Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

As ye sow, so shall ye scrub

by Karin Geiselhart, April 2010

Gardening can be a rewarding and peaceful activity. It offers an endless and pleasurable learning curve (unlike cleaning, for a different domestic comparison).

Even mundane activities like weeding and fertilising contribute to the whole, and are therefore part of the meditation of gardening.

But what happens when the time needed to get it even partly right outweighs the time available to tend to those fruit trees and veggies?

A few months ago, visiting an almost unbelievably productive garden in O’Connor, it struck me that harvesting and cooking or preserving all that wonderful vegetation would be nearly a full time task.

The photo I have attached illustrates my dilemma, which is probably echoed by each devoted gardener at some point or another. (you will have to click on it to see.)

I can grow decent carrots. The crop would have been better if I’d thinned them as seedlings, but that step got missed. Now I am harvesting them, and last week made a fine Indian carrot soup from my successful effort.

However, it must have taken me a full half hour just to clean those freshly harvested carrots. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, and it gave me a bit more appreciation for the convenience of supermarkets and the already trimmed and sorted and cleaned produce they offer us for such a small sum.

And that brought me back to a long held desire: for working community gardens that work with, rather than against, commercial considerations. Clearly we are paying in some way for the additional labor and machinery to clean and present fresh veggies.

Where could the balance be struck between local employment for people who would fill the gap between the devoted home gardener and the fully scaled up commercial producer. One has almost no food miles but almost no economies of scale. The other is seldom sustainably produced, and uses lots of additional inputs that maybe could be managed better.

A survey of Sydney r4evealed that few people have much of an idea about where their food comes from or how it is produced. That would include myself.

But I also know that as the population ages, few people will be able to maintain their own intensive gardening. All the recent talk about population has concentrated on economic infrastructure. What about the social infrastructure of local food production? That is also economic, but part of a bigger picture. I would like my food purchases to contribute to that holistic approach to Canberra’s future, even if my individual labors in my yard will remain limited and more in the nature of a hobby.

With thanks to our


  • ACT Government Environment and Planning
  • The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT (AISACT)
  • Catholic Education Office (Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn)
  • Education and Training Directorate
  • ACT Government