See the pretty flowers in that ordinary traffic island? The Gold Coast city council has a few larger plants in there, but they didn’t plant those colourful things there… Nope, it was a local resident Kate M (not to be confused with me, Kate B), and her son. They bought a tray of dying plants from some gardening centre and brought them back to life, transforming this boring little piece of dirt into a vibrant little ‘guerilla garden’. My daughter (in the photo) helped plant a few of the plants herself, so she likes to think that it’s her garden too… and, well… it IS for everyone to enjoy!
Kate and her son put so much thought into their garden in the middle of the street that they even put a mini compost bin, carefully camouflaged around some of the larger plants. And wow, look at those happy plants grow! Really, you should have seen them, they were on their way out when they were planted.
You can make a garden anywhere! Almost any patch of dirt, if given just a little bit of nutrients, water and TLC, can make a plant grow… (um, hello, look at weeds, they can even find a crack in the side of the wall to grow in). We don’t have a yard in our unit, but even I have a few spaces around the balconies where I can grow things.
I have one tomato plant that is threatening to take over my entire balcony. I’ve been getting about 2 or 3 tomatoes a day off of that thing! A different part of my balcony is for growing my herbs for cooking, like coriander, basil, oregano, parsley, lemon grass, sage and more. I use recycled styrofoam boxes that I got from a friend, Caron, who has a stall called N.O.W. organics at our local farmer’s market. I also use some cheap large plastic pots. The styrofoam containers are the best for growing, as they work as excellent temperature and moistures regulators. Since our balcony gets some serious wind, the styrofoam works great for keeping things from drying out. Knowing now what I didn’t think of then… I would not have bought the cheap plastic pots, as one day they will end up in the landfill and they are not as good for growing in as the styrofoam. I guess wood would be the most ideal sustainable thing to use to grow in, but I like the fact that I’m giving the styrofoam some extra life as it would only be thrown away.
Some Ideas for containers you can use are listed below, be sure to drill some holes in them!
- old plastic or cardboard bottles (just beware that some plastics do break down over time and can potentially leach into the soil… this excellent website talks about what reusable plastic containers are safe, it says to avoid plastics with the number 3, 6 and 7).
- old shoes and boots
- old buckets and tubs
- styrofoam containers
- anything with a hole in the bottom, be creative!
If you live in a unit like myself and you need something to fertilize your garden with, there are several options. You can buy a little gadget called a Bokashi Bin. It’s a kitchen size compost system that yields liquid fertilizer and is very neat and tidy. Otherwise, I’ve also heard that sprinkling seaweed on your soil is excellent for fertilizer in small spaces!
If you live somewhere cold and you’ve got winter on your hands, there’s always space on a window sill or table for a pot or two of herbs for cooking. Also, you may be surprised that some potted plants can do quite well inside in a cool sunny place like a garage or entrance way, as long as it doesn’t freeze.
A Community Garden, the Ultimate Transformation of Space!
Of course, Enid Street Community garden is a gigantic example of turning ordinary spaces into green growing living spaces! Although, almost any vacant or unused space can be suitable for a community garden. Sometimes all that is needed is to approach the town or city council for approval. Our community garden happens to be part of a residential property.
The garden is in the process of getting started, and it’s getting there fast! We just received our official ‘incorporation’ status, which means that we can now collect donations and funds from local businesses and grants. We also have filled all of the front yard garden beds and placed plants in most of these beds. The back yard garden beds (where the bulk of the community garden will operate) are in the process of being constructed and will be filled with horse poo soon!
(For those people residing in or near Tweed Heads, NSW (you can also be a resident of Queensland) who are interested in participating in the garden at any level, from owning a plot to helping with the finer workings, please leave a comment below or email me and we will be in contact with you!)
Turning ordinary spaces into green living landscapes is fun and beautiful (not to mention useful for cooking and home remedies… my aloe vera plant is always ready for action). So, get planting! Find any dull space and turn it into something living, it doesn’t take much! Happy gardening!