WHAT better way to spend a late spring Saturday morning than at the community launch of the river garden at Bass? Around 80 people, from a babe in arms to grey tops, came from all parts of the shire, from coastal flats to the hills and beyond, to celebrate this initiative of Bass Coast Landcare Network (BCLN).
The vision is for the river garden site to become a true community hub for learning and sharing information on sustainable ways to grow healthy, nutritious food. As well as being a community place for growing things, it will also be a place for learning and education with workshops and school visits on site.
BCLN has taken the lead so far, including working out guiding principles and producing a draft layout for the site. It includes an orchard, a food forest, an indigenous plant use garden, water filtration areas, trial sites and horticultural beds. There are also hopes for a demonstration woodlot which could provide a source of income and possibly a walking track along the river, with interpretive and historical signs.
Peter Baird, education officer with BCLN, emphasised that none of these ideas was set in concrete. The network wants to reach out into the various communities and diverse cultural traditions of Bass Coast and draw on their generations of expertise as well as investigate innovations to create community-generated projects. It is expected that the project will evolve organically in response to input from the community and learnings from successes and inevitable failures.
We were then invited to walk the site with Peter and other members of the network. We saw the hop frame and an area of black plastic where a section of kikuyu is being solarised.
Indigenous cultures had many ways of retaining fresh water in and on the land before it ran into creeks. They would dam creeks into billabongs which increased biodiversity as well as slowing water flows. Based on these principles, some swales have already been constructed along contour lines to capture water flowing down slopes and retain it on site as long as possible. A dam has also been constructed near the river boundary in an area of silty soil. The dam leaks so will have to be lined before providing filtration and learnings about the life that occurs in fresh water.
After our tour, horticulture expert and permaculture enthusiast Jarrod Ruche gave us more valuable information on the use and construction of contour swales (which he described as ‘linear dams’), on sloping sites including large agricultural properties. People then had the opportunity to get their hands wet AND dirty while Jarrod talked us through a practical demonstration of constructing a no-dig garden. It was a breezy morning but some brave volunteers got stuck into dunking newsprint into water, while others foraged for vegetable matter, compost and mulch for the various layers necessary to kill the weeds by depriving them of light. This method has many benefits in terms of maintaining soil life, such as worms, insects, bacteria, mycelium and fungi, whereas solarising with plastic can kill off these beneficial life forms as well as the weeds.
Then, over a welcome and nourishing lunch, we shared some ideas and suggestions for the future, as well as swapping some unusual beans, some seedlings and a few donated tree saplings, all in the spirit of gardeners, growers and land-carers everywhere. It was a fitting end to an inspiring and positive morning.
Anyone inspired and interested in finding out more or being involved with helping develop the river garden further can contact BVLN on 5678 2335 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The dream is that it could become the CERES of the South East of Melbourne and tap into all those visitors currently speeding past on the highway as well as our local communities. Help make the dream come true.