Community Garden’s Handbook
Community gardening is a wonderful chance to produce food, make friends and contribute to a sustainable environment. The Collingwood Children’s Farm includes an extensive community garden alongside the Yarra River. The plots have been used by local people since 1979, growing a huge range of fruit and vegetables. Broad beans in winter, tomatoes in summer, herbs all year round, raspberries, rhubarb, zucchini, pumpkins …
You are welcome to visit in the gardens during Working Bees, held in the afternoon (1.30-4pm) on the 4th Saturday of every month. Opportunities to participate as community gardeners are available to individuals and groups in the City of Yarra. This handbook describes how the gardens are run and how to be part of them.
‘Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years’ Anonymous
The Collingwood Children’s Farm respectfully acknowledges the Wurundjeri of the Kulin Federation as the traditional owners of the Abbotsford Precinct Heritage Farmlands, the lands we respect, care for and farm on behalf of all Victorians. The Farm thanks all Wurundjeri Elders past and present for their guardianship of these lands.
This handbook is a guide to the Collingwood Children’s Farm community gardens. The gardens are a dynamic entity so changes will be made over time. Please accept that the information in this handbook is correct now but is subject to annual review.
The community gardens: who? what? where?
The community gardens are worked by individuals, families and friends who are residents of the City of Yarra, along with community and school groups.The site is on Crown land leased by the Collingwood Children’s Farm (CCF) who manage the gardens. The gardeners pay an annual fee to have the use of a plot.
The community gardens cover about 3/4 of a acre along the Yarra River on the western side of the Farm. Previously, the area was subdivided into 70 plots, each averaging 25 square metres. Some of the original plots have now been split into smaller areas, while others have been joined to form larger areas for collective gardening.
The gardens are not currently open to the public. Gardeners are issued with a combination to open/lock the padlocks on the gates.
Respect and Dignity
Gardeners will engage respectfully at all times with other gardeners, Farm staff and visitors. As per it’s constitution, the CCF does not tolerate discrimination on any basis, especially of gender, ethnicity, age, religion and sexuality. CCF has a zero tolerance policy on bullying, harassment and/or intimidation.
The CCF community gardens are part of a working farm with a range of livestock, including horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, wandering peacocks, guinea pigs, ducks, geese and chickens. Gardeners are not to feed animals unless this is specifically endorsed by Farm staff at working bees.
Staying Safe: OH&S
Occupational Health and Safety
The Collingwood Children’s Farm (CCF) has a comprehensive OH&S Management System which complies with the Occupation Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) and the Occupation Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (Vic).
CCF will, as far as practicable, provide a safe work environment for the health, safety and welfare of our employees, contractors, visitors and members of the public who may be affected by our work.
All persons are responsible for their working activities and are accountable for:
- identifying practices and conditions that could injure employees, clients, members of the public or the environment. For voluntary community gardeners, this includes keeping paths between plots clear of overgrown weeds/plants and free from protruding wire or metal; community gardeners also have a responsibility to maintain their plot such that it does not provide a habitat attractive to snakes.
- controlling such situations or removing the risk to safety. If unable to control such practices and conditions, report these to the Community Working Garden Group or Supervisor
- making sure workers use personal protective equipment (PPE), & training workers to use PPE correctly
- making sure PPE is maintained and working properly
- ultimately, everyone at the workplace is responsible for ensuring health and safety at that workplace.
The CCF requires a positive, proactive attitude and performance with respect to protecting health, safety and the environment by all employees and volunteers irrespective of their position.
Safety is your responsibility when gardening
Ensure you wear appropriate clothing – closed toe shoes, gardening gloves, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.
- Be vigilant for tripping hazards as you walk.
- Be aware of garden bed edges, fencing, garden tools and hoses.
- At Working Bees, please listen to the instructions of the person running the session.
If an incident occurs, the first priority is to attend to the needs of the injured person: in serious cases, call ‘000’. There is a First Aid Officer on the Farm during opening hours when the Farm is open. Please go to Reception to radio for that person if an incident occurs or call: 9417 5806 to report and ask for the First Aid Officer to attend.
All efforts should be made by the First Aid officer and/or Farm staff to isolate, eliminate, remove or minimise the hazard that has caused the injury to ensure nobody is at risk. An Incident/Hazard form (in plastic folder in shed and available in Reception), MUST BE FILLED IN by the First Aid Officer and the Supervisor on the day and handed in to Reception.
If a community gardener is injured when alone in the gardens during Farm hours, please contact a member of staff on the Farm to contact the First Aid Officer, either by going to Reception or calling Reception on 9417 5806. It might be wise to put this number in your phone contacts.
Always carry a mobile phone and make sure that someone knows you are gardening at the plots (just in case you cannot contact staff at the Farm).
- Be careful around gardens and long grass.
- Let staff know if you should see one and keep
away from the area.
- In the unlikely event of being bitten, STAY VERY STILL, the venom will not move as quickly if you keep as still and as calm as possible.
Call 000 immediately and alert a staff member or someone nearby who can find one, there are snake kits placed around the Farm and in the garden shed.
Using the plots in the community gardens
Everyone is welcome to join the CCF community gardens, subject to the following conditions:
- Each individual must be a resident in the City of Yarra.
- Gardeners are required to pay annual fees to cover water use, maintenance and support from CCF. This does not cover entry to the Farm.
- Community gardeners are required to sign and abide by a ‘pledge’ which sets out the on-going responsibilities and practice of gardening at CCF.
The Farm manages the allocation of plots in order of applications received. Prospective gardeners are asked to attend a working bee prior to applying, when a plot is available, new members will be invited to an orientation session.
How to obtain a plot:
- Attend a working bee
- Submit an application to Farm reception with proof of residency in the City of Yarra.
- When allocated a plot, pay required fees and agree to gardener responsibilities (to maintain your plot in accordance with CCF garden practice and to attend 4 working bees a year).
New members are required to attend an orientation session. This covers everyday aspects of gardening practice at the community gardens and to provide up-to-date contact details.
Having a plot is lots of fun, but it is also a responsibility. Be sure about the commitment before taking it on. If you find afterwards that you haven’t enough time, please contact the Community Garden Working Group (CGWG). An alternative arrangement may be possible, e.g. a smaller plot, sharing with another person or working in a communal area.
‘Use it or lose it’
If community garden responsibilities are not met, you risk losing your plot.
Each plot is the responsibility of the individual or group to whom it has been allocated. The gardeners as a community are responsible for common areas within the gardens such as social spaces, borders and paths.
Overgrown plots are a habitat for snakes and rats. Plots must be kept safe for passers-by and not shade neighbouring plots – full guidelines are included in the pledge (see page 14).
The Community Garden Working Group shares responsibility with the Farm to ensure that a satisfactory standard of the plots is maintained. If a plot is overgrown or unproductive, the Working Group will seek to contact the gardener.
If no improvements occur and no contact is made with the CGWG or the Farm within a period of 3 weeks, the CGWG will recommend that the plot be forfeited and allocated to the next applicant on the waiting list.
If you are going away for a period of weeks, become ill, or for other personal reasons are unable to tend to your plot, it is important to notify the farm. Please email Toni Phillips: [email protected]
Many gardeners share their contact details with neighbours so they can help each other with watering during holiday periods. If you need assistance establishing contact, please contact the CGWG.
Ode to Tomatoes
by Pablo Neruda
No leaves or thorns,
The tomato offers its gift of
And cool completeness
Working Bees enable the gardening community to work on joint tasks, such as maintaining the communal areas or making improvements to the gardens as a whole.
The CGWG, in consultation with CCF staff, determine the activities of each Working Bee. Suggestions for tasks to do are welcome.
Working Bees are held from 1.30 – 4.00pm on the 4th Saturday of the month (not December and January). Dates are posted on the garden noticeboard. There is a designated OH&S warden at each Working Bee to deal with any first aid issues that should arise.
Gardeners are not always required to stay the whole time but to make a reasonable commitment. Please arrive by 1.30 to hear the session briefing about what is to be done.
Gardeners are required to attend at least 4 working bees a year.
Working Bees are also an opportunity to mix with other gardeners and are often followed by a social gathering to which partners and children are welcome.
If you find you cannot attend four Working Bees, please contact the Farm to discuss whether alternative arrangements might be possible for a temporary period.
Failure to attend 4 working bees a year is breaking the pledge and risks you losing your plot.
Each gardener is required when joining or renewing their annual membership to sign an undertaking to observe the practices of the community gardens (full details in the pledge). These include the following:
- the CCF community gardens are a safe place for wildlife. As per Australian law, all native fauna are protected – it is illegal to harm a snake or other reptile. Toxic chemicals are not allowed and any netting used must not be dangerous to birds and checked regularly for trapped lizards etc.
- Gardeners are required to keep the path(s) around their plots neat and free of weeds.
- Green waste, such as weeds and old plants, are to be composted on your plot or removed from the gardens – they are not to be dumped in the gardens or adjacent Farm areas.
- Plants are not to create shade on neighbouring plots.
- Water use is subject to any water restrictions imposed by the Victorian government and the Farm.
Access to the gardens
Community gardeners can use the gardens during daylight hours. Each member is issued with the combination for the padlocks on the gates.
A shed in the community gardens houses various garden tools (e.g. hoes, shovels) which members are welcome to use. Please return to the shed, cleaned after use and stacked/stored safely.
Gardeners have access to toilets in the Farm during general Farm opening hours and also to get food from the Farm Cafe. To visit the Farm you must pay normal entry fee or purchase a membership. Bike path toilets (near Farm Cafe) are open 24/7.
A brief outline of the Farm Infrastructure
The community gardens are part of the CCF.
The Farm is a registered not-for-profit charity.
The overall policy is determined by a Committee of Management (CoM). The Farm is run by a full-time Farm manager who is responsible for its everyday operations with a staff of about 30 workers.
Collingwood Children’s Farm supports social inclusion through a range of programs on a working community farm. Our aims:
- To develop self-esteem, self-worth and connectedness, particularly of children and those experiencing adversity.
- To facilitate participation of children and their families in broader community life and a connection to nature.
- To provide educational opportunities around urban agriculture for students and community as well as pathways to further employment.
- To manage the Farm’s physical, financial and human resources in a sustainable way.
- To maintain a ‘country feel’ in the way the Farm looks and works, where people come together around animals, chores, nature and activities.
- To provide a safe, supportive and stimulating environment for all children and young people (especially those experiencing adversity), to develop life skills.
- To ensure accessibility of the Farm’s programs and activities to interested members of the community, particularly children, young adults, families and those experiencing disadvantage.
- To provide a learning environment grounded in ‘hands on’ involvement, demonstration and
- To enrich the community with activities, events and celebrations about the cycles of nature.
- To encourage environmental responsibility by involving people in land management and demonstrating sustainable agricultural practices.
Over 100,000 visitors come to the Farm during the year. As the Farm evolves, the community gardens will become an integral part of community education programs.
The Committee of Management has 12 members including a City of Yarra councillor and also a staff rep. There are 3 sub-committees: Farm Operations, Finance, and Governance. The Community Garden Working Group comes under Farm Operations.
The Committee of Management is elected at the Annual General Meeting. Each gardener’s annual fee does not cover membership of the Farm. Current members of the CoM and office-holders are listed on the CCF website.
Community Garden Working Group
The Community Garden Working Group (CGWG) consists of 8 gardeners, a Farm horticulturist and a member of the Committee of Management.
They seek to include a range of interests and voices of those who have the time to work for the future of the gardens.
The group currently meets every one to two months to discuss matters relating to the plots. It plans Working Bees, organises the publicity for them and
is also investigating the running of educational programs for gardeners. It has responsibility for helping gardeners resolve problems that may arise in
connection with the community gardens.
Different members of the group take responsibility for different tasks, such as publicity, social media, education, communication and minute keeping. Gardeners are encouraged to communicate ideas with members of the CGWG, which is committed to the positive development of the gardens.
Minutes of CGWG meetings are available to all plot holders by email and will be displayed on the garden noticeboard. Gardeners are expected to check the noticeboard inside the bottom gate to keep abreast of the garden news and notices..
Communication at the gardens
The CCF community gardens are one of the largest in Melbourne. Communications within the gardens are intended to include everyone in discussion about on-going matters as well as proposed new developments. The CCF is keen to see the plots develop as a community resource and any suggestions for future projects or new initiatives are welcome. However, the CCF does not take a day-to-day role in the operation of the community gardens.
Communication between different groups takes place as follows:
Between the Farm and gardeners
The CCF will contact gardeners directly for such events as the Annual General Meeting and membership renewal, as well as special events. Email addresses must be provided as these will be used as the main means of communication. News of other events will be printed and displayed on the garden noticeboard.
Farm reception staff are not responsible for day-to-day gardener issues other than emergencies. Gardener queries should be raised at Working Bees or with the CGWG.
Between gardeners & the CGWG
The CGWG is the principal means for gardeners to raise issues and ideas with the Farm. Contact details for the CGWG are posted on the noticeboard. Gardeners can pass ideas or concerns to the CGWG email: [email protected]
Gardener to gardener
Communication amongst gardeners occurs in person, online and by means of the noticeboard. Many gardeners are keen to talk over growing matters and to share experiences. However, this is an individual matter – no one is obliged to chat at the expense of necessary weeding!
For some people, time at the plots can be limited; for others, gardening can be a moment of quiet time. Gardeners are asked to be sensitive to others’ inclinations.
Community gardeners’ google group
Gardeners have set up an online google group to exchange ideas, seek advice or be notified of plans for social events, etc. The plot allocation paperwork includes an invitation to join this group which has proved very effective. Email addresses are never knowingly shared with any commercial body.
All gardeners are encouraged to check the noticeboard which is located just inside the plot area near the bottom gate. It displays dates for forthcoming Working Bees, minutes of CGWG meetings, as well as information about snake sightings, social gatherings and other activities.
Gardening is an ongoing learning experience, equally rewarding and frustrating!
All community gardeners at CCF decide themselves what to grow. Look around and talk to you neighbours for advice. Many gardeners include a mix of perennial and seasonal plantings.
Gardeners have considerable freedom of what to grow, but there are some recommended guidelines. For an up-to-date list of what is and what is not possible, please see the gardener’s pledge.
These include a ban on illegal plants and trees. Care must also be taken not to grow plants that will impede a neighbour’s space and light.
Weeding is a constant part of garden maintenance. Gardeners are required to take weeds and garden waste away or dispose carefully on their plot. Green waste is not to be dumped anywhere. Mulch, mulch – and more mulch! The condition of the soil varies from plot to plot and everyone is encouraged to mulch and add compost.
Gardeners are required to observe any water restrictions in force as the number of taps is limited. You need to take turns during busy times when only hand-held hosing is allowed. No sprinklers permitted at any time (Tip: mulching round plants will reduce water loss from evaporation.)
Fertiliser and Pesticides
Only organic products can be used as they ensure the safety of wildlife, animals and humans. Many commercially available chemical horticultural products have been proven later to have ill effects. The product Multiguard is readily available and will reduce slugs and snails without damaging native wildlife. Please check with the CGWG or the Farm horticulturist if in any doubt about the safety of a product you are thinking to use.
Nets and Covers
Peacocks and peahens in the Farm frequently visit the plots, as do rats, snakes, lizards and birds. Netting can be used to protect plants, so long as it is sufficiently fine not to trap wildlife. In very hot weather, many gardeners place shade cloths over plants to reduce burning from the sun. These can be erected and dismantled quite easily.
Tools and Equipment
The shed in the community gardens houses has some garden tools that you are welcome to use. Please clean and return after use and make sure the door is shut. If you notice that something is faulty, please notify the CGWG (not Farm reception). Do not take tools from other plots without the permission of the owners. Many people are happy to share, so please ask first and always return.
Meet two gardeners
Those who join the community gardens are from all walks of life, are different ages and backgrounds – but they live locally and love gardening.
Norma Marshall has been a gardener for many years. She writes: For several years gardening has been a regular activity with my family. Our normal routine is gardening, a visit to the Farm (where they have a family membership), then my grandchildren and I cook a simple lunch, using produce from our plot wherever possible.
Even toddlers can help plant seeds, taking say one broad bean seed, putting it in a hole made by an adult or older child, then covering it with soil. Children also enjoy helping with planting and watering in seedlings. By visiting regularly, the children can see their seeds poking through the soil and growing into mature plants. Best of all is harvesting what they have grown, especially potatoes. Nothing beats scrabbling around in the dirt to find every last potato!
They have learned that different plants grow at different times of the year and that plants get food and water from the soil, which is why it is important to put food such as compost back into the soil. They also understand the role of helpful insects like bees. Apart from the benefits of healthy outdoor activity together, the children have a sense of achievement from their gardening and from practising cooking skills. They learn a positive attitude towards food and trying new tastes. As a child I gardened with my father and it is a pleasure to pass on what I learned.
Playing Our Part is a community-based organisation working on a homelessness initiative. Its founder, Peter Barber explains how it is part of the CCF garden community:
The Plot to Plate project involves growing produce for the Farm Cafe for a seasonal dish with the proceeds going towards the association’s work. The meals are featured in Recipes for Disaster with potatoes grown for a summer gnocchi, followed by cauliflower and cabbage for the winter selection.
Program volunteers and beneficiaries also work on the sharing and exchange plots where vegetables, knowledge and experience are sown, grown and harvested.
The benefits of this work are summarised in the words of one program participant:
‘Introducing me to the Collingwood Children’ s Farm Community Garden was a key factor in building relationships and consolidating life skills. It is not only rewarding doing productive and physical activity together, it gave me knowledge, put my mind in the present and the opportunity to experience the reward of planting a seed and watching it grow. I gained confidence in myself, in life and in relationships with others. Through a connection with one individual offering friendship, support and guidance, my life has been changed from one of hopelessness and despair to one of confidence and fulfillment.’
For more information please visit:
https://playingourpart.net/community-collaboration/ or visit us at the plots and have a chat.
Peter Barber, Community Gardener and Founder, Playing Our Part Incorporated.
CCF welcomes inquiries from individuals and community groups who are interested in working in the gardens.
Enjoy the gardens and happy gardening!