Women In Agriculture, North West Plains Sustainability Group To Form New Garden Club During Extreme Drought

Rural gardeners unite for human, community and environmental health near Walgett, NSW.

Last weekend I was delighted to speak to a regional gathering of gardeners between Walgett and Carinda, NSW. People came from Lightning Ridge, Yeoval, Moree, Cobar and Cumnock to visit Loretta’s rural garden. As we sat in the shade of almost century old Queensland bottle trees, we heard how garden owner Loretta had lost three gardens to drought but had used the experiences to create more durable replacements.

Cumberdoon Way, Walgett.

Women in Agriculture and North West Plains Sustainability Group organised this event in a region greatly affected by the worst drought in living memory.

One speaker, Kylie, described the highs and lows of gardening on gibber in Quilpie, outback Queensland. This is a landscape of remnant, wind-polished stones left after all traces of soil have been blown away. Challenging enough even in good times…but when your waterhole dries out there’s only room for hard-headed decisions.

When you’ve grown through nearly 100 years of Walgett weather, you deserve a hug!

My challenge was sharing knowledge of and experiences with sustainable gardening solutions in extreme environments and how best to establish new gardens in the region’s current conditions.

We were united in seeing gardening as a great way to alleviate anxiety and bring the community together in tough times. We had planned for 50 – 80 to attend, but 140 gardeners registered. An indication of how valuable our gardens are, and how practical regional gatherings like this can be for our mental and spiritual health and our sense of community.

140 gardeners came from north west NSW.

I took a range of twenty climate appropriate plant species from my garden for people to trial, such as Cuban frangipani (Plumeria filifolia) and Ombu, aka Beautiful shade (Phytolacca dioica) and Burn jelly plant (Bulbine frutescens). After all, when there’s more carbon dioxide pollution in our atmosphere than has ever existed since humans evolved, all life on Earth is now experimental. So why not experiment?

At the end of the gathering, the most exciting thing happened: they want to form their own regional gardening club.

What a fantastic result!

Poplar box grassy woodland, Cumberdoon Way, near Walgett.

Jerry Coleby-Williams
Director, Seed Savers’ Network Inc.
Patron, National Toxics Network Inc.
16th April 2019