Blooming beautiful

Liz Bell

SPRING time at Sale’s Seed Lakeside Community Garden is blooming beautiful – with green shoots of life and energy promising great things to come.

The garden, which is scheduled to open to the public on October 10, is an incredible example of people working together in the volunteer spirit to create a place with a purpose and sense of connection and belonging.

And with construction of an environmental centre on an adjacent site planned for next year, it will be at the heart of an exciting and innovative ‘green’ education community precinct.

The community garden began with a simple idea a few years ago, but has since morphed into a versatile community space with a focus on growing fresh produce and providing activity, education, friendship and support for local people.

Today, just steps from completion, it is a creative and colourful mix of indoor and outdoor spaces, planter boxes, arbours, a hot house, water tanks, an in-progress chook house and a pizza oven.

Plans for the not-too-distant future include a monthly seedling ‘farm gate’, workshops, educational programs and community get-togethers.

Local artists have jumped on board, with Jeremy Kasper creating stunning murals as a colourful garden backdrop, Kathy Luxford creating ‘squiggle’ seats and a mindful space, the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation securing artists to design an area that reflects indigenous heritage, and Chris and Dawn Stubbs creating endangered wildlife sculptures.

The seed garden project is the brainchild of local mental health nurse Shae Wilson, who wanted to create a central hub that allowed participants to become involved in the development and management of a community project.

Under the auspices of the Sale Central Rotary Club (now Sale Rotary Club), Ms Wilson and others set about seeking funding, securing support from local businesses and community volunteers, and growing the project from an idea to a working model.

The project has far exceeded the expectations of organisers, but Ms Wilson said there was still “lots of scope for growth”.

“We are constantly receiving interest from people walking past and wanting to know what’s going on, what they can do and how to get involved,” Ms Wilson said.

“Especially after COVID restrictions, I think people are really keen to get out into the community and be involved in things.”

Ms Wilson said her initial idea was to get a range of people of all ages and backgrounds involved in the project, particularly some of the vulnerable members of the community, such as older residents and disengaged youth.

“But everyone is welcome and we have lawyers, accountants, business people, retirees – all helping and getting involved,” she said.

The garden is already growing food that can be used by the local free meal service ‘Monday Night Tucker’, and organisers are hoping to expand its reach to run activities, education programs and other enrichment projects.

There are a mix of ‘community plots’ which grow produce for community projects, and a small number of private plots that residents can utilise under a ballot system.

There are also plenty of opportunities for community organisations to get involved, and openings for individual and business sponsorships.

Low cost memberships will allow individuals and families to participate in the garden’s growth and success through regular working bees and community days.

Ms Wilson, who is the garden’s project manager, said the garden was supported by a solid group of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds, experience and knowledge.

After a disappointing setback a few weeks ago when someone cut the locks in broad daylight and brazenly stole six large arbour posts before they were fixed, organisers have had cameras installed and are on track for the grand opening, subject to COVID-19 restrictions.

Any individuals or organisations wanting to become involved in the project by way of volunteering or financial assistance can email seedcommunitygarden@gmail.com.