Lying spread-eagled on cardboard, inhaling the scent of the horse manure beneath, is a blissful memory of growing up. There is a perfectly natural explanation for this: my family had chickens, a water tank, and grew our own veggies.
It mystified me that veggie patches were banned on the other side of the street, which was zoned suburban. Why would you stop people growing their own food and engaging with the land they lived on?
Later when I lived in Melbourne my elderly neighbour expressed his distaste for such regulations. This involved replacing council verges and other people’s plants with native Australian grasses and strawberries. If you passed a spiky tuft of something among rosebushes, you knew Wally Was Here. He’d love where I’m living now.
Urban Farming? Can-Do!
Randwick in Sydney gives me hope for urbanity. This densely populated suburb really wants you to plant things! Vertical gardens? Suburban permaculture? Recycled houses? You name it, Randwick City Council has it in their thirteen-hectare Environment Park. Well, possibly anything but a twelve-year-old on a patch of horse manure.
It’s not odd here to see a community garden or roadside cherry tomatoes, and people also put their compost bins out on the verge. I’ve found myself living between two magic examples: an organic veggie garden on my left; and on my right, two women with an award-winning green roof, exploding succulents, and flourishing veggies. Perfect!
The Greening Begins
When I moved in, I planned to emulate. I ordered the council-provided compost bin and started seedlings in egg cartons. I watched Gardening Australia weekly. I saw the shoots emerge, the leaves unfurl: tomatoes, marigolds, and… Yes… Leaves… Capsicums!
But the compost bin didn’t fly with the landlords. Nor did the veggie patch idea. I still don’t know why the seedlings, when re-potted, yellowed and died. I was a super-busy student working over 25 hours a week, and this wilting stopped me in my gardening tracks for months.
The Downs, the Ups
If I’d got my act together, I’d have asked my housemates if they wanted to pitch in for a rat-proof composter. A stand-alone, spinny elegant like the one in the neighbours’ yard. The compost would be nearly ready to spread on the pot-garden I’ve finally started (with tomatoes and basil from Bunnings, and one seedling from said neighbours)!
To my delight, that seedling has sextupled in size in four weeks. I’ve #re-potted it. Maybe this will work! Maybe soon we won’t be buying tomatoes in plastic.
We Can Make Simple Changes
Gardening seems unfamiliar. It means Bunnings, and will it even work?
It appeared not for a while. So, while my seedlings wilted and the compost bin sat idle, my housemates and I made other changes. We are proud of our Internal Processes.
We recycle the weird stuff:
- We put used pens in a paper bag marked ‘pens’, and old toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes in another paper bag marked ‘dental’. I’ll take these to Terracycle drop-off points to be specially recycled.
- We take our soft plastics to Woolworths’s soft plastic recycling bin.
- We clean our containers and cans before tossing them in the recycling bin.
- We buy bulk and bring our own containers.
We (actually) save water:
- We put buckets under the shower while it heats up, and watering cans under the kitchen tap.
- I don’t flush the toilet at night. (Ahem, it saves litres!)
On that note, we’ve always bought sustainable toilet paper: I buy it 100 per cent recycled, with recyclable packaging, from Woolies. My housemates order Who Gives A Crap.
Now the tomatoes are flowering, the neighbours’ green roof is thriving, and new composting infrastructure may well be arriving. Maybe the wild tomato plant flourishing through our pavement crack is symbolic of the thymes.
Yes, I did.
*A note on Australian shop names: Bunnings is an Australian warehouse, known for sausage sizzle fundraisers (barbequed sausages on white bread, with onion if you’re gourmet). Woolworths (‘Woolies’) is a major grocery store chain.