Two middle aged women tending to a garden bed in a productive community garden
Cheryl Turek and Judy Temme are proud of the garden at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Chisholm - recipient of an earlier ACT Government community garden grant. Photos: Kerrie Brewer

Voltaire said we must cultivate our garden; Canberrans can follow that advice thanks to a $10,000 grant from the ACT Government to set up community gardens.

A total of $40,000 is available in this year’s round of the Community Garden Grants, Rebecca Vassarotti, Minister for Environment, announced on Monday. She launched the 2021 round in a garden set up by a previous recipient, the Good Shepherd Community Church Tuggeranong, in Chisholm.

“These are grants that continue to give back to the community,” Ms Vassarotti said. “The grants program provides support for the development, enhancement, and the expansion of community gardens across Canberra to promote the health, wellbeing and sense of belonging of the local community.”

This year, the government wanted projects that demonstrated the principles of circular economy, zero emissions and carbon capture.

“Gardens support biodiversity, enhance the natural environment, cool the planet and strengthen carbon capture – often, many of those at once,” Ms Vassarotti said.

“Community gardens are a lot more than just gardening. They bring connectedness, a sense of community, and help to maintain and improve the wellbeing and mental health of individuals and the community.”

Rebecca Vassarotti in the community garden at the Good Shepherd Community Church in Chisholm. Picture: Kerrie Brewer

The Good Shepherd Community Church used its 2019 grant to start a garden from scratch, to give the local community somewhere to work and grow produce, and to bring lonely people together, chairperson Cheryl Turek said.

“Due to COVID-19, we had to put on hold having the community come into the garden, but the past year has made us even more appreciative of working alongside each other in the garden, sharing ideas and building friendships.”

COVID may have made it difficult to foster community spirit as much as the church would like, but the garden has become quite popular.

The church distributes the vegetables it grows to the community; some return the favour by sharing baked goods.

Others give seeds and seedlings to the church garden group. One man gave parishioner Judy Temme 100 spinach seedlings, while a woman who lives near the church brought strawberries.

Early May is the tail end of harvest season, but the garden grows tomatoes, onions, garlic, beans, snow peas, parsley, strawberries, beetroot, spinach, pumpkins, sunflowers, salvia, lavender and rosemary.

The most satisfying thing about the garden, Ms Temme said, was seeing the produce grow and handing them out when they were ripe and ready to be eaten. “That gives you quite a thrill.”

She would like more locals to feel comfortable coming in and pottering around, particularly mothers and older people.

The 2021 grants are the seventh round since 2015; over that time, the ACT Government has given 50 projects more than $188,000 in total.

Applications close on 28 June. More information online.

For more news: