Cultivating wellness

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 By Alice B

Cultivating wellness

A community garden at a retirement village in Sydney’s northern beaches has produced more than just cabbages and beets.

In shovelling, planting, picking and enjoying the superior taste of organically produced chutney, the villagers of Aveo Penisnula Gardens have come to understand the holistic value of gardening.

Eleven members fund and tend to the garden regularly, ranging from amateur to expert levels of experience.

Village coordinator Susan Harvey worked with the group to get the project on its feet, and is slowly limiting her input as the novices come into their own.

“Some of them are experienced and some of them have never gardened. There are leaders and nonconformists, but amazingly they all get on very well,” Ms Harvey said.

The members get together every four to six weeks to discuss rostering and responsibilities over a glass of champagne.  

A corrugated iron raised bed, self-made with layers of straw and hay, gives the residents easy access to their produce and their own composting system.

Ms Harvey said “all sorts of things” grow in the veggie patch, from silverbeet and spinach to lettuce, radish and zucchini flowers.

“We even grew a honeydew melon by mistake, which was a wonderful surprise,” she said.

Ms Harvey said the lettuces and the herbs maintain well, because the more they are picked, the more they grow.

Carrots on the hand, did not work so well in the raised beds because the soil was not deep enough.

The residents have now commandeered another part of the garden to accommodate their root crops.

“We have our failures and successes but that’s part of life. You learn from them.”

Ms Harvey said the garden has attracted more villagers to the outdoors, even those who are unable to contribute to the harvest.

“One of the residents is in a wheelchair, she can’t do it anymore but she just enjoys coming down and watching. She was a gardener all her life.”

Ms Harvey said anyone can appreciate the spiritual benefits of caring for a garden.

“It’s about being in touch with nature, being responsible for something and nurturing.”

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