If you’re in Sydney and haven’t yet heard about ‘The Grounds’ in Alexandria then you’re best advised to check it out! Not only is the interior genuinely impressive, the exterior is equally engaging. From my perspective, there’s a great story to be told about the principles that connect these two elements. A Greener Pathway
Located at the corner of Bourke and Huntley Streets in Alexandria there’s no doubt The Grounds is Sydney’s latest must visit (and revisit) establishment. As a redeveloped heritage warehouse The Grounds is an innovative use of indoor and outdoor space with an equal focus on sustainably grown food from the kitchen-garden and also their own roasted coffee and bakery products.
While every aspect of the interior is indeed beautiful and deserving of a visit for indulgent viewing alone, it is the story behind the chef’s menu that is the focus of my attention this week. Essentially the chef’s kitchen serves everything grown in the surrounding planting beds, and that’s no-mean-feat given the planting area used to create this kitchen-garden is about the same size space as the average Australian backyard planting area! Herein lies today’s story – as unlikely as a small space kitchen-garden is in industrial Alexandria, this just goes to prove that any of us, no matter how small our available space, can tend to our own kitchen-garden.
Horticulturalist Erin Martin of A Greener Pathway, driven by his love of permaculture and sustainable growing practices, both established and tends to this site. From a personal perspective Erin’s passion for small space gardening started with the growing of herbs and vegetables on a north facing balcony in Sydney’s Redfern, then subsequently expanded to encompass a business serving Sydney and surrounds. Fundamentally Erin’s mission is to educate people on the benefits of growing fruit and vegetables at home, with a broader aim to change how we all view fresh organic produce, everyday.
Within the existing and allocated outdoor space at The Grounds, the brief for the creation of the kitchen-garden was to sustainably grow as much organic produce as possible. This being the case each of us might be guided by the following approach:
- consider the available space for planting in terms of square metres, orientation, access and drainage (even if you’re planting in balcony pots or on a window ledge, the same principles apply)
- estimate the produce required for your seasonal menu preferences. At The Grounds this includes among other things, percentages of tarragon, rocket and spring onion (for us at home we might easily just have rocket and tomatoes)
- based on the available space, calculate (and plot) the actual measurements that will be required per plant-type selected
- apply companion planting principles (for example mint and parsley shouldn't be planted together at all as they just won't take but basil and tomato should always be planted together as they'll flourish)
- plan crop rotation requirements (when it’s time to eat all your lettuce, plan to plant some peas to balance the nitrogen levels in the soil i.e. lettuce removes nitrogen and peas return nitrogen)
- ensure you’ve used all available space, ideally in a way that is aesthetically pleasing. At The Grounds, white and black muscat grapes grow on young vines which will be on the menu in 18 months time. Many citrus trees and one cumquat tree (cumquat it is an acquired taste!) are maturing and a whole bed of flourishing edible flowers exist to be picked every morning to dress the plates.
No matter how small your space, starting to grow your own herbs, fruits and vegetables is easier than you think, especially when you consider that the biggest failing of most gardens is that they’re not watered enough…
Did you know that herbs grow just as fast as they are snipped? A few more tips for the budding veggie patch growers…
- for north facing space owners: tomatoes love the sun, as do basil and spring onion
- for south facing space owners: herbs don’t like the sun so plant dill, coriander, chives and green leafy things like spinach
When it comes to fertiliser always look into the N/P/K ratio:
Nitrogen (N) – for leafy growth
Potassium (P) – for fruiting growth
Phosphorus (K) – for root growth
Erin’s advice is to start small and bear in mind that there is a solution to every problem, so don’t shy away from emailing him directly! You can get in touch with Erin online: www.agreenerpathway.com.au
Rennae Long (twitter.com/@int_insider)