Local Gardens

Simple steps you can take to help the environment, by Brooke by Brooke Tunbridge

Kiara’s story is so inspiring. A 13-year-old concerned about the environment and taking actions to help – what a dream! Hopefully this has made you think about your choices when it comes to the use of plastic and has made you aware of where that plastic ends up, and stays, for decades. Show your support to Kiara and other initiatives helping keep our beautiful city the way it is.

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Gardening 101 by Kian West


Gardening 101.


Want to grow some veggies but don't know how? Try these steps to get started.


  • Soil. Plants need decent soil. To turn that dry crusty patch out the back into a pumpin' patch of veg you will need to improve the soil that it's moist and fluffy. Apply generous amounts of compost, chook manure or potting mix, water it and turn it with a fork. You could also try a no-dig garden. Look it up, they're awesome.
  • Seedlings v's Seed. Sowing from seed is a cheap way to get your garden growing, but if you are growing veggies for the first time, I'd suggest buying seedlings because they are quick and easy. There is a lady at the Newcastle Farmers markets every Sunday called Lisa, and she sells cheap seasonal veggies and herbs. She has heaps of knowledge and is super fun. Tell her I said hi.
  1. Veggies like corn or beans can be planted from seed and germinate quickly as the seeds are pretty big. For beginners I would suggest growing veggies like: Silverbeet, kale, lettuce, eggplants, cherry tomatoes, dwarf beans, and herbs like basil, parsley and mint.
  • Planting. Some veggies get pretty big and need space. As a general rule, spacing your plants one foot apart will be fine. If your not sure, check the labels or ask someone.
  • Gardening sucks without mulch. Mulch is da bomb. It keeps the soil moist and saves water, smothers weeds, slowly decomposes and feeds the soil, and makes everything look neat and pretty. Sugar cane mulch, hay and straw are all good mulches, or like me, you can use whatever organic materials you can find around the house like leaves, grass cuttings, sawdust, wood chip... Use whichever mulch you like best.
  1. Watering. This is one of my favorite things to do in my garden; listening to the city in the background, enjoying the sun and sea breeze. While your seedlings are young, they need regular watering. Dig down in the soil a bit and see if it's moist. If the soil is already moist then you don't need to water. Once established, most plants only need watering every now and then during dry spells. Two or 3 thorough drinks per week should do it depending on your soil. We are pretty lucky in Newcastle as we get heaps of rain.
  • Diversity and habitat. Most pests and disease that effect veggie gardens can be avoided by increasing the diversity in your backyard. There are lots of creatures that eat bad bugs and keep pest populations in check, so encourage them to visit your garden by providing food and habitat. Growing flowers such as lavender, alyssum and cosmos will attract bees, hover flies, and other pollinators, while growing herbs such as basil, dill, parsley, rosemary, marjoram and mint will help deter pests and will provide somewhere for good bugs like praying mantis and lady beetles to live. A permanent water source or pond will attract lizards, birds and dragonflies to your garden.
  • Start small! It's easy to over-commit when starting out, so just start with one small patch, and only expand if you know you have the time to look after it. A garden bed with a few herbs should take half an hour a month to keep it looking lush.
  • Join a group. There are so many gardening groups in Newcastle where you can learn more about growing veggies. There are community gardens in most suburbs and several community groups such as Permaculture Hunter and the Hunter Organic Growers Society (HOGS).

Cross your fingers and hope that it's a good season and that it's not too dry. Enjoy your fresh veg with your friends, family and share any excess with your neighbors. Happy growing!



-Chris Brown


Community Garden Advocate / Artist and Photographer.

Sweet Suburbia by Kian West


Sweet Suburbia


So, just for a moment I want you to visualize your dream neighbourhood. What does it look like? What kind of vibe does it have?

I would guess that most people want to live where it's safe, peaceful, fun and close to stuff. My idyllic image of suburbia includes cycling around, community gardening, knowing your neighbours on both sides, friendly nod's from opposite sides of the road, cups of flour and Friday night drinks.

There is a certain comfort to having good relationships with the houses around you, and it makes those moments when you are home alone that little bit less scary when you know you can always squeal out to a neighbour if a knife wielding hooligan barges in to the living room.


These kinds of tight knit communities don't just happen though. It takes time for people to get to know each other and establish trust. Being the new kid on the block is a little daunting at first, and it's easy to screw up first impressions. About a week after moving in to my new apartment I made the silly mistake of inviting friends over to my house after the pub. The first impression I made with the people living below me involved Britney Spears at 3am. Didn't go down well, stuffed up big time. I thought, 'How do I recover from that embarrassment?'


Apologetic notes in letterboxes and bunches of free kale was a good start I felt. Seemed to work.


I am inspired by a few wonderful neighbourhoods around Newcastle, and I would like to share with you a little bit about Tighes hill. Over the last few years I have watched the community completely transform the social landscape of the place.


It was once a quiet suburb, with all the usual trimmings (occasional vandalism, pollution, post-industrial wasteland...) but then I met two wonderful women – Nola and Meryl – who introduced me to the grass roots of the Tighes Hill community.

Nola has always been the kind of person who likes to make things look better, and she had her eye on a barren concrete wasteland which was attracting teenage delinquents. Nola, with the support of Meryl and a handful of others, distributed some flyers to the surrounding houses about the idea of creating a community garden on the site. The idea took off and support flowed in. It's fun to be involved in slightly naughty, guerilla projects.

From these simple beginnings, Tighes Hill Community Garden was born and continues to flourish (one of Newcastle's best). The garden acted as a physical space where people could meet and get to know each other. A safe open space was all that was needed to get people thinking about the ways to create that urban village feel. A resident procured a coffee machine and turned their back shed into a cafe, a choir was born, book clubs and kids groups formed, and cocktails in the garden on friday nights became a permanent fixture. The Suburb became a place which allowed people to do things; where ideas could be supported.


I dont know about you, but I really like knowing the people who live around me, because all sorts of fun things come out of the wood work when you get to know people. If Nola and Meryl had not taken those first steps to bring the community together, it would be a very different place.


If you don't know your neighbours, I would encourage you to reach out and say hi. Maybe it's time you wrote a sorry note for the Kelis at 3am.


Tighes Hill Community Garden can be found on the corner of Kings Road and John St.


-Chris Brown







nm_web_images_10-Minus the naked people, and the religious undertones.When I am asked about community gardens, most people are pleasantly surprised when they learn that there is almost 20 community gardens in the Newcastle area, almost one in every suburb except a few of the snooty ones. Some are as big as a bowling green, some as tiny as a few herbs on the street, but they all share the same ideology, growing food on a very localised scale. The intent behind these green spaces come about from delightfully diverse assortment of political persuasions - from groups who want to exercise practical political acts right through to a single person who just wants some fresh mint for their Saturday afternoon Mojito without thinking anything of it. Nonetheless, they all share the same crux; Stuff the big stupormarket chains! We can grow it ourselves, and we can grow it bloody beautifully. The popularity of Community Gardens has exploded over the last 5 or so years, but the concept of community gardens has been around since the mid 70's. The first was in Melbourne and the idea exploded. The garden I run in Belmont started in 1994 but it wasn't until the early 2000's for the idea to catch on in Newcastle. Since then, some very much loved projects have flourished and continued to evolve according to the community's needs. One of Newy's best which I will share with you in this issue, is Sandhills Community Garden. Hidden behind the train sheds in the foreshore park is one of Newcastle's greatest community assets – an edible forest with winding terraced paths and luscious herb and vegetable beds. There are no fences or gates, and therefore it is incredibly inviting. Cheerful flowers, rich aromas, contrasting foliage and diverse insect and bird life all add to the gardens charm. Established fruit and nut trees are scattered along the hillside, under planted with herbs, veggies and other edibles. The garden's caretaker, Christine and I have talked at length about the concept of foraging for food – taking a little from one plant, and moving on to the next. The focus for seasonal veggies tends to gravitate towards plants which produce quickly, over a long period. Don't expect to walk out of the garden with a kilo of spuds and a watermelon, these things take time to develop and are often quickly snatched up. Veggies and herbs such as asparagus, kale, rocket, peas and beans can be picked daily and are the heroes of this garden. Take a little, leave the rest for others – that's the garden's philosophy. What a meditative and grounding act it is to wander through the garden and collect a handful of greens for a quick stir fry. It's very rewarding to donate a plant to the garden and know that you are helping to provide free, organic, living food to people who really appreciate it. You can find more information about Sandhills Community Garden on their website, or you can pop down and see Christine most afternoons.CHRIS_WEB sandhillscommunitygarden.com Lots of Mulch, Chris Brown