Community garden springs to life

Posted on May 30, 2017

Garden Club members from Arden’s Junior School campus enthusiastically enjoyed their first planting session in the School’s new Community Garden on Monday 8th May. 

The garden at Arden’s Beecroft campus has been created with the support of staff, parents, students, grandparents and friends of the school.   It was made possible through a donation from the School’s Parents & Friends Association, as well as support from several Bunnings stores, including Carlingford, Thornleigh, Rydalmere and Artarmon. 

A great deal of hard work has gone into making Arden’s Community Garden a reality.  Firstly, a permaculture design was prepared.  Staff then met with students from Kindergarten to Year 6 to discuss what the garden would look like and what they would like to grow.  According to Mrs Jackie Isenegger, Director of Development at Arden, “We were very pleased by the response – 120+ children showed an interest in learning about gardening and how to grow food!”  The partnership with Bunnings has made a huge difference.  Michelle Hannaford, Bunnings Activities Organiser, explained: “Bunnings is big on doing sustainability projects.  It teaches children how to grow their own produce, be sustainable and as environmentally friendly as possible.”

A hardworking group of parents, grandparents, staff and student volunteers made the community garden a reality through weekend working bees.  This involved clearing the original site, weeding, constructing concrete slabs, putting up the shed and green house, building the compost bays, recycling a large cable spool to use as a potting table and the creation of a beautiful rock wall, by one of the grandparents.

At the inaugural Garden Club meeting seeds, seedlings and potatoes were all planted in the ground. Students learned about the great work worm farms do and watered and mulched the newly planted veggies and herbs.  The first crop will (hopefully!) be cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, snow peas, garlic, sugar snap peas, thyme, mint, oregano, chives, spring onions, carrots, rhubarb, lettuce, rocket, sorrel, marigolds, nasturtiums and calendula!

According to Mrs Jackie Isenegger, Director of Development, also a parent and one of the instigators of the project: “The garden will be an additional outdoor learning space, a new co-curricular opportunity and a new way for parents and grandparents to be involved in the life of the School. We plan to grow fruit and vegetables, have a bush tucker garden, learn about composting and worm farming and lots more!  The experience will help our students to learn responsibility and equip them with the skills to take home to their own gardens. We are hoping our students will better understand where their food comes from, appreciate the work our Australian farmers do on our behalf and realise that not everything comes from a supermarket wrapped in plastic.”

When asked why they had decided to get involved with the Community Garden project, Rachael Gibson (Year 5) said: “I do some gardening at home and thought it would be a good way to spend time and look at nature”, while Sarah Ashley (Year 5) shared: “Friends were going and I wanted to see if I could garden.”  For Liam Hantos (Year 6), the reason was: “I have a passion for gardening; it is really relaxing and fun.  It’s a job that you look forward to as you can achieve something while having fun.”

Discussing the importance of the garden, Daniel Mawston (Year 6) felt: “It is important so people can learn how to plant gardens”, while Rachael Gibson (Year 5) added: “Kids are usually on iPads, so it’s good to get outside and enjoy nature and learn about the world around us.”

Reflecting on the benefits of being involved with the project, Sarah Ashley (Year 5) commented: “I feel connected and have contributed to the school and helped make something that will be there for a while.”  Liam Hantos (Year 6) felt the team work was important: “I like the fact that I can teach people my knowledge of the garden and they teach me theirs, so it is a team effort and everyone is so friendly.”

Bunnings have been pleased with the partnership, with Adam Simnett, Bunnings Horticulturalist, sharing: “The Arden students have been very keen and enjoy working with their friends and taking their gardening knowledge home.  Their enthusiasm has been exciting to watch.”

The students have clearly learned a lot about caring for the environment, with Liam Hantos (Year 6) summarising: “I like the fact that the community garden is hands-on and you have to be involved.  The difference we are making to the environment is small.  However, if I do it, others may join in.  So one person can make a difference in the end!”