Popup Gardens and Cinemas in Kensington Melbourne
Autumn is well and truly upon us and despite defying the norm and turning up for a Collins St Naplan Online workshop in traditional Hawaiian shirt I fear it might be my last journey out with shirt alone, unless there are Hawaiian Hoodies of a similar style. That was Thursday and I arrived home to see a set of tubs constructed at the end of our tiny street. This is a community garden, sponsored by the City of Melbourne and far more than just a bunch of tubs for veges manicured by retired people looking for company and a back to nature vibe.
There is science involved which involves weighing and monthly reporting on produce. Companion planting, no herbicides, natural protection and no fences mean that this will be an interesting experiment.
I am particularly interested in the technology which was explained to me by Marc, owner of the BioFilta company that installed the tubs including the two large silver tubs that use potentially a world first watering system.
There are a couple of neat tricks to this solution that Marc was happy to share with us on the planting day held Saturday morning. Honestly it felt as if I was having a horticultural lesson outside my front door. Firstly, the solution is very water efficient. Each level of tubs is filled from a cistern at the end of the row and the water gravity feeds into the bottom of each of the tubs which hold about 22 litres of water. Each tub (or its plants) consumes about 3 litres a week.
The water is refilled once a week and this process ensures that the plants are watered throughout the week from the reservoir in the bottom of each tub. How? Through an ingenious process of wicking where the “false bottom” of each tub has four legs separating the floor of the dirt part of the tub from the reservoir below. These legs are hollow and dirt is placed into the legs and this initiates a wicking or capillary action that draws water up into the soil towards the plant roots. The top of the soil is in fact dry which reduces weeds – fantastic. Additionally little if any moisture is lost through the soil which I was informed is high quality worm farm castings from the City of Melbourne worm farm.
With our own school gardens in the Northern Territory and various garden competitions I am keen to introduce these low maintenance high yield gardens to Territory growers, especially those in locations where the food miles and eventual food quality could certainly benefit from this kind of solution. A worm farm and a biofilta solution could provide vegetables for a remote community.
Another point was that aerators are fitted to the “false floor” which circulate oxygen through the watering system, or rather above it which provides oxygen to the subterranean environment. Combine nutrient rich material with water and lock it in, you can end up with foul smelling material. This aeration does away with that. Now, these are just words at the moment, but with seedlings planted and winter approaching, it will be interesting to see what unfolds.
The garden wasn’t the only thing that popped up over the weekend. There had been fliers in our letterbox about a popup cinema event in one of the popular streets of Kensington, Pin Oak Crescent. This street starts at the Newmarket Railway Station (and home of Laksa King – voted Melbourne’s best laksa) and follows the railway line.
This street was blocked off on Saturday night and grass decking was laid in the middle of the road, deckchairs and free popcorn provided along with a giant screening of inside out, a Disney film. What a great community event and what it does is it gets people talking.
I have been back in Melbourne for less than a month and moved into our house for two weeks and we already have met and know more shop owners, neighbours and community members than we ever have in Darwin. We have our friends and interests in Darwin, but whereas I would talk to people in our little park opposite our house in Kensington, in Darwin I rarely find myself in a park (too hot) and as there is so much more space in Darwin for parks, you can wander in solitude. Not really living the Nightcliff foreshore or Mindil beach market lifestyle, I know I am not doing justice to the community spirit of Darwin which I know does exist.
It was the same when I lived in Singapore. Many people don’t like living in close proximity to others, but I think I do because you can step outside and engage with people or if you need quiet time, you stay inside or go with a single purpose to the place you need to be.