The good life: community garden update

Ecovillage demonstration garden

In the early days of the Ecovillage planning process, we were asked by the Shire to prove that our proposed community gardens would be large enough to supply the fresh food needs of future residents.

It was difficult for us to find published data on growing food in the Margaret River area, so Mike and Michelle set up a model veggie patch at home. They worked out that 20 sqm per person was enough space to keep their household well supplied with leafy greens, vegetables and herbs throughout the year, and was easily managed by one person in their spare time. We decided to continue this demonstration at the Ecovillage office in Witchcliffe, so that visitors could see a productive allotment-style garden in action. We hope that as we move towards pre-sales and construction of Stage 1, it will become a focal point for gatherings, workshops and events for the future Ecovillage community.

The veggie patch

When we moved in to the Ecovillage office, the garden already had an overgrown orchard with citrus, stone fruit, fig and mulberry trees, and a lovely old Fuerte avocado. Our French vineyard workers had built a fenced veggie patch to grow some corn and potatoes, so we tidied that up, and set it out as a model to provide roughly enough growing space for two small Ecovillage households (2 x 40sqm) and a single person household (1 x 20sqm.) The garden is looked after by PB Foreman, our horticultural and permaculture guru, with occasional help from the Ecovillage team and volunteers.

Because we are a working office and not a “household,” we tend to plant lots of single harvest crops like garlic, onions, beetroot and carrots for staff and visitors to share, as well as salad vegetables for staff lunches. Like the Ecovillage vineyard, the patch is certified organic “in conversion” by NASAA. We source locally grown organic seedlings and seeds, and we save seeds and grow our own seedlings in the greenhouse. We also companion plant, use cover crops, rotate crops, mulch and drip irrigate to conserve water, minimise inputs and digging to preserve soil health, and manage pests proactively.

Garden projects

We have also used the office garden as a space to trial some of the permaculture design elements we have planned for the Ecovillage community gardens.  We set up an aquaponic greenhouse to grow fish, strawberries, and leafy greens, established some larger permanent beds for growing sprawling summer vines and sweet potatoes, and installed a composting loo. We are looking forward to introducing some organic chooks later in the year to help us with pest management and weed control in the orchard, and setting up a bee hive for honey production.

At the front of the garden, PB has struck 6,000 vine cuttings in preparation for re-working a section of the Ecovillage’s organic vineyard.  Out the back, we have built a grow out nursery for 1,000 Hass avocado seedlings. These are waiting to be planted in winter as part of the Ecovillage’s wastewater project, where they will value-add the Class “A” agricultural water produced by the wastewater plant once the Ecovillage is up and running.

A garden update will be a regular feature in future newsletters to let you know what we’re planting and harvesting, what’s growing well and what’s not. And if you live locally and you’d like to be involved in a future volunteer busy bee or planting day, please contact Michelle at [email protected]