The volunteers had set up the system with an automated, solar-powered sensor system – so they rarely needed to manually water their plants.
The garden has also set up a neat system called ‘wicking beds’, in which a compost garden mix sits atop a concealed water reservoir to keep the bed constantly moist.
It sounds complicated, but it’s not when you see how it’s made.
The nice thing about this system is that it creates the ideal climate for crops, whilst also being an extremely efficient method of watering – significantly reducing preventable evaporation.
John tells me the community garden, in its current form, was originally set up on a budget of less than $20,000 – thanks to local council funding – when the venue was repositioned from Henley High School grounds to its current location. The budget allowed the volunteers to install fencing, a shed and 2x 17000L tanks for bore water.
Since then, further upgrades have been achieved through donations or by direct purchase using volunteer funds.
In addition to the irrigation system, these upgrades include solar panel-powered pumps, a worm farm using a series of old bath tubs, a small chook house and several beehives.
As well as offering the space for gardening, the group also run regular workshops, which are open to the community.
They advertise these through their local networks and newspaper, Facebook account, website, and of course their very own CIVIQ-designed community noticeboard, which you will find at the entrance of the garden.
I am told the noticeboard has been a great addition, which the garden’s organising committee decided to purchase based on its robust, weatherproof and user-friendly design.
If you are interested in installing a noticeboard for your community organisation, school or workplace, feel free to contact the CIVIQ team so they can recommend a suitable product based on your requirements and budget.