Wednesday night, the 8th of September would be a business network event to remember for everyone lucky enough to have been able to attend Tugun’s growing Southern Beaches Community Garden.
Under clear, late summer, evening skies, the SBCG and its members opened up the grounds of their community garden for something unique. An expertly planned and executed gathering of local business and council members and passionate, civic-minded gardeners.
Bendigo Bank’s Executive Assistant Maris Dirkx summed it up very succinctly in her following morning thank you email to the garden.
“The GC South Business Network event, proudly co-hosted by Southern Beaches Community Garden and Community Bank Tugun was a huge success last night with over 80 people enjoying the wonderful hospitality of the volunteers of SBCG.
Guests enjoyed a unique opportunity to mix and mingle under the stars with other local business and organisation representatives.
A BIG thank you to the volunteers of SBCG and their hard work to make the event such a success.”
In addition to what was expressed in her following day’s thank you email, Maris even went so far as to say the event raised the bar and the garden should be proud of itself as this was the first Business Networking Event staged at a venue that wasn’t licensed.
And in her short speech on the night, SBCG President Di Gunther was quick to give credit where credit was due. Namely, to the SBCG’s biggest sponsor Bendigo Bank and its Manager Allan Merlehan. As well as to Laura Gerber and Councillor Gail O’Neill for their ongoing support, so much of which has made the garden’s recent expansion project such a huge success.
Then she thanked the 200 plus garden members. Those who, day in and day out, do all the little things that add up to the garden’s ongoing success. Especially the members who cleaned, set up, unpacked, cooked, served, sang, picked up supplies, collected seedlings, prepared the market, served behind the bar, spoke, participated in the garden walks and took pictures.
Lastly, a special thanks went out to garden member Deb Power who not only led the night’s team of volunteers but also assumed the evening’s role of MC.
In short, it was a magical night.
The weather was beautiful, the garden looked spectacular, the Balter beer was cold, the food was delicious and the live music by Lauren from Youth Music Venture topped off the event.
Not surprisingly, the SBCG has been asked to host again next year. An invitation the SBCG was quick to accept.
The sky’s the limit in terms of the work which goes into keeping a community garden running. Even more so, when that community garden is in the midst of doubling in size.
But for Southern Beaches Community Garden volunteer Tony Curtis, he’d really prefer to have it no other way.
For nearly forty years, Curtis worked as a rigger and a dogman. Setting up and dismantling worksite cranes along with assisting in all facets of the construction process. The building of many of the high rises which today are so ubiquitous on the Gold Coast in which he was born and raised.
The work agreed with him. Enough so that, along with his three brothers, he’d end up owning his own rigging business, Curtis Steel & Rigging, for eight years.
Taking a quick break from building another wicking bed plot, Tony admits he loved the rigging work and the industry as a whole. The industry was good to him and he says he always enjoyed seeing the progress made at the end of each day.
But that was nearly five years ago. And despite his rigging days now being behind him, the sixty-something ex-rigger has found a new way to satisfy his industrious proclivities.
Today, when not flying his extensive fleet of large, remote control airplanes, Tony and his trademark weathered leather full brimmed hat, can be found in the SBCG at least three days a week. There he’s been a member assisting in various garden tasks for almost a year. But most recently, he’s been instrumental in leading the charge in constructing the recently expanded premise’s new garden plots.
Thirty-six at last count. With more on the way. A roll call of success Tony is quick to attribute to the organisational skills of those he’s surrounded by.
“Getting things done is a matter of having all the right people around you and the right equipment to do it.”
Tony lists names such as Kerry Hurse, Mandy McKinnon, Steve James, Nic Day, Dianne Casey and Deb Robson. Friends and fellow volunteers who Tony says are instrumental in providing the elbow grease in getting the heavy lifting accomplished.
“They all enjoy the work, and I think it’s the same as me, we’re getting something done. They enjoy that side of it.”
As for the planning and procurement of various necessary equipment, Tony doesn’t hesitate to give credit to SBCG President Di Gunther, Vice President Arch Cruttenden along with Ron Hasketh who oversees the Expansion Committee.
“Organisation is nine-tenths and if it’s organised properly, the job’ll go properly and Di and Archie always try to keep a step ahead and I enjoy that side of it.”
And President Di Gunther is happy to let Tony’s master plan continue playing out as it has been the past four to five months.
“We will not stop until Tony says so,” says Gunther. “There has been no other member who has the skill, ability, leadership, respect or integrity that Tony’s quiet presence exudes.”
It’s lofty and well-deserved praise. Especially good for a guy whose definition of gardening until only a year ago simply implied mowing his lawn.
“I’ve always had my own property since I was 17 or 18 old so I always looked after the yard. I’ve never been big into gardens. Just as long as they looked neat, I’ve always been happy. But since I’ve come here, I’ve got an interest in learning all the different stuff.”
Some of that different stuff, he says, revolves around wicking bed construction. And then there’s the fruits and veggies of his labour. A thriving list that includes radishes, lettuces, kale, tomatoes, and, even, a small lime tree.
As for gardening tips, the ex-rigger likes to keep it simple by keeping an eye on the plots of his more experienced gardening friends. “You have to look around, see what stuff is growing the best and which is getting least affected by any bugs we do have and that’s what you grow.”
But ultimately, it’s the garden in its ever-expanding entirety that Tony seems to derive the bulk of his satisfaction from. On this day, when not admiring the periodic small planes flying low over the garden on their final approach into the GC Airport, Tony is quick to point out the hive of activity around him.
New plots being filled. Old ones being watered. Families in the park and playground. Numerous inquisitive faces taking in the sights and
various areas of the garden.
There is no mistaking the garden’s expansion to the north side of the SBCG clubhouse has given the garden added exposure. And it’s irrelevant whether it’s the garden reaching out to embrace the nearby playground and public park, or vice versa.
Because, all that matters is, on this day–as has increasingly been the case–people are everywhere.
And Tony Curtis couldn’t be happier. “I’m proud to be a part of it.”
In particular, when it came time to turn and rotate our six compost bins.
The problem was simple. Our expanding garden was accumulating too much green waste. And far too often, it wasn’t getting chopped small enough. At least, not small enough to get everything to break down as quickly as we needed.
After quite a bit of research, the Red Roo CMS 100 mulcher/chipper/shredder looked to tick all the boxes. Beefy enough to handle a wide range of jobs but still at a price that would agree with grant review members overseeing the funds distribution from the Gambling Community Benefit Fund.
And just like that, the SBCG was the owner of a brand new Red Roo CMS 100 chipper/shredder/mulcher.
Better still, a good two months in, the honeymoon is still in full swing. In short, we love our Red Roo and can’t imagine that sentiment changing any time in the near future.
So that said, we give you our 10 reasons we love our Red Roo CMS 100.
It’s made in Australia. Oi, Oi, Oi! Nuff said. Right? If not, don’t worry, there’s more. Plenty more.
There’s no assembly required. Setting up involves two things. One, pulling a single pin to lower the chipper hopper into place. Then, two, adjusting the discharge area’s rear flap to the angle of your choosing. That done, the CMS 100 is virtually ready to be put to use. Just check the oil, add a bit of fuel and you’re in business.
It’s mobile and built to last. You won’t need to load the CMS 100 to get her home because the machine is set atop a sturdy two-wheeled axel and is easily towable. There’s even a spare tyre conveniently mounted on the back of the top mulching hopper. Simply hook your Red Roo to your towing bar and that’s it. Anywhere you need to set her up, she’s good to go.
And if your backing skills aren’t up to snuff and you accidentally bump into, say, a tree, check the tree for damage. The CMS 100 is built tough. At 650 kilos, she’s not a lightweight. Keep that in mind and definitely use two hands when you’re lowering the side chipper hopper into place.
The instruction manual’s concise and easy. At a total of 14 pages, this manual is far from Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’. And after a brief scan, you’ll quickly understand why.
There’s the page and a half of CMS 100 drawing diagrams to help you quickly pinpoint vital components. A page and a half detailing proper loading of the machine as well as how to avoid and deal with possible overfeeding issues and clogs. A half-page discussing possible troubleshooting issues. And, then, of course, there’s the obligatory section of safety.
But to be honest, unless you’re inclined to sticking forks into power points, juggling revving chainsaws or swimming in croc infested rivers and creeks, getting up and running can really be boiled down to two pages.
This being the manual’s step by step ‘Start Up’ and ‘Shutting Down’ page. Read it a couple times and it quickly becomes almost second nature. But just in case you need a quick refresher, Red Roo has been kind enough to mount a convenient storage container atop the chipping hopper. A cylindrical tube with a screw on top to keep both the manual and set of ignition keys dry, secure and close by.
All which segues perfectly into the next reason we love our Red Roo CMS 100.
It’s virtually idiot-proof. At a single glance, the CMS 100 simply makes sense. There are two feeding chutes or hoppers. The chipper, off to the side for larger material up to 100mm (4 inches) in diameter. And a top feeding hopper for smaller material up to 50mm. Mulched and shredded material is discharged at knee level from the back of the machine. It’s hardly rocket science.
But it’s the CMS 100’s relatively new external clutch bar that really deserves high praise for taking the cost out of human error. The bar was designed and incorporated to circumvent expensive maintenance repairs resulting from operators overzealously loading the hoppers simultaneously. In the past a burnt out standard internal clutch meant a close to four-figure repair.
Make the same mistake with the current external clutch bar and you’ll only be set back less than $50 for a new belt.
Customer service are patient and helpful. Yeah, I know, it’s virtually impossible to find a business web page that doesn’t put this claim front and centre. But due to a Victorian public holiday and some mixed messaging on our part in regards to the pick-up procedure, we put Red Roo’s Sales Management team to a true test.
A test which involved a phone call to Red Roo’s Victorian warehouse and a couple prompt text messages. All from a sales manager out of the office, at home during his day off. On the Queen’s birthday, no less.
It was our mistake and yet, the Red Roo team didn’t leave us hanging and helped sort our issue immediately. And we were extremely grateful.
It was to be the first indication our decision to go with Red Roo was a good one.
It’s powerful and reliable. According to the CMS 100 literature, the heart and soul of the Red Roo CMS 100 is a 31 hp V- Twin Briggs &
Stratton Vanguard petrol engine. If you just read that sentence and felt your pulse race, I dare say you’re far more mechanically inclined than I am. For those, like me, needing a bit more explanation, the Red Roo website has a three-and-a-half-minute video explaining everything. All about the cutting-edge technology and craftsmanship that goes into every Briggs and Stratton design.
But all you REALLY need to know is this: the CMS 100 starts the first time, every time. And better still, it’s a hungry beast that doesn’t flinch in the face of a substantial load.
It’s versatile. As for those substantial loads, we’ve given our Red Roo a real baptism by fire. Tree and bush branches, twigs, sticks, vines, clumps of shrubbery, palm fronds, piles of leaves, small timber offcuts, newspaper, paper cups and plates and cardboard. The CMS is an equal opportunity mulcher/chipper/shredder. So much so, chances are good you’ll find yourself constantly on the hunt for more items to feed it. Or, as the case may be, those items will probably find you. See below.
You’ll make new friends. The same way bringing a puppy to a social gather will tend to make you the life of the party, breaking out your Red Roo CMS 100 is guaranteed to draw a crowd. Inquisitive stares will give way to initial tentative questions. All of which will lead to unavoidable friendly banter. Especially once you’ve turned the ignition key and set the V – twin loose on the neighbourhood. The word will be out. Pruning jobs will never be the same and trips to the tip will be a thing of the past. Like ute drivers the world over have been doing since time immemorial, you may have to learn how to politely say ‘No’.
Maintenance is minimal. You shouldn’t have to know how to strip and rebuild a combustible engine just to do a serious bit of mulching,
chipping and shredding. Thankfully, Red Roo would agree. And the preventative maintenance required for their CMS 100 proves it.
There on the next to last page of the Operation Manual, you find everything you need to keep your Red Roo happy. A full third of a page, to be exact. A measly third page dealing with the location, timing requirements for the grease and lubrication points of the CMS 100.
All four of them. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
It’s been a long time coming but it appears the hard work of so many Southern Beaches Community Garden members has finally paid off. For a while, there’d been talk and plenty of whispers on the grapevine about the expansion of our little community garden. But, as the saying goes, good things come to those that wait. Or, in this case, diligently persevere.
Yet, as the pictures included here can attest to, the wait is over. Eleven and a half years since first being incorporated, expansion is underway.
Back in 2010, equipped with little more than gumption and a lease from Gold Coast City
Councillor Chris Robbins, an agenda was set. To commandeer a plot of land located directly behind the Tugun Community Centre, and turn it into something special.
This being a community garden that would allow for the general sharing of sustainable and environmentally friendly gardening ideas and knowledge. While also serving as an outlet to a healthy lifestyle and an overall better quality of life for the community as a whole.
Just getting the lease would prove a major first hurdle as original plans to set the garden up in Palm Beach were knocked back. Council’s reasoning being, such a plan would never get enough traction to prove successful. But many early members had a vision that they simply wouldn’t allow to be vanquished. Members such as Margo Janes, Chris Ettelbuttel, Mark Bibby and Michael Ratcliffe. And more. Each and everyone who worked relentlessly to get things off the ground.
Such determination would prove instrumental as local council’s scepticism very nearly proved correct once the ground was finally broken in their new Tugun home. Because it’d be then that the approximately 40 ambitious new SBCG members would be confronted with the reality of various obstacles impeding the success of their fledgling community garden.
There being nowhere to store various tools and equipment, members were forced to liaison with neighbours sympathetic to the gardeners’
plans. Neighbours who allowed SBCG materials to be stored on their property during the construction of the garden’s first plots.
And then there was a water issue. The issue being, there simply wasn’t much to be had. At least, none other than from a single spigot located in the middle of the nearby public park located a hundred metres away.
So those early days saw more than their fair share of toil. Like busy ants walking to and fro constructing, filling and watering their new community garden’s plots. Plots that would serve as the initial beachhead for so many to follow.
And follow they have. To the tune of 100 eventual total plots for a present garden membership tally in the vicinity of 150 members.
Members that, over the years have lent their time and energy in helping various organisations accomplish their own agendas. Groups and organisations such as The Thrower House, Blair Athol Homeless Shelter, U3A (University of the Third Age), the Endeavour Foundation, Centrelink and more.
And then there are the community-building efforts of putting on free workshops and attending various annual festivals. Festivals which you can always find SBCG volunteers distributing free seedlings to young and old alike. Events such as the Bleach and Swell Festivals in Coolangatta, the Check It Mental Health Festival in Southport, the Tallebudgera Flood Relief Effort and most recently the Hide and Seek Markets located around the southern Gold Coast.
Eleven and a half years of sharing our community and environmentally friendly driven passion for sustainable gardening. And forging new friendships along the way. Working relationships with the Gold Coast City Council’s Gail O’Neill, the Tweed Pony Club, Somerset College, the Bendigo Tugun Community Bank, Climate Wave Enterprises, Bunnings and countless local community mowing businesses, butchers, builders and nurseries.
So, thank you to everyone that has had a hand in helping bring this special moment to fruition. It’s been a whirlwind ride but one that proves anything is possible.
Costa Georgiadis. If you’ve ever invested even a couple of weeks in attempting to start your own veggie garden, chances are really good you’ve heard of the guy.
The vivacious and exuberant host of ABC’s Gardening Australia, Costa (along with his trademark beard) is a cultural icon of sorts.
In many ways, it could be argued Costa Georgiadis is to gardening in Australia as…
Shane Warne is to cricket
Steve Irwin is to wildlife conservation
And Michael Jordan is to basketball.
Overblown hyperbole? Perhaps. (The affable Costa would probably say as much).
But you get the gist. When Costa speaks, people tune in and take notice.
So when the invitation email from the man to be a part of a live-streamed Facebook event on the topic of beekeeping presented itself, an all-hands-on-deck call went out. All with the intention of bringing everything together for what everyone was certain would be a momentous occasion.
But what eventually played out managed to impress even the most optimistic of expectations. And, if I dare to say, even the expectations of Costa himself.
And truth be told, the SBCG has two main individuals to thank for this.
Peter Davenport, a practising beehive aficionado of close to 35 years. And Dr. Toby Smith, a native bee researcher based out of the University of Queensland.
Following a concise lead-in from SBCG secretary Arch Cruttenden, Peter and Toby would set the day’s Facebook Live Chat feed alight with their knowledge, humour and, most importantly, their passion.
It was a passion shared by the live feed’s other guests. Guests such as The Practical Beekeeper, Benedict Hughes from Melbourne, Victoria. Etymology Ph.D. student Amelie Vanderstock in Japan. And Christine Peterson, a backyard beekeeper out of Townsville, Queensland.
In all, the SBCG section of the nearly 80-minute-long live feed would top out at a little more than sixteen minutes…
But an amazingly stimulating sixteen minutes it was as Peter and Toby really pulled back the curtains on Southeast Queensland’s stingless bees,
Regardless of the method you choose, you’ll be taking a big first step in removing methane-producing green waste from your local landfill.
But that said, this post will focus on the last option from the list above; open enclosure.
Open Enclosure Compost Bins
Open enclosure bins can be constructed of all shapes and sizes. Materials used to build them can include corrugated tin, chicken wire, timber, logs and even discarded pallets.
At the SBCG, our compost bins are approximately 1.5 metre square and have been constructed using extremely sturdy timber. And to help provide easier access for turning and aerating the pile, one side of each compost bin is comprised of removable slats.
Once you’ve decided on the size, building materials and location of where to situate your open enclosure bin, you’re ready to start loading it.
How to Start Composting with your Open Enclosure Bin
STEP 1. Use bare earth as the base of your compost bin. Not only will this allow your compost bin to breathe and drain properly, it will also allow beneficial organisms access to the waste.
STEP 2. On top of the bare earth, line the base of your bin with a generous amount of shredded paper, dry leaves, twigs, or straw. This layer will
further help to aid in the proper drainage as well as provide an inviting place of residence for the organisms that end up calling your compost bin home.
STEP 3. Start adding your green waste in layers remembering to alternate between wet and dry. Wet ingredients include any of your kitchen scraps such as vegetable peelings or tea bags. Dry material can include materials such as leaves, straw, coffee grounds, woodchips or sawdust.
To eliminate strong odours and pests, avoid adding such items as meat, fish, poultry, dairy products and fats such as grease and oils.
STEP 4. Add a nitrogen source to speed the composting process up by activating the compost pile. Green manure is ideal but this can also include grass clippings.
STEP 5. Keep your compost pile damp. Too dry and the contents of your pile won’t break down. Too wet and things will start to smell. Aim for the moisture content of a wrung-out sponge.
STEP 6. Cover your compost pile as needed. You can use wood, scraps of carpet or even a tarp with the goal of retaining the pile’s moisture level and, more importantly, heat.
STEP 7. Periodically turn the pile. Use a pitchfork or shovel every two to three weeks, depending on the size of the pile. Turning the pile aerates it and allows oxygen to work its magic. This oxygen infusion allows an increased number and variety of micro-organisms into the mix and ultimately aids in speeding up the composting process.
How Much Time Does Open Enclosure Bin Composting Require?
How long will it take for your compost pile to be ready to utilise on your garden depends on a few factors.
Factors such as:
The size of you compost bin
What material you put in the pile
How meticulous you are in tending to it
Assuming you’ve followed this list closely, three months is a realistic target for when you can expect your compost to be ready to use.
And by ready, this implies a rich, humus matter that is dark, crumbly and smells like a handful of soil scooped out of a bag of gardening mix.
All of which is a far cry from the alternative of a pile of smelly, methane-producing scraps rotting in your local landfill.
Worm farming or worm composting, as it’s sometimes called, is a magical process. One that involves the use of unique composting worms such as ‘Redwigglers’ to eat and process green, organic waste.
In its place, the worms leave nutrient-rich wee and ‘worm castings’ that are some of nature’s best fertilizer and soil enhancers.
Here at the Southern Beaches Community Garden, you’ll see plenty of examples of worm farms.
Types of Worm Farms
The first and probably most common is the stackable, multi-tiered worm farm.
Another type is the DIY variety. These can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles but two of the most common are large 50 litre, plastic storage
bins or bathtubs.
Regardless of the route you choose to go, it is critical to make sure your DIY worm farm is equipped with adequate ventilation and proper drainage capabilities. Failure to do so can lead to a ‘die-off’ of your worms.
And finally, located beside the SBCG’s propagation tunnel is easily one of the largest industrial options in SE Queensland. The Double Grande from Worms Downunder which, once fully operational, has the capability of processing 40 litres of green waste per day.
No matter what type of worm farm you opt to go with, getting started is straight forward.
First, line the bottom of your container with some cardboard or newspaper. This will be the foundation of your worm farm on which your next layer of actual bedding material will sit.
This bedding material can be finely shredded paper, damp leaves, or, ideally, moist cocopeat. Many store-bought worm farming kits generally include a dehydrated block of cocopeat for you to rehydrate and spread out for your worm farm’s new arrivals.
Once your worms have been placed in the bedding material you’ve chosen to use, cover everything with a ‘worm blanket’, and let your worms get settled in. A worm blanket can really be anything. An old, ratty towel, burlap bag, newspaper, or just an adequately sized piece of cardboard. Pizza boxes work great for this.
As for food, don’t worry. Your bedding material (preferably cocopeat) will both house and feed your worms initially. After a couple of days allowed for settling in, it’s time to start feeding them.
What to Feed Your Worms
The list of what to feed your worms is extensive. Essentially, composting worms will process anything organic (meaning anything once living).
Fruit and vegetable scraps and tea bags are ideal. And, especially when first starting out, make your scraps as ideally digestible as possible since composting worms actually don’t have any teeth. This means chopping, blending, and shredding your scraps. This will help speed up the composting process.
In addition to your green waste input, you should also aim to balance this out with an equal amount of ‘brown’ or carbon-based waste. A few examples of this are moistened materials such as shredded paper, coffee grounds, straw, and even aged horse and cow manure.
Balancing out your green and brown waste you will ensure proper acidity levels of your worm farm are maintained.
Foods to avoid feeding your worms include raw or cooked meat and fish, chilis, bread, cake, pasta and rice, citrus products, onion and garlic, and dairy products such as milk and cheese.
Tips to Remember
When starting out, remember to NOT OVERFEED your worms. Overfeeding is the leading cause of die-offs of worms when starting a worm farm.
Worms can eat half their bodyweight in food. So, if you’re starting out with a kilogram of worms, 500 grams of food would be the maximum you’d want to feed your worms per day.
And only once your worms have been allowed a sufficient settling in time period to adjust to their new home.
So go slow and monitor the feeding progress of your worms. Once they’ve processed at least half their food, they’ll be ready for more.
And your worm farming career will be well and truly underway.
A week following our big day, an even bigger day–in the form of a Red Wriggler Homecoming–was in store for the Southern Beaches Community Garden.
It’d be then, on Thursday, March 5th—amidst grey skies and torrential rain—Tom Symmons from Worms Downunder (based out of Chandler, QLD) would arrive with the SBCG’s newest, most anticipated members in tow.
Worms. But not just any worms.
Red wiggler composting worms. Lots and lots of them.
Five kilograms or, to be a bit more precise, something in the vicinity of 20,000 worms.
Delivered and spread out amidst their moist cocopeat and straw bedding inside the SBCG’s Double Grande Worm Habitat, the red wigglers would begin their settling in process.
It was an impressive sight, seeing those little magical creepy crawlies set loose in their new home. But, not nearly as impressive as the Red Wigglers themselves. At least, according to the incredibly thorough and enlightening literature provided in the Worms Downunder information pack.
For example, did you know the worms:
Breathe through their skin as they don’t have any lungs
Are hermaphrodites (they all have both male and female reproductive organs)
Are sensitive to light to the point where paralysis can occur within one hour
Can die if their skin becomes too dry
Cannot regulate their body temperature as they’re cold-blooded
In addition to body temperature, ambient temperature plays a major factor in the rate at which the Red Wigglers feed. Too high or too low a
temperature takes the worms out of their ideal comfort zone, greatly reducing the amount of food they consume.
However, in an ideal, well-maintained environment, Red Wigglers are capable of eating anywhere from 50 to 100% of their body weight in organic matter PER DAY.
So it stands to reason, then, the more worms, the better.
And the best part…?
You don’t have to worry about having to cull any of your Red Wiggler worm population as the little critters are as clever as they are hungry. Clever in that their reproduction is self-regulated in direct proportion to the size of their environment.
Regulated to the point where, in ideally maintained conditions, the worms can double their numbers once every three months.
Which, for the SBCG’s Double Grande Worm Habitat, will eventually equate to 80,000 Red Wigglers…
All doing their part in processing upwards of 40 litres of green waste a day, producing nutrient, soil-enriching worm ‘castings’ and helping to remove vast quantities of methane producing green waste from our local landfills.
A win-win for the SBCG and the local community alike.
If you wanted an example of community in action, a visit to your nearest community garden would be as ideal a stop as any.
And Tugun’s Southern Beaches Community Garden would be no exception. From garden beds which need building, grounds that need tending, compost bins that need turning and pony poo runs that need manning…
There’s plenty of work of the volunteer variety to go around. And, yet, that would only be half of the ‘community in action’ story.
Because, without funding from generous donors, all that work doesn’t even get off the ground. And in the case of the SBCG, chances are extremely good that generous donor would be the Tugun Branch of Bendigo Bank.
Yes, since the garden’s inception in 2009, Tugun’s Bendigo Bank has offered the garden’s members and the community, in general, its unwavering support. A level of community support that is extremely rare.
And one person that knows this better than anyone is Bendigo’s Tugun Branch Manager, Allan Merlehan.
So, that said, we at the SBCG wanted to show our gratitude by giving Allan the floor. To give him the opportunity to answer a few questions and, in doing so, to shed a little light on the banking mindset that has helped to separate and distinguish themselves from the rest of the banking, big player herd.
All while simultaneously helping the SBCG grow as much as it has.
So, Allan, how long have you worked for the Tugun Branch of Bendigo Bank? As a banker in general?
I’ve been at Tugun for I0 years and in finance for a total of 36.
Was there anything overly unique or special about the bank that sort of drew you to the place?
The ‘Community’ focus was one aspect and the other was they had bank managers with authority in their branches, so you had decision-makers at ground-level.
Having worked there for as long as you have, what do you feel makes Bendigo Bank different from other banks?
The bank’s focus on the customer & the community.
On average, how much does Bendigo Bank put back into the community each year?
Our branch directly sponsors about $90k.
When do you remember first hearing about the Southern Beaches Community Garden and how has the Tugun Branch been involved with the garden?
I heard about them very soon after I arrived in Tugun in January 2010. Since then our Tugun Community Bank Branch has provided over $32,000 in funding to assist with projects such as the propagation tunnel, water tanks, a covered seating area and a trailer. Our directors and staff have also volunteered in a working bee.
What were your first impressions of the organisation?
They immediately came across as a group of determined people wanting to improve their local community.
Since then, what have you found most interesting or impressive about the garden?
How the garden has continued to evolve from the initial concept 10 years ago to what it is today.
Do you find any similarities between the goals of your bank and the SBCG?
The goal of connecting with your local community & endeavouring to make a difference.
After so much involvement with the garden, what are your thoughts as you walk around the grounds that, over the years, you’ve had such a significant hand in helping to shape?
I believe it is the members who have had a significant hand in shaping the garden into what it is today. We have assisted where we can, but it is the determination and hard work of the committee and the members of the SBCG that has brought that concept 10 years ago into a reality.
Of Bendigo Bank’s Tugun Branch’s many contributions to the local community, is there one that makes you most proud? If so, which one and why?
I am proud of all our contributions in the community, whether that is in a dollar value, the sharing of knowledge or the volunteering of time. It’s not so much the contribution, but what it enables others to do, that makes a difference for our community.
Compliments of MP Karen Andrews’ Communities Environment Grant, once set up and fully operational, the Double Grande Worm Farm Habitat will be ready to handle upwards of 40 litres of green waste per day.
In doing so, the Double Grande will help remove approximately 3 tonnes of biodegradable waste from landfill per
All while creating soil enriching worm castings considered by many to be some of the best all-natural fertiliser found anywhere.
Yes, the excitement and anticipation was real.
Real enough to create an adrenaline fuelled, engineering inspired epiphany of sorts. One that would see the garden’s new 200 kilo worm farm put on three rollers and pushed and navigated through tight quarters the last 25 metres…
Eventually into position at its permanent home beside the SBCG propagation tunnel located in front of the garden clubhouse.
And it’d be there where, five hours later, the Worms Downunder owner would take the helm by giving various garden members, along with an inquisitive Karen Andrews herself, an in-depth tour and description of the community garden’s newest attraction.
It would take a bit of imagination on everyone’s part. This, because the process of properly setting up and wetting
down the habitat’s straw and coco peat’s bedding requires that the worms be delivered at a later date.
But even so, the combination of the habitat’s various moving parts coupled with Jen’s thoroughly informative talk on vermiculture painted a picture that kept everyone fascinated.
All of which proved the perfect segue for a private garden tour for the MP and her assistants compliments of SBCG President Marian Evans.
A tour which, once complete, would see the MP’s party departing with a couple potted plants as mementos of their time at the SBCG.
And the SBCG with rewarding memories of their own.
And more importantly, with the inclination to get their Double Grande Worm Habitat running at maximum capacity as quickly and effectively as possible.