Urban horticulture – Merivale Community Garden


The Merivale Community Garden is just one example of urban horticulture feeding its surrounding community. But that’s what it does. It was and is the vision of Deb McCarthy.

I’m walking around Merivale and Greerton. I meet a lovely man in the recycle/second-hand shop on the corner – he hasn’t got a bookcase for all the ARTbop stuff just at the moment. I go in and meet the traditional butcher; and a hair salon with antique and collectible décor. There will be more about them next year.

After a great chat with Michael and the receptionist at the Merivale Community Centre I find the fenced community garden on a main road corner. It’s obvious that this is a place that receives love, care and attention. There’s someone in the garden who tells me he’s hopeless at weeding but he comes regularly to water the plants. He says his hands smell because he’s been making fish manure.

It’s not flash but it’s prolific. There’s all the usual garden stuff:- pathways and raised beds, compost bins, manure bins and mulch and a strong garden smell of growing. There are herbs, vegetables, fruit trees and young plants getting ready to “grow for it”. There must be every kind of silverbeet, chard and current trend veg “kale” in the garden when I have a look round. There’s also seating and if you’re living in a gardenless property – this would be a great place for a sitdown.

The vegetables are amazing – abundant just doesn’t do it. There’s a hand painted sign inviting residents to come in and help themselves to produce. Some of the beds have “pick me signs” on them. Kevin, who’s the watering man, tells me that they’d like more local residents to come in and pick produce. To me this garden is fundamentally a health and economic benefit local initiative. Fresh, spray free produce – real pick and eat stuff.

Saddest thing I saw – someone had pulled out some of the fruit trees – why? Saddest thing I heard – that the residents may not be taking regular advantage of the benefit and bounty of the garden.

I’m not knocking it but the complete opposite of the Merivale Community Garden are the “this is my garden and don’t you touch” paid for spaces I walked around in Bethlehem. They are the raised bed equivalent of the old English “allotments”. Privately leased little garden spaces – the notices make it really clear that this place is not for sharing! It’s beautiful and ordered construction but it lacks the heart of the less flash Merivale project.

Rosemary Balu


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