"Unfenced communal gardens for the use and benefit of the surrounding community and visitors, containing edible and medicinal gardens modelled on the principles of food forests and edible landscapes."
This same month five years ago, the Ediblescapes project coordinator Jorge shared its vision for an Edible Forest Landscape Project. In 2017 it was portrayed as unfenced communal gardens for the use and benefit of the surrounding community and visitors, containing edible and medicinal gardens modelled on the principles of food forests and edible landscapes.
Jorge and his team of volunteers’ hosted composting sessions and veggie swaps during its first year, then in May 2018 they signed a formal agreement with the Nerang Country Paradise Association. It took another year for Gold Coast City Council to officiate the Parkland’s hosting of project.
The soil on the site then was only 20cm deep. Ediblescapes crew knew that to plant fruit trees they would need to build soil to a minimum of 80cm deep for each tree. They decided to produce one cubic metre of composting soil for each tree – that meant 100 cubic metres for 100 trees! With the vision to incorporate tree planting in two years time, the team turned over a new heap of hot compost every week.
Water harvesting is a principal element to any ecological garden. Ediblescapes crew observed the site’s water flow and designed a system to harvest rainwater runoff from both inside and outside the garden, to store it underground through soil infiltration from where it would slow-release into the garden soil. In each garden patch, these water micro-catchments function as a natural organic ‘wicking bed’.
As 80cm deep soil is not sufficient for tree roots to take up adequate nutritional elements to generate fruit, it is necessary to intervene and provide additional fertility through composted humus and other natural fertilisation systems.
The hot compost comprised a third food waste from the Nerang farmers market, collected on the weekend to lay out on the compost heap on the second weekday. They observed that substantial leaching occurred before the compost heated, and further leaching occurred each time water was added to the compost heap. Six times the compost heap was turned and done in six weeks. Valuable nutrients are lost through leaching, so Ediblescapes researched and innovated with natural fertilisers, including vermicompost,
reproduction of microorganisms, bokashi, bio liquid and solid fertilisers.
After the first stage of fruit tree planting was complete, in September 2019, Ediblescapes embarked on garden beds for growing crops as part of their strategy to build soil for the second stage of tree planting. Successful crops enabled five donations of harvested produce to the Neighbourhood Centre’s Emergency Food Service by the end of 2019, and another five harvests by March 2020 .Unfortunately, the garden was temporarily closed to the public for the next two months due to social restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they continued to operate using essential job volunteers who produced social food and delivered another five harvests during this period.
COVID-19 increased food insecurity within our local community. Ediblescapes volunteers responded by temporarily postponing the second stage of tree planting to implement bio-intensive food growth in a double-depth garden bed. This is a system that allows maximum food production in smaller areas, with less time, and minimum budget. The technique utilised 60cm deep loose soil that required no turning and allowed minimal disturbance to microorganisms. Additionally, vegetation was cultivated for composting.
Learnings in this period included:
· Hot composted fertiliser produced a material with a consistency too densely bonded, and therefore not appropriate in large quantities to ameliorate the soil for bio-intensive growing purposes.
· On the other hand, bokashi fermented compost was better suited to mixing in significant portions with garden soil to prepare the bio-intensive beds. The garden bed amended with bokashi resulted in soft and loose soil suitable for profound root growth, allowing more plants to grow together in hexagonal patterns to maximise the garden space.
Using this method, Ediblescapes volunteers cultivated and harvested 5000 litres of vegetables in 400m2 during 2020 and another 8000 litres of vegetables in 600m2 during 2021. Volunteers donated one hundred percent of this fresh, nutritionally dense food to Nerang’s food service.
In 2021, Ediblescapes planted the second stage of the forest garden by adding 40 fruit trees. Ediblescapes’ footprint is now 1000m2 and comprises 100 fruit trees, herbs and crop gardens. Already in this early stage, over 20 trees have fruited. Ediblescapes demonstrates the efficiency of the bio-intensive growing method when combined with a developing ecological forest garden. This makes the project an ideal Agro-Ecological “Permagarden” and a valid proposition for urban food security during a global or systemic food crisis.
Ediblescapes halted its social food program in 2022. They now invite food crisis stakeholders to visit the Ediblescapes “permagarden” to explore and embracing the idea for replication so that Gold Coast can increase its capacity for urban food growing, create new employment opportunities and improve access to food for all.
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