4 March 2020

Meet Goulburn's community gardeners growing prize-winning produce

| John Thistleton
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Heather Pearsall

Heather Pearsall, one of the keen gardeners sharing secrets of sustainability. Photos: Supplied.

Each Saturday morning on an old tennis court in the middle of Goulburn, community gardeners serve up a recipe for winning every game, set and match.

Aces are recorded by produce not points, and the pick of it all will be on exhibition this weekend (7 and 8 March) at the 2020 Goulburn Show.

The garden is the Goulburn Community Garden, whose core membership of 30 runs workshops on how to build wicking beds, make compost, set up a worm farm and so much more.

One of their committee members, Heather Pearsall, says plant-to-plate courses are held once a month and other courses on general gardening are held each Saturday. Another 60 would-be gardeners from further afield have read about the garden on the Goulburn Community Garden Facebook page and are eager to learn how their produce can thrive in the Southern Tablelands climate that swelters in the growing season.

Many of the savvy gardeners have their own gardens at home, and are exceptionally good at what they do according to Heather, “but I think the attraction is the community part, it is really friendly and a lot of us are dedicated to educating other people, to increase their environmental awareness, teach them how to garden, get out in the fresh air and enjoy beautiful food”.

The fruits of their efforts are swelling around them, like the plump figs that are now softening and ripening into a deep purple.

“Our apples are looking fantastic, rhubarb, lettuce, silverbeet, spinach, we have lots of lovely herbs, all the usual. We are also trying to grow more unusual ones. We are trying to set up an Australian edible native garden,” she says.

This summer, gardeners organised themselves with a roster to ensure someone was about almost every day of the week to shelter and water the harvest, including the perennial asparagus and chokos in the general garden sections to take the sting out of searing temperatures.

Gardeners out and about

Gardeners out and about preparing beds.

With water an increasingly valuable commodity, the gardeners had to become creative when the rainwater tanks ran out and town water became even more precious. To make every drop count, the soil was enriched with piles of horse, pigeon, rabbit and sheep poo, grass clippings and other waste materials.

“We have tried to keep the water in the ground, rather than have it evaporate. We use ollas – ceramic pots filled with water which trickles slowly into the soil. We will have a stand at the show and ollas will be there,” Heather says.

“We also have a mulching machine and mulch up branches. We don’t waste anything.”

And that extends to their attendance at the Goulburn Show where they’ll help with the cleanup that’ll also help their garden.

Gardeners will collect animal bedding straw at the conclusion of the show, helping nurture the garden for months. Entrants take home their produce, and some award-winning vegetables and fruit will go to the grateful international volunteers who travel to Goulburn each year, camp at the showground and help set up and pack down the show.

“We win something every year at the Show which is lots of fun,” Heather says. “The main aim is to get Goulburn Community Garden out there, not to win, but to help the show, because the more exhibits they have the more interesting it is for the people who come to the show.”

To see the prize-winning produce from the Goulburn Community Garden, visit the Goulburn Show from 9:00 am on 7 and 8 March on Braidwood Road.

Original Article published by John Thistleton on The RiotACT.

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