Connecting through the Garden

Carol Barker attended the Newstead 2021 Summit back in 2008 with her son Tom, a mechanical engineering student with an interest in renewable energy. There was talk of a community garden and Carol joined the planning group, keen to have somewhere she could grow vegetables that wasn’t quartz rock and box trees. Carol lives at Muckleford, in the forest, and has gardened there for over 30 years. Goldmining country may yield rich nuggets, but not ones you can eat.

‘When we were planning the garden, I thought it would be a good thing for the community and because I’ve got such poor soil it would be a chance to grow some decent veges.’

‘I also thought it would be good to get together with other people while I was gardening,’ she says.

Carol also found some unexpected outcomes.

‘It’s definitely brought me back into Newstead. We moved here in 1978 from Cheltenham in Melbourne. Our kids went to kinder and started at the primary school, but we lost a bit of connection with Newstead after the kids changed schools to Winters Flat. I have always been an amateur field naturalist, so the garden has brought me back into that as well.’

‘The garden has been more than I thought. With our dinner fundraising and the workshops, the artists – it’s much more than each person having their own plot and meeting like minded people when gardening.  Also the design of the garden has put a different dimension to it. There’s a plus to having straight line, square plots, but here you’re right up next to your neighbour and that’s got advantages.

Carol grows mainly vegetables, some herbs and flowers. Last season the garden was getting too onerous, especially the digging, so son Tom suggested their friend Ray might help and that’s enabled Carol to get growing again – onions, silverbeet and garlic, leeks and carrots to come and peas, lettuce, beetroot and different varieties of tomatoes for summer.

‘We’re putting some real life back into the plot.’

‘Whether it’s just talking to others, or doing the biodynamic composting or workshops, I’m getting hints and tips all the time. New people come in with different ideas on how to grow certain veges. You also get a lot of advice at the produce exchange. I’m learning all the time.’

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