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My knowledge of community gardening has been rapidly expanding over the past weeks and months. It turns out community gardeners are an increasingly active group motivated by fresh produce and a sunny plot for gardening. Community gardens bring together people with an interest in gardening, or learning more about gardening, who are looking to share the experience with other similar minded people.

In Canberra/Queanbeyan there are 12 community gardens run by the Canberra Organic Growers Society with a few more currently in the making. ABC Canberra has featured several of these local organic community gardens and has created an interactive map of Canberra’s Community Gardens as a downloadable app for your iphone/smart phone.

The photos above and below are of a community garden in the Merimbula area, it appears they are everywhere!

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Today I was lucky enough to have my own personal tour of the EcoCentre located in the St Kilda Botanical Gardens. The centre is situated in the EcoHouse in the old ground keeper’s house which in 2003 was retrofitted to a five star equivalent standard by installing solar panels, a grey water/black water treatment system, large underground water tank, wall, ceiling and floor insulation and solar hot water.

The site includes a community garden, native plant garden and on-site composting and worm farm. The EcoCentre also runs a host of activities including weekly organic veggie box pick-ups, workshops on composting, bike repairs, redesign of old clothes etc.

Apparently there are already several other community gardens operational in the council area (City of Port Phillip) and a few more about to start up. For an area with a relatively low ratio of open space to residents, it appears that community garden plots are in high demand.

I wonder how many of these ideas are transferrable to Canberra?

I know we already have quite a few different community groups with an environmental focus, but do we have enough push factors such as restricted private open space and like-minded people close together looking for similar facilities? It seems to me that the population density and higher education facilities of Canberra’s inner north appear to attract an alternate crowd interested in food co-ops and the like, but what about the rest of us out in “the burbs”?

To me one of the major benefits of these centres, apart from the environmental outcomes, are the community building aspect, by bringing together people within a local community to work towards a common purpose. Local schools, churches and sporting groups can also help in the development of community, but maybe this is another rallying point to improve the sense of community, generate activity and reduce social isolation in our suburbs?

Top of the bedside reading pile the CSIRO Home Energy Saving Handbook!

Thanks to the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency’s Living Greener team for the lovely book (also on my Books to Read list by the way).

If you want to find out more about how to live greener, check out this government website, which includes information on energy, water, waste and transport efficiency as well as information on government rebates and assistance.

My little contribution is under the Real Stories section and if you want to add your own contribution (and get a free book in the process) make sure you send something in by the 31 July 2011.