Things I learned from my time at Slater Community Gardens

By Darren (ex-plotholder of 219)

As many of the Slater gardeners know, after three fun and productive years at SCG, I bid a fond farewell to my plot as we made the move out to Daylesford to take on a 10 acre “plot”.  My time at SCG was one of the catalysts for the move – discovering I could actually grow things to feed my family, and becoming a bit more “greener” in the process awoke my inner hippie so we took the leap towards a more simple and self-sufficient life.

Sharing Experiences

I  thought I’d share some of the things I learned during my time at the gardens – hopefully to help out some of the newer members.  I had very little idea what I was doing when I started – I just wanted to grow things to cook.  But I am proof we can all learn to be half-decent gardeners if we try! So, here we go, seven things I learned from SCG:

1.  You get out what you put in…consistently.  This may seem obvious, but I saw many would-be gardeners start with huge enthusiasm, put in some seedlings, and then disappear for a couple of months.  Only to return to weeds and plants gone to seed.  It’s more fun to maintain it regularly than have to weed the whole thing every month.

2. There’s no “right” way to do it.  You’ll find a gardening style that works for you.  The benefit of the gardens was seeing so many diverse yet equally productive plots.  From John’s (Plot 233) permaculture mound, to Elfie’s (205) immaculate, weedless rows and Gael’s (234) cottage-style plot, they all bought forth amazing produce.  If one way doesn’t work, try a different approach next season.

3. Be sociable.  I learned more from chats to other plotholders than from any book. The focus of the gardens is it’s a community one, so don’t be shy and go say hello to other gardeners.  Even if they’re wearing a cap that says “grumpy old fart” they’re actually quite pleasant!

4. Grow what you’ll use.  I quickly learned there’s no point planting rows of kale if your family won’t touch them (the chooks were happy though).  So make your efforts worthwhile and grow what you’ll use most of rather than waste it (or give to friends or take it to the harvest swap).

5. …But try something new. The point above doesn’t preclude experimenting.  It was great meeting gardeners from diverse backgrounds who introduced me to new foods and varieties I’d never have tried (either to grow or eat) if they hadn’t offered me some.  Another reason to meet your neighbours…you might even get offered some (surprisingly strong) home-made grappa at 10am!

6. It’s not all about the plot.  Some of the most rewarding experiences I had at SCG were through the committee, working bees and social events.  It’s a great feeling to have improved the gardens or helped others with their plots.  So put your hand up, turn up to help out and you’ll no doubt receive good gardening karma and a bountiful harvest in return.

7. Remember, they can see you… But probably the “lesson” I’ll remember most from my time at Slater was being quietly informed that since my bedroom overlooks the gardens, I should close the blinds on sunny mornings as I apparently gave a few of the more elderly ladies at the garden quite the show one time…!

Hopefully this was of interest and inspiring.  Thanks to all who made my time at SCG so enjoyable, taught me lots and made each visit inspiring.  It always lifted my spirits just to wander the gardens and see what others were doing.  I’ll let you know how the new garden goes once it’s established here and if my “apprenticeship” at Slater paid off.