Carlton community garden “a melting pot” of cultures

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Katie Johnson

From composting, to e-waste recycling, to caring for local chickens, the Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre’s (CNLC’s) community garden is a hub of activity.

Located on Princes St next to the housing estates, the garden provides fresh food to residents and brings the community together through recycling activities.

Community gardener Michelle Twyford has been looking after the garden for three years and said it was a huge hit with both housing tower residents and Carlton locals.

“We currently have 20 volunteers, mostly made up of refugee and migrant students who use the produce,” Ms Twyford said.

“But we also get other Carlton residents coming in for composting or to just wander around, so it’s a big melting pot which brings the whole community together and allows people to socialise with each other.”

The garden features staples such as lettuce, silver beet, tomatoes and sweet potato, but also hosts a range of unusual vegetables catering to different cuisines.

The produce is used by housing tower residents, but if there is a surplus it will often be given to restaurant Lentil As Anything or local charities.

“We try to grow unusual things, like okra, ginger, turmeric, galangal, bitter melon and daikon radish which is the holy grail in African cultures,” Ms Twyford said.

Based on community feedback, Ms Twyford and her volunteers are currently trying to grow Egyptian spinach which isn’t commonly found in Australia.

“We’re on the seventh go and we’ll just keep going till we get the right plant,” Ms Twyford said.

“We give it a red hot go to grow unusual plants but oftentimes Melbourne just doesn’t have the right heat.”   

Currently, the Neighbourhood Learning Centre is also working on creating an indigenous edible garden which will be up and running in the next few months.

“We’re currently creating a garden with a wheelchair accessible path full of native, edible Australian plants so that we can teach people how to grow and use them,” Ms Twyford said.

In addition to workshops and gardening activities, the Learning Centre’s garden also offers the Carlton Clucker program which has resumed in the past few weeks.

The garden currently has four chickens which are cared for by rotating volunteer families and is open for the general public to enjoy.

“The Clucker program started because the student committee came to us and said they wanted chickens in the garden, so we found a chicken house on eBay and organised it,” Ms Twyford said.

“Kids can come and play with the chickens and we also sell the eggs for a low cost to housing tower residents to cover the cost of their food.”

After a long closure due to COVID, Carlton locals can also use the CNLC’s 24-hour compost hub again to drop off their food scraps.

Located near the garden, the compost bin helps to reduce food waste going to landfill and also offers compost and vegetable seedlings when available.

Ms Twyford urged the community to come along to the garden and use it as an opportunity to meet neighbours and learn how to grow different produce.

“It’s not your average garden so it’s very interesting to work on and you learn a lot,” Ms Twyford said.

Kills off the talent too early

Kills off the talent too early

August 3rd, 2022 - Rhonda Dredge
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