Useful resources

Picking up our first Petersham food box

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This is what $20 gets you in a food box, all organic
This is what $20 gets you in a food box, all organic

Back when we were in Chippendale, we used to pickup a weekly food box containing locally-sourced fruit and vegetables, most organic. This worked very well for us, and the variation week-to-week spiced up our cooking. (See Food for the Future for details on the Chippendale food box.)

Now that we’re in Lewisham, driving to Chippo to pick up an environmentally-friendly food box seemed a bit crazy. Luckily we discovered that Jura Books on Parramatta Road in Petersham organise an organic food co-op. There are $10 and $20 food boxes, sourced from a local organic co-op, with a simple system for payment and pickup.

This is our first food box, and what a haul! As you can see above, there are plenty of shallots, carrots, broccoli, apples, oranges, limes, pumpkin, parsnip, and more. This should be more than enough to keep us going until next week, and then some!

We think these types of boxes are a great idea, and it’s definitely worth seeing whether there’s one available in your local area…

Grants for community gardens

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The Open Garden scheme has just announced details on their 2009 grants program for community gardens. This gives cash to community gardens across Australia that are of ” lasting benefit to the local and wider community” and are  “accessible to the public on a permanent or semi-permanent basis”.

I think it’s wonderful that there is money available for these gardens. At this point we’re pretty busy on our own private garden, so I don’t think we’ll be applying this year. 🙂

There are also plenty of good inner-West community gardens nearby (but you can’t have too many!).

Free local food (it’s legal … really!)

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A friend of mine, Trina, has a great blog called Greenfoot. Recently, Trina created a feral fruit tree map using Google maps which shows where fruit can be picked (legally) in her local area of Ryde.

I love this idea! We used to live in Chippendale, just around the corner from Myrtle Street. Myrtle Street is well-known for the produce plantings down the nature strip. All local residents of Chippendale are welcome to share – and are encouraged to maintain – the produce.

However, I don’t walk around our current neighbourhood of Lewisham enough, so I don’t know about places where I could pick  local fruit and other useful plants (however, there does happen to be a Bay tree outside our house that is a free-for-all!). If you know about local plants that can be shared — be they lemon myrtle (great in tea!), fruits, or other delicacies please share with us all by leaving a comment below!

Growing from seed

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Seed packets from Diggers Club
Seed packets from Diggers Club

A lot of what we’ve grown has been from seed, rather than seedlings. What has been interesting is that plants from seeds have consistently grown quicker and stronger than seedlings. For example, our sugar snap peas from seeds are gowing incredibly, while the seedlings of snow peas from the local garden store have barely moved (very disappointing).

Dollar-for-dollar, you can’t beat seeds. At $2-4 per packet, that’s the price of a single vegetable from many supermarkets. Packets contain 50-200 seeds, depending on the variety. This may seem a lot (it is!), but it gives plenty to share around with neighbours, or to trade for other seeds.

Most seeds last for 2 years, giving a good chance to get value out of them. I’ve also been lazy: instead of planting in punnets, I’ve sown seeds directly into the ground, with complete success. (No doubt this is due to the warm Sydney climate.)

There are many suppliers of seeds in Australia, mostly organic, including:

Note that a lot of these suppliers concentrate on heirloom seeds, old varieties no longer seen on supermarket shelves. These are great, well adapted to local conditions, and often both tasty and unusual. Seek these out wherever possible!

Where have you been getting your seeds from?

Inner west community gardens

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Path through the Marrickville Food Forrest
Path through the Marrickville Food Forrest

There are a number of community gardens in the Inner West of Sydney (and many more beyond). These provide a great opportunity for those with small gardens (or no gardens!) to grow their own vegetables, herbs and fruit.

Today we visited the Marrickville Food Forrest, located on Addison Road, in the Addison Road Centre (ARC). As is typical, it is squeezed into an unused plot of land behind some buildings, but thriving nonetheless.

It makes me appreciate how lucky we are here. We have easily 5 to 6 times the space of a typical community garden plot, with plenty of sun, and room for growth. Now the pressure is on to really make it thrive!

Over the next few months we’ll try to drop into more of these gardens, to get further inspiration on what (and how) to grow. There is also the potential to join up with a Seed Savers group, to swap seeds (we have plenty left over).

These are the gardens on our list for the Inner West:

Further information:

Gardenate: online gardening calendar

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I’ve just stumbled across the Gardenate site, which provides a free planting calendar for multiple climactic zones in Australia, NZ and the UK. Super easy to use, a wonderful resource!