Planting the seed

GemLife Highfields residents standing by vegetable garden

The grass is greener at Highfields


“Just this morning, nine of us planted over 200 new seedlings,” Elaine said. “We are coming into our winter crops and even though the community garden will be moving down the track, we’ve already planted our winter harvest.”

The garden is thriving thanks to 15 residents who tend to it daily. Volunteers hand water it each morning and almost all plants are grown from seed; either by direct planting or propagation
in seed trays or from resident donations of seedlings.

“We sowed many seeds for winter including cauliflowers and broccolini, bok choy, lettuce and rocket, plus we have cabbages and snow peas together with herbs and our usual vegetables that grow all year like silver beet are booming, so our garden is chock-a-block again.”

Elaine says although growing from seed takes longer, plants are better in quality and the whole process is cheaper than buying seedlings from Bunnings. The garden is completely self-sufficient and 100 percent organic, even down to the fertiliser, compost, and pest control.

“We use fruit fly traps to protect tomatoes, exclusion mesh for brassicas like cabbage, and for powdery mildew in the cucurbits such as cucumbers, we use full cream milk spray or potassium bicarbonate spray, both of which are eco-friendly and registered for organic farming,” Elaine said. “We also encourage a population of good bugs – predatory insects that have high-volume populations, such as different varieties of ladybird species that feed on powdery mildew or aphids.”

Elaine said worm juice fertiliser is donated by residents, otherwise the group purchases other organic fertilisers, all used when transplanting seedlings grown from seed by members.

“We have also added a lot of horse manure which is donated by a GemLife resident who stables his horses nearby over winter,” she said. “We use as much recycled/upcycled stuff as we can, like reinforcing mesh and hebel topper for building trellises.”

Originally established by first coordinator Monica Lampard, the garden is now extremely profitable.

“Over the past few months, we have been able to hand over quite a lot of money raised to the Home Owners’ Committee and any excess funds goes towards our garden that is now completely self-sufficient, thus giving back to everyone,” Elaine said.

“Every Wednesday morning, we set up a little stall at the back of the Country Club and catch the residents coming in to play their games.

On Saturday mornings, we set up a stall at the barbecue area with an honesty box,” she said.

“Wednesdays are always better because we are there to explain what produce we have.”

Residents can use the garden any time and pick things like silver beet, lettuce and other crops such as bok choy, spring onions and year-round produce.

“We have signs all over the place to help residents, like ‘pick me’ or ‘let me grow’ and have an honesty box in the garden.”

Community spirit runs high at Highfields, with many donating to the project while others create products to help.

“We are grateful to residents who make generous donations including a shredder, wheelbarrow, tools, bales of mulch and fertilisers,” she said. “We also make our own compost by putting prunings from around the resort through a shredder, and adding lawn clippings and vegetable scraps from residents to every bed when a crop is removed.

“We have a number of buried bucket worm farms around the garden beds that residents can add their vegetable scraps to any time,” she said. “The success of the garden would not be possible without our volunteers who give up so much of their time and expertise.”