Community magic at Montmorency
We were recently invited to Kitchen Garden Program member Montmorency Primary School to help bring their dream of a new native garden to life. Leading the revamp was the author and Gardening Australia co-host Hannah Moloney from Good Life Permaculture. We worked with the incredible school, parents and community volunteers to build a new garden for outdoor learning and grow our knowledge. “I’m so pumped just to get in here and freshen up the soil, plant some new plants, all towards creating a good life for all the kids here and beyond,” said Hannah.
Bringing the new native garden to life
We started the day with a briefing from the school’s Garden Specialist, Claire Gilbert before splitting up into teams to divide and conquer. The first step was to prepare the area by weeding, turning over the hard-packed earth and adding a layer of fresh, rich topsoil. Logs and rocks were carefully laid out to mark garden beds, pathways and open areas for the children to relax and play.
The second step was to add a generous layer of coarse mulch throughout the garden. Mulching is a superpower in the garden! It helps to retain soil moisture, reduces sunlight to the soil, restricts weed growth and releases nutrients to encourage plant growth. Adult volunteers carted the wheelbarrows to and from the beds, while the children eagerly put on gloves to help spread the mulch evenly.
The third step was the most fun – planting! A combination of edible bush tucker plants, pollinators and ground cover were selected for the space and arranged according to the detailed garden plan produced by the school volunteers. Once the plants were in position, they were given a generous drink of water to help them settle in and a short mesh fence to protect them as they grow.
At lunchtime, the team got to tuck into a delicious plant-based lunch of pumpkin, lentil and spinach curry prepared by the school’s Kitchen Garden Program students and some extra school volunteers. After lunch, Hannah Moloney led workshops on gardening productively in clay soil, creating a garden under gum trees and water-wise gardening for dry areas.
The Kitchen Garden Program at Montmorency Primary
Some of our staff who attended the day, including CEO Dr Cathy Wilkinson, had the opportunity to work one-on-one with members of the school community to find out more about their experience with the Kitchen Garden Program. The school has been a member since 2008. Year One teacher Kevin Wilcockson explained “The kids really excel as soon as you put them outside in the garden or in the kitchen. It transforms these kids so much compared to when they’re in the classroom. It’s unbelievable to watch them not only flourish but take the lead in a different way.”
We also had a great chat with Year Six Environment Captain, Finn, about what he liked the most about his time in the program. “I love how it’s really connected with the kids and gives them opportunities that they might not get again,” said Finn. As for his favourite food grown in the school garden? “Hmm, that’s a tough one,” he said. “There are some orange edible flowers I like, they’re a bit spicy on the inside.” Chances are, Finn was referring to nasturtiums, calendula or marigolds – colourful, edible flowers that are easy to grow.
Our team really enjoyed the day at the Montmorency Primary School working bee. Big thanks to Hannah Moloney for taking time out of her book tour to lend a helping hand to a Kitchen Garden Program school. We’re all looking forward to watching the new plants grow and flourish for the Montmorency students to enjoy for many years to come.
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