Annual General Meeting November 2015 

In my first report as President of Mosman Community Gardeners I wish to express my thanks to the Committee and members for their support, dedication and encouragement during this year. From sorting out the many problems arising from the building of the Honeysuckle Nursery to staffing the market stalls and rolling the new water tank into place, the adage of many hands making light work has prevailed and all successfully completed. Thank you.

The highlights of this year have been many and varied. We have had our monthly meetings in the solar powered Rotunda at Mackie Lane since May, with other groups enjoying the facilities throughout the year.   We helped celebrate the launch of Landcare in the Curriculum at Beauty Point Public School in late November 2014, the fruition of one of our early outreach programs organised by Mel Tyas of NPWS.  Both gardens have continued to produce abundant harvests, exemplified in the Picnic BBQ in September where we amazed ourselves with the amount and variety of salads we were able to assemble.

Not only have the twice-weekly working bees and almost daily watering of both gardens gone ahead, and the Sunday socials there have been many extra curricula activities; Botanical Art Classes organised through Mosman Community College. Attendees were enticed with this description; “ Mackie Lane Community Garden is a hidden oasis in Mosman bursting with flowers, vegetables and ornamentals giving the artist a rich variety of patterns and textures to work with.”

There was a Photography workshop and “Attracting Birds, bees and butterflies to your garden” hosted by Loani from Mosman Council.  CEFE held a BBQ meeting in February.

Throughout April poppy making workshops were held to commemorate this very special Anzac Day. We knitted, crocheted and fashioned poppies from felt and the resultant poppies were displayed at Mackie Lane.  One of the attendees, Jill Swart, a well-known local artist, gave us photocopies of photos she has of her father and Uncle who both served in WW1, which added a very personal touch to our tribute. Some of our poppies went to Glengarry Twilight Care who formed the poppies into the number 100, as it was also Glengarry’s Centenary.

Gill Lee gave a talk on MCG’s achievements to the Fairlight Precinct, a group which has recently formed and which has been given a parcel of land to convert to a vegetable garden.  The talk, with photos, is available should anyone know of a group who would enjoy hearing of our transition from meetings with no land to running two successful gardens and helping others start theirs along the way.

Extra working bees preceded the markets in June and July where over 100 leeks on each occasion were prepared and distributed along with herbs and advice.  A bonus was being given bamboo shopping bags and vegetable nets to hand out by Julia Lee, Mosman Council’s Environmental Sustainability Officer as a perfect complement to our stall.  In July Jill Harrison made us terrariums to raffle, a very successful idea.

Middle Head gardeners attended a Volunteers’ celebration at Middle Head, where we could show off the garden to the many volunteers involved with caring for penguins, bushcare and the many other opportunities at NPWS.

September saw Elizabeth, Tina and I attend Council Chambers to collect the grant cheque.  This was a superb opportunity to let those other successful applicants know all about MCG.

As part of Mosman Festival we hosted the Picnic BBQ at Mackie Lane, with the opportunity to try salads fresh from the garden.  As an expansion of our Sunday socials, it proved to be most enjoyable and will be repeated. I often say that we garden because we enjoy eating good, locally grown, fresh food and this occasion was a perfect example.

The Community Groups Forum, an initiative by Mosman Rotary and Mosman Council, to bring the many disparate groups in Mosman together, culminated in a showcase of the various groups at the Mosman Festival and many new connections were made.

There were visits from the Northern Nursery, representatives from Yates, and Loani brought with students working on verge gardens.  Anyone arriving unexpectedly at either garden is always given a warm welcome and a tour and praise is always forthcoming.

Loani asked MCG to attend the Children’s Fair, held in Children’s week and despite the short notice, Kerry, Gill & I soon sorted out seedlings of beans, zucchini and lettuce to hand out, with sunflower seeds to sow.  We attracted a lot of interest but instead of taking our brochures, which are expensive to produce, the young Mums (mostly) took photos of our website.

We continue, on a monthly basis, to provide flowers and foliage for the Carer’s Café, held in the Seniors’ Centre. This ranges from leek flowers to sweet peas as we pick anything we think will cheer up the room, attract attention and invoke fond memories.

Thanks to Chris Lee, we now have solar power in the Rotunda for lighting and to power the pump for the small water tanks, blinds to keep out the weather and the latest addition, the 14,500 litre water tank.  Chris had left for Africa by the time the tank arrived but had all the piping laid and the base completed, so Peter, Philip, Matt and Derek, ably assisted by Gill, Kerry and me just had to roll it into place, fit the pipes to flow into it and connect the tap, all completed just before a thunderstorm. The new fence erected by Honeysuckle Nursery is excellent for trailing wires for climbing plants; choko, hops, passionfruit and zucchinis so far. There was some storm damage earlier in the year, especially to the Kids’ Cottage scarecrow but as gardens do, it took it all in its stride and continued to produce happily.  We have had a magnificent crop of potatoes this year, which has produced wonderful friable soil ready for the next planting.  The broadbeans were delicious; the garlic has been harvested and is drying and the Summer crops of tomatoes, beans, lettuce, herbs and capsicum already established.

Middle Head always has something of a struggle with the native wildlife; the popular plant this year being parsley.  The broadbeans have again been spectacular; we enjoyed the crop over many weeks. Potatoes were grown successfully in bags standing on a disused bed for perfect drainage and the soil was used as fertiliser in another bed for a new crop. Golden beetroot and celery thrived to be eaten at the Festival event and the garlic is drying. The tomatoes are doing well, we’ve sampled the artichokes, the beans are well on their way and other Summer crops have been planted. Composting proved a steep learning curve when a company catering at Chowder Bay asked to add to our compost.  Since this was everything left over and extremely wet Elizabeth had to call on all her experience to turn it into something useful, but she did. Recycled boards repaired our garden beds where the old ones had rotted.  This peaceful haven has proven to be a beautiful site for a garden over the last five years. Long may it continue.

I must thank the organisations who continue to support MCG: Ausgrid for continuing use of Mackie Lane garden and water costs: Midas Centre for the use of power, their toilet, the rain from the roof and being good neighbours: Mosman Council for yearly Grants and always thinking of us when suitable events arise: Mosman Rotary for covering the costs of the blinds for the Rotunda, after their generous help with the actual construction: Mosman Daily for their article on the solar power: Honeysuckle Nursery for the fence: NPWS for allowing Middle Head garden to continue: Mosman Climate Challenge Group for a donation on cessation: Fairlight Precinct for a donation for a talk by Gill Lee: John and Sandra Nelson for water tanks and a pump: CEFE for donation.

There is a shadow over the Middle Head garden as there are development plans as yet undetermined.  Mel Tyas has said nothing should happen for another 8 months.  Our resolve is to wait and see what transpires and to keep the garden green and growing for as long as possible.

After four years, Mackie Lane has power, shelter, shade and water, a great achievement. Beds may need to be refurbished and our main lack is of a toilet, but who knows, perhaps that will be the next Council Grant application.  This last may depend on whether Mosman continues to be a stand alone Council or will be forced into a merger with others.  A merger may affect our relationship with Council, which at present is mutually beneficial.  All we can do, again, is wait and see.

Although we attract a lot of attention when we attend events such as the markets, functions and visits this doesn’t always translate into more members, which is something we need to work towards in 2016. There are very many tasks associated with making our gardens so productive from planning ahead for plantings to preparing the soil and the most pleasurable, harvesting. More members will result in a more evenly division of tasks and make our gardening a more pleasurable experience.  Help make it happen.

Having said that, our two beautiful gardens couldn’t function without our hardworking members.  Whether your attendance is regular or sporadic your involvement and commitment are crucial to the wonderful produce to share that is the end result.

The calendar year ends with the MCG Christmas party on Sunday 13th December at Mackie Lane and the NPWS one on Thursday 10th December. I hope to see you at one or both events and offer my very best wishes for the coming season and look forward to what 2016 will bring.

Lilian Andrew

President November 18th 2015