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Starting a community garden- Surry Hills local Sarah Gray shares

Community gardens are one of the best ways for a neighbourhood to come together. It is also a great way to get educated around plants, sustainability and connecting to the earth in urban spaces. So we chatted to Surry Hills local Sarah Gray about what motivated her to rejuvenate a community garden right in the heart of Surry Hills.
Why did you start a garden in your local neighbourhood?
I’ve had a growing interest in plants, and noticed the verge garden near my home had turned into a big bed of weeds and compost!
Describe the garden for us.
The garden is very open, it’s a walkway between two busy streets in Surry Hills. We’ve installed 6 beds roughly 1 x 2m each and planted a mix of herbs, vegies, native plants and some flowers too. We’ve got a few seats around so people can enjoy the space too. Anyone can come help themselves to what’s growing – there’s quite a few chillies right now, and lots of basil and rosemary.
What do you love about the garden?
It brings the local neighbourhood together. Anytime I walk past there are people using the space in different ways – bringing their compost from home, picking some herbs or sitting in the shade; and whenever children come past they are always fascinated by something. Lately we’ve had baby eggplants growing – something most of us had never seen before!
The garden was started by Hetty Mckinnon and other SH residents years ago. She ran a successful business making salads with produce from the garden. Since she moved to New York, the garden became a little rundown and it just needed some care from new locals to get it going again. Hetty has since put our fabulous cookbooks stemming from her experiences in gardening.
What are some challenges?
When we started planning to bring the garden to life we were warned about likely damage. It’s a common route for big crowds to pass through on their way to sports games at Moore Park, and not far from some local pubs. But so far we haven’t had many issues, just a few plants stolen. Otherwise the usual challenges of learning to grow, some of our plantings have done well but others haven’t – and our small group are all learning as we go.
What are your plans for the future of the garden?
I’m excited to see our plantings really take off in the next few months, they’ve already had a good boost from all this La Nina rain! We’ll change up the vegies as the seasons change, so look out for some winter veg like carrots and snow peas in the next few months.
How do people join in helping?
We’ve been gathering on the 3rd Sunday of each month in the mid-afternoon, join our Facebook group for updates here:
[note this will probably shift with daylight savings and around easter so don’t have a specific time to say, it has been 4.30pm]
If you want to start a community garden in your neighbourhood here are a few first steps
-Work with what already exists in your community
-Talk to a local council member who is responsible for community gardening
-Talk with neighbours who might be interested in getting involved.
-Apply for grants to get you started.