Your browser version is no longer supported, so you may experience issues while using this site.
Please upgrade to a current browser to enjoy the best experience.
Growing and learning from your community
Community gardens do more than make use of empty lots, they can be multicultural and inclusive social spaces. Studies have shown that while cities and urbanised areas experience more acute socio-environmental problems, the suburbs with high participation in community gardening are linked to improved health, wellbeing, social and sustainability outcomes1. In short, community gardening is good for the community, the planet, and the soul.
After rallying with the council to acquire an underused car park, Yousef and the MECA volunteers transformed the space into a lush produce garden. Together, they built the garden with the goal of uniting the broader community; As Yousef says, gardening “unites different people from different backgrounds, it helps people feel that they belong.”
Throughout his involvement in the MECA garden, Yousef has grown to appreciate the difference gardening can make on the livelihoods of all Australians. Based on his experience with a diverse group of gardeners, Yousef has learnt many valuable lessons and has shared his top five favourites.
Plant produce from different cultures
Australia is a melting pot of different cultures, religions, and stories. It’s incredibly rewarding when you incorporate the gardening influences of other cultures, Yousef believes a community garden must "reflect the multicultural community and diversity of Australia."
Work with nature, not against it.
When gardening, it’s always important to consider sustainability. The environmental movement of permaculture is guided by sustainability, using natural ecosystems, and reusing energy in several ways. For example, purchasing protective mesh will help prevent hail damage to your plants, while also collecting rainwater and reducing water waste. Yousef also recommends maintaining a large compost bin, growing your own seeds, and placing sugar cane near your garden beds to attract snails away from your vegetables
Know Your Tomato Variety
Yousef believes many gardeners choose not to grow tomatoes as they take time to grow their fruit, yet patience is rewarded as tomatoes can produce a plentiful harvest.
The MECA community garden boasts a huge range of tomatoes used frequently across many multicultural dishes such as Fattoush and Tabouli. The garden now has over 15 different varieties including Black Russian & Grosse Lisse tomatoes and shows no sign of slowing down.
Learn how to Graft
Known as tree surgery, grafting is the process of taking a piece of an existing tree and attaching it to a receptive root to form a new tree. An Afghani friend and fellow gardener taught Yousef the art of grafting where he successfully grew a citrus tree from two separate branches. One of the branches produced limes and the other oranges. However, there are limits to what you can graft. The two branches must be from the same species as Yousef shares, “you can’t have a lemon and plant it in a fig tree!”
To start grafting, ensure your rootstock is suited to your area's climate and soil. Rootstocks can be bought from specialist nurseries, or you can grow them yourself from seed. Make sure to take the root, chop it with a knife to create a V-shaped wedge then bind the split rootstocks together with high-quality grafting tape. Yousef applies honey to the joint to stop the branches from drying. Not only does honey have antibacterial properties, but it’s also a great energy source for helping your grafted roots grow strong . With water, honey and sunlight, the tissues of both trees will come together… just like surgery!
Learn from your community and get involved
Yousef encourages participation in community gardens as they provide many benefits to your gardening skills and community. Being involved in community gardens provides you with access to fresh and diverse foods groups you may not have considered for your own garden. It also helps boost the urban ecosystem, improve air quality and reduce neighbourhood waste through composting.
Community gardens across Australia are sustainable, social and unite people from all walks of life. By collaborating with gardeners of different nationalities, you’re helping build a culture of inclusivity while also gaining influence to apply to your own garden. Watch Yousef's story and see how you too can learn from others and grow fresh produce of your own.
To grow anything you must have passion and you must love what you are doing.
Hi my name is Yousef, I'm looking after the community garden at MECA.
The garden is one of the programs which unite people together. The most important thing is they learn english which is standard. How to plant, what is the name of this plant. All those things, all those words, they pick them up and then they build their english language which is one of the successful things.
We have a variety of plants here. It reflects the multicultural community or the diversity of Australia. We grab something from our garden and we give it to somebody from different background. Ask what type of dish can you make from this type of plant?
So at the end of the day we found that there is different dishes from the same types of plants.
Sitting in the garden with the different people from different backgrounds telling about their experinces back in their countries, people feel that they belong.
Not an Apia customer and want to find out more?
Subscribe to our FREE Apia Good Life quarterly newsletter for information on our latest offers, stories and inspiration to keep living life at its best.
1 “You feel like you’re part of something bigger”: exploring motivations for community garden participation in Melbourne, Australia | bmcpublichealth
2 9 Interesting Uses for Honey in Your Garden | ruralsrpout.com
The information is intended to be of a general nature only. We do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of reliance upon it – please make your own enquiries.
Health & Wellbeing
Community & Relationships
Finance & Career
Learning & Development
Holidays & Entertainment