THOSE lapping lakes Guthridge and Guyatt in Sale during self-isolation exercise might have noticed a ‘growing’ project lakeside.
Neighbouring Sale Tennis Club and Sale Botanic Gardens and flanked by an impressive stone entrance arbour is Seed – a planned, non-profit community garden operated entirely by volunteers.
Currently, the plot is hardly a flourishing Eden, but upon completion, it will be a thriving mixture of indoor and outdoor spaces, planter boxes, veggie gardens, arbours, seating and a pizza oven.
It will host regular workshops on topics like composting, pruning, grafting, art, craft, cooking, children’s activities and many more.
Food grown at Seed will be used by local group ‘Monday Night Tucker’, which provides free meals to those in need.
The project is dependent on grants, donations from local businesses and individuals, sponsorships and the hard work of volunteers.
Project manager and experienced psychiatric and mental health nurse Shae Wilson explained the idea came about after identifying a need for improving mental health that differed from just clinical care.
“After working in the field for 20 years, it was evident that people needed an avenue to connect, feel less isolated and increase their knowledge and skills,” she said.
“Community gardens are important because they provide fresh, organic produce, help relieve stress and increase a sense of wellness, get people active, encourage sustainable living and provide social opportunities that build a sense of community and belonging.
“They have been around for many years and are all different, because every community is different.
“Stratford, Warragul, Leongatha and Yinnar are a few community gardens that we have visited that run successfully.
“We have done our research and spoken to the management teams at these gardens to discuss that has worked for them, and what has not.”
Ms Wilson approached Sale Rotary Club, and it was soon auspicing grant applications, helping with organising construction and mentoring.
“This was over five years ago, and since then we have built a solid group of individuals who are passionate about the project and volunteer their time to getting Seed up and running,” she said.
Ms Wilson said the people behind the project ranged in age, experience and knowledge.
“Some are retired, some work full or part time, some have young families and some have no gardening experience at all,” she said.
She added her role as project manager had been made much easier by those who had stuck their hands up to get involved.
“Accountants, teachers, landscapers, builders, horticulturalists, trades people, engineers and my little family also help out where they can,” she said.
“I have been blown away by the generosity of local businesses and individuals who have been more than happy to help out too.
“Long term partnerships with local organisations have strengthened the sustainability of this project.
“Some people would have seen some of the planter boxes onsite that our local Men’s Shed built and four of the smaller boxes constructed by a local plasterer, who approached us willing to volunteer his time,” Ms Wilson said.
She said the plan for Seed was initially much smaller, however over time the concept had grown to a point where those behind the project could see its potential grow to so much more than just a community garden.
Not only will the garden grow produce, but social connection too.
“The aim of this garden is to give individuals and community groups the opportunity to take part in activities that encourage friendship, while enjoying the many health and wellbeing benefits of being outdoors growing food,” she said.
Work on the project had been on track for completion of construction in May and an open day come spring, but unfortunately COVID-19 has brought work to a grinding halt.
“One of our members spent many hours growing seedlings ready for planting in the planter boxes; instead we gave these out for free instead of them going to waste,” Ms Wilson said.
“With the current surge in home vegetable growing these did not last long.
“Although we have had to physically stop the construction stage, it has allowed us to focus on the more tedious ‘paperwork’ side of the project.
“Grant applications continue, occupational health and safety and the forming of our committee of management has been our focus.”
Seed is looking for people to get involved – and not necessary just those with gardening experience.
“We are needing people to assist with constructing planter boxes, arbours, seats and a large community table,” Ms Wilson said.
“We then have the big job of filling the planter boxes with soil and seedlings.”
People who would like to get involved should message the Seed Community Garden Facebook page, visit www.seedcommunitygarden.com or email email@example.com