TVSTILL: A family inspect the public compost bins in Chippendale community garden.


The humble backyard vegie patch is back in vogue in the suburbs of Australia. But can growing spuds and greens in the cities really avert a coming food crisis?

"WE HAVE TWO SETS of needs as humans...sociability and sustenance," says Carolyn Steel, author of Hungry City and lecturer at Cambridge University. "They are in conflict, because the more we cluster together in villages, towns and eventually cities, the further we get from our sources of sustenance."

According to the United Nations Population Fund, more than 50 per cent of humanity now lives in cities and that figure is rising. But while cities are good at generating jobs and providing us with social stimulation, they're less effective at providing food or recycling their energy, water and nutrients.

"The people who plan cities are ignorant when it comes what human beings need for survival...Cities are quite good at providing water; they are hopeless at providing food," says author of The Coming Famine, Julian Cribb.


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  • The "trend" of backyard food gardening has been appearing on regular news and magazine articles, and I noticed the veggie growing sections in gardening and homemaker type magazines, as well as the fruit and veggie sections in bunnings have grown a lot over the past few years too. Although I'd love my suburb to become like Chippendale, but I wonder whether it will be a 'passing trend' like many trends in main stream... afterall, growing your own food is a lot of work, and you have to truely enjoy it where harvest is no guarantee ^^
    • yes, not having a vegie garden to look after is a very luxurious feeling sometimes (hooray for tap timers!)

      i'm very big on the idea of productive tree orchards for community stewardship - no reason parks couldn't have a grove of pecans (which don't suffer pest and diseases and are very hardy) for example (ok, you'd probably need signs and fences for anaphylaxis i guess). avocados and citrus would be good too. 
      another good thing would be community crops - like potatoes, or water chestnuts.

      the vietnamese countryside (especially pre the war) was like a vast permaculture, and had been for a long time. i think that in time, all 'first world' countries and 'third world' countries will need to converge and become 'second world' countries, which would look a bit like the living environments in vietnam, cuba or some of the pacific islands.

      it helps if you like it when you don't need to do it, but i think the need to grow food is going to grow - all the projections are for food scarcity in the coming decades

      sounds like you might be getting discouraged with your results in your new place? too shady? that's hard. can you put stuff on the walls? window boxes? balcony or roof space? out the front? nature strip? 

      you can't put in the work and not get a harvest - that would discourage anyone


      • I'm not discouraged as I know it takes time to build up the garden, other then not enough sun (getting a bit more than a couple of hours now we're warming up), there's absolutely no life in my soil, not a single worm.. alot of slugs though. Besides, I live close to my mum, I still have to help her with her garden including the harvests :)
        Just thinking from the point of view of those who follow the trends and thought growing food is as easy as what the media makes it out to be ~ Although it still is a good thing though even if only 1 out of 10 people who got into it remains after the trend passed ^^

        By the way, your orchard next door's flowering yet?  The flowering peaches at Roma street park are just about finishing flowering ~

        • yes, they have flowered, and now the first leaves are bursting. there's a planning approval on the site though, so i'm assuming we won't get to eat any of the fruit this season :( 

          they'll probably cut them all down just before they're ripe! it's almost worth moving away so we don't have to watch :(

          • Oh no!  I hope they would wait until the fruits are ripe... I would be tempted to dig some up and bonsai them before they cut them down ^^
        • If there's enough organic matter in your soil to support the worms, you can buy earthworm cocoons from Kookaburra at Gin Gin.
          • Thanks for the suggestion Elaine ~ I've been trying to water with worm tea, EM, and some sort of acid in granules? Fulvic? Supposed to be good for the soil.... Last time I prepare a bed at my mum place, I dug up heps of worms, and probably killed a lot by destroying their tunnels, think I'll bring some of those soil home next time I visit ~ We're both in fireant zone, so it should be okay ~
            • That's a good idea too. But you need solid organic matter (grass clippings, kitchen scraps) for the worms to eat, the liquids give plants a boost but do nothing for the worms.
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