lewisham

Starting a new strip of guerrilla gardening alongside the railway line

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Bare earth and hardscrabble weeds, begging for transformation.
Bare earth and hardscrabble weeds, begging for transformation.

About six months ago I started planting natives beside Lewisham train station, taking the initiative where the council and railways hadn’t. That patch is growing well, although it’s constantly under threat from work vehicles which tend to drive down the pedestrian path.

So to diversify my risks, I’ve started guerrilla gardening the other end of the pedestrian way, where it meets West St. As can be seen from the photo above, it was hardly a delight for those walking by.

Having removed the grass and weeds, the soil is dug over and boosted with compost.
Having removed the grass and weeds, the soil is dug over and boosted with compost.

The starting point was to mattock over all the ground, breaking it up, and pulling out the grass and weeds. A full barrow-load of my best compost then went it to add some life back into the soil, along with a few handfuls of native-friendly fertiliser.

It's handy having a ute when it comes to collecting mulch!
It’s handy having a ute when it comes to collecting mulch!

Marrickville Council nursery kindly maintains a pile of mulch, for free use by locals. Now that I have a ute, I took full advantage 🙂 What wasn’t used on the new strip went to supplement the existing plantings.

A well-prepared strip of garden, ready for planting.
A well-prepared strip of garden, ready for planting.

The result is a new strip of guerrilla gardening ready to be planted. It’s also a great way to get some exercise, as it took a fair portion of a day to get everything done.

The start of a brand new native garden, for the enjoyment of all.
The start of a brand new native garden, for the enjoyment of all.

With a week of grey rainy days ahead (in contrast to the recent heat and humidity!), I got the first plants into the ground. Most of these were cuttings from my previous plantings, but I also added a few new things that I picked up at the council nursery. This included Indigofera Australis (native indigo) and Pomaderris Intermedia, both of which should grow into attractive mid-sized bushes.

(Not) guerrilla gardening around Lewisham train station

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Gymea Lilles planted underneath the established palm trees
Gymea Lilles planted underneath the established palm trees

The area around Lewisham train station is a desolate wasteland. Other than a row of large palm trees, there’s a disintegrating raised garden bed, and a long strip of browning weeds. Hardly a joy to behold.

Following a casual suggestion from a neighbour, I guerrilla gardened in a number of gymea lilies, underneath the palm trees. These are extremely tough, and will grow to a size large enough to visually fill in the gaps along the fence.

That got me started, so I continued on to plant a small patch of native plants at the start of the pedestrian walkway that runs alongside the train line.

I’ve since expanded this a little, and it now consists of a mix of acacias (to start enriching the soil), hardy native shrubs (westringias, etc) and strap-leafed plants (lomandras, dianellas).

The start of what will hopefully become a patch of mini-bushland.
The start of what will hopefully become a patch of mini-bushland.

This has not been without some challenges:

  • The railway put in a huge new vandal-proof black fence, and the workers trampled some of the plants in the process (although most survived!).
  • The regular railway workers tend to roll their trucks over the garden every once in a while.
  • Kids keep stealing the stakes, so the plant guards blow away.
  • It’s only rained once in the last 3 months, so hand watering is critical in this early stage.

Despite this, many of the plants, particularly the bushes, are already growing rapidly. I’ve also got a heap of cuttings that should be ready for planting out soon.

Why do this?

A few people have asked me “why bother doing all this, it isn’t your problem?”.

There are a few reasons:

  • It’s nice to live in a lovely local environment, and the current station environment is far from lovely.
  • It’s also good to increase the local biodiversity, encouraging more birds, insects, etc.
  • This land belongs collectively to us, as the local residents. The Council is just the steward of the land, looking after it on our behalf.
  • This gives us a responsibility to participate in sustaining and improving the environment.
  • Someone should be doing it! The Council, even with the best of wills, can’t do everything for us.
  • It’s enjoyable and satisfying to see something grow and prosper.

It’s now official

I also struck up a conversation with the lovely folks at Marrickville Council, who have endorsed the use of the land as a low-maintenance community native garden.

So it’s no longer guerrilla gardening … it’s official gardening. Where’s the fun in that! 😉

Watch this space for updates as the space (hopefully) starts to bush up and spread out…

 

Many shades of honey

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Two jars of Lewisham honey, harvested a few months apart
Two jars of Lewisham honey, harvested a few months apart

The thing about urban honey is that the bees forage from a huge variety of trees and flowers, depending entirely on what people are growing in their gardens.

This makes every honey harvest a ‘hybrid’ affair, rather than being a ‘pure strain’ honey like manuka honey, or blackbox honey.

The photo above shows how varied the harvests can be. The honey on the left was harvest in December 2013, while the honey on the right was collected in March 2014. Just four months apart, and all from the one hive, but so different!

We like the surprise that comes with each harvest 🙂

Water sustainable urban development: tour through Marrickville

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I spent an enjoyable morning today, visiting local houses who are saving water in interesting ways, as well as looking at some “rain gardens” in the street. (Our house was also the last stop on the tour, showing off what we’d done in the garden.)

The Water Sustainable Urban Development (WSUD) tour was organised by the “water revolution” staff at Marrickville Council. Not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised. It was hard to tell who were more passionate, the householders installing the water tanks, or the folks on the tour!

A few highlights:

A pair of 5,000 litre water tanks
A pair of 5,000 litre water tanks

The first stop was Graeme’s house in Marrickville. This showcases a significant project (8 months in length) to install a pair of 5,000L water tanks at the bottom of their large, and heavily sloping, garden. The tanks were then plumbed into the house, for absolutely everything other than drinking water. The cost was actually pretty reasonable, and the duration of the work was I think due to Graeme doing a lot of the work himself, presumably on weekends.

Pressure accumulator tank
Pressure accumulator tank

Something I hadn’t seen before was the pressure accumulator tank. About the size of a gas bottle, this holds water at pressure. This means that if a small amount of water is required in the house (washing hands, etc), the water is drawn from this holding tank, without the pump having to come on. This reduces the electricity required, and presumably helps to prolong the life of the pump. I’ll definitely have to look into this for our house.

Hill Street rain garden
Hill Street rain garden

The Hill Street rain garden was extremely interesting. This takes the normal storm water that runs of the street, and passes it through this mini wetland. The goal is not to store the water, but to filter it through the plants, which are grown on top of several layers of sub-surface material.

Where the gutter is diverted into the rain garden
Where the gutter is diverted into the rain garden

The end result is cleaner water going into the waterways, with a lot of the sediment, rubbish and nitrogen stripped out. I think it also makes for an interesting take on street-side gardens. Would love to see more of these go in throughout the Inner West.

Communal garden in the laneway
Communal garden in the laneway

John Caley, who ran the water course I attended some months back, had a house that certainly met expectations. Plenty of careful design of water tanks, and a nice use of water off next door’s roof (with their permission!). What took my fancy, however, was their lovely little communal garden in the small laneway beside the house. Plenty of produce to share amongst the neighbouring houses.

A small garden, lush and verdant
A small garden, lush and verdant

Mike and Jen’s house had everything that an inner-city greenie would want. Water tanks, careful management of water runoff, and chooks. Oh, and a nice vegetable garden squeezed into their small back garden.

Thanks to Maggie for organising the day! Visit the Marrickville Council water pages to find out more on future events, and how to get involved.

Proposed staff cuts to Lewisham train station

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Although this is a little off-topic, we want to let all locals know about the proposed staff cuts to Lewisham train station.

Basically, the NSW government is allowing RailCorp to cut staff at train stations and Lewisham station is one of those listed for cuts. This will result in:

  • Reduced levels of customer service. I have spoken with the various staff at Lewisham station and they have told me the station will be staffed from 6am – 8pm Monday to Friday under the proposed changes. There will be NO STAFF ON WEEKENDS OR EVENINGS. Too bad if you don’t have change for the one ticket machine.
  • Limited or no assistance for elderly passengers, disabled passengers and parents with prams. At Lewisham station, too get to the platform you have to go up a flight of stairs. Try doing that with a pram by yourself!
  • Longer ticket queues. If you catch the train on Monday or Tuesday mornings you will have an understanding of the chaos at Lewisham during these peak periods (there is only one ticket machine and one ticket window … I have missed trains while queuing for a ticket on a Monday morning). If an accident happens at the station during these peak periods, the station will be chaos as there will only be one staff member at the station to deal with issues.
  • Poorer security, particularly during evenings and weekends when there will be no staff around. I don’t know about you, but I feel safer knowing there’s always someone in the ticket office at the station.

YOU CAN HELP by contacting our local member, Carmel Tebbutt, and registering your protest:

Phone: 9228 4866

Email: dp.office@tebbutt.minister.nsw.gov.au

Please don’t be apathetic about this … your phone call will make a difference!