Horticulture in urban areas is widely becoming a vehicle for conscious community building. The popularity of community gardens is a testament to that. Meeting friends and neighbours amidst the kale and parsley is the way to go. I get it. I like it. And, some creative people are always thinking of new ways to expand this concept, often by using the internet to connect people. This can be seen in the groovy concept set up by a few blokes in the inner north of Melbourne, with their project HerbShare. I hope they continue with the idea, even though their crowd sourcing venture has not yet been successful. Check out their Facebook page to find out more. https://www.facebook.com/theherbshare
How did I find out about them? I stumbled on this quirky little planting in a bluestone alleyway in North Carlton. An old plastic tub, a television carapace and a rather retro pepsi crate serve as the containers for the herbs which are grown here for the person who planted them and also for any of the neighbours who might like a sprig of mint for their peas. One less thing to buy at the supermarket. One more reason to connect with your neighbours.
The days are getting longer. But it is still winter. The plants grow, but slowly. Broad beans (Vicia faba) have been growing steadily since we planted them in May. And they are flowering their sweet, cream flowers that promise the fruit that is to come. I planted the broad beans in three rows, fairly closely together so that the plants support each other as they grow. Nearby I grow a small crop of garlic, another of my favourite winter crops. All in a bed of rich red soil that I have tried valiantly to keep weed free over the course of the winter. I wish I could keep the whole garden like that. Elsewhere the cape weed and blue pimpernel are also thriving. That will be a job for another day, when the days get longer still.
Even blurry photos of beetroot seedlings kindle a feel good state of mind as the days lengthen and the sun shines on a winter’s day in August. Knowing that there is still snow on the mountains does nothing to stop the hope of warm growing weather being just around the corner. The little glasshouse at my local community garden allows me to satisfy my premature planting urges. At our last working bee we planted all sorts of summer delights, such as tomatoes and sunflowers, which we will hopefully pot on in this safe environment until all risk of frost has passed. Here’s hoping for more photos later on as the growing season unfurls…
The space is small and the conditions are harsh. This little bed is about 40cm wide between the bluestone alleyway and the asphalt path to the letter box. It is about a metre long. Sometimes, when we are reversing out of the alley, we impinge on its borders. This spelt the end of the inappropriately chosen Phormium tenax cultivar that had been growing there sparsely for a number of years. We replaced it with a Lomandra longifolia we had been given and it keeps the remaining phormium company. But really it is a bland little planting.
A ground hugging creeper could be a solution. I had it in my mind to carpet the bed with Corsican Mint (Mentha requienii), so that when traffic (foot or automotive) strays onto the bed, there will be a lovely crushing of leaves and a release of creme-de-menthe aroma.
The problem of course is that I could not find a trace of this plant in any of the nearby nurseries. Too impetuous to order the plant that I wanted and had spent some time planning on buying, I hastily grabbed two ground-huggers that might fulfil a similar function of softening this stony spot without getting in the way.
In retrospect of course I realise that they are not compatible bed fellows, one preferring dry and the other moist conditions. But as I am not sure what the conditions of the ground really are (we have heavy clay hereabouts, it being an old brick making area, so ‘moist’ isn’t out of the question, but I’m not sure that the soil in this bed is 100% local, so it might possibly be dry after all). Maybe I am simply hedging my bets.
The two plants are Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) and Woolly Thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus). Here are preliminary photographs of each. I will take some more pics as the season progresses. Happy gardening.