The Inner West is positively bursting with community gardens.
You may have wandered through the local park and happened upon some well-maintained parsley. Then a bunch of fennel fronds caught your eye. After that, some humble raised garden beds, or a tin shed complete with tools.
These are all tell-tale signs of a nearby community garden. The joys of the garden are endless, and getting your hands down and dirty has been scientifically proven to increase your happiness.
Research shows that coming into contact with one of the microorganisms present in soil – Mycobacterium vaccae – actually increases serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is one of the brain’s happy chemicals. It puts you in a better mood and makes you feel less stressed.
So gardening is a great way to get you feeling good. Which isn’t surprising given the revivifying effects of being out in nature and feeling the sunshine on your back.
Community gardens also benefit the environment. In some cases they transform urban landscapes into havens of biodiversity. Increased plant life provides habitat for increased amounts of urban wildlife.
Mort Bay Community Garden in Balmain is a unique garden surrounded by an area of native bushland. Members can combine agricultural garden care with bush care. This includes weeding and the planting of native species which are indigenous to the local area.
Members also take home the fresh veggies they help to grow! For the volunteers, this means delicious vegetables to add to some healthy meals. These vegetables are local – meaning zero carbon output in travel time – and organic – that is, grown without environment-harming chemicals such as pesticides and synthetic fertilisers.
Like most community gardens, Mort Bay operates on a volunteer, roster-run basis. There are also mini working bees every Thursday afternoon, and bigger, monthly bees on the second Saturday of each month. Great for a yarn, a bit of hard yakka and the chance to take home some produce.
Since the establishment of Sydney’s first-ever community garden in Rozelle in 1985, the concept has been thriving. Some gardens have chickens, some have honey. Check out your local plot – there are dozens in the Inner West, such as those in Redfern, Marrickville, Newtown, Lilyfield and Leichardt, just to name a few.
It’s a social, joyful experience to be a member of a team of community gardeners. And there’s never a nicer time to till the soil than spring.
So go on – get gardening!
Words by Lucia Moon