Tucked away behind the Auburn Centre for Community, something big is happening.  On what used to be an old bowling green, slowly but surely, an edible forest is starting to come to life. It’s called the Friendship Garden and its giving locals not only an opportunity to learn and practice gardening, but it has become an invaluable social tool.

Dominic Vartuli is the Garden Coordinator of the Auburn Friendship Garden. He worked in high school and adult education for almost 35 years before retiring and studying permaculture design. He is also a history buff, an experienced technical drawer and has a keen interest in economics and demographics. With all this knowledge and experience, he is the perfect person to lead the way for this innovative Western Sydney garden space.

Dominic Auburn Friendship Garden

The garden is particularly important because of the service it provides to the large refugee community of Auburn. These are people who have experienced hardships that many of us would not even be able to comprehend. For many of them, the garden is a healing space and a place to develop friendships and celebrate each other’s cultures. 

Auburn Friendship Garden Auburn Friendship Garden Auburn Friendship Garden

With all this in mind, Dominic has planned a multicultural garden. There are plants that represent the homelands of the gardeners, such as pomegranates and olive trees for those from the Middle East and Europe. There are also loads of herbs and vegetables such as broccoli, eggplant, spinach, zucchini, radish and lettuce.

Auburn Friendship Garden Auburn Friendship Garden Auburn Friendship Garden

Auburn Friendship Garden Auburn Friendship Garden Auburn Friendship Garden

But it is not just about what is grown, it’s about how it’s done. Dominic has placed a strong emphasis on using natural and sustainable gardening techniques. Some of the methods he uses include:

  • Orienting the canopy and garden beds towards the sun to trap energy
  • Guild planting so that every cluster of plants benefits each other, whether it be as a natural pesticide or to provide each other with nutrients
  • Sheet mulching to maximise the nutrients in the ground

There is also a strong emphasis on using recycled materials. For example, he has used an old bathtub and a door to create a worm farm and unwanted sheets of cardboard from a local warehouse for sheet mulching. On top of that, he also collects horse manure from Rosehill Racecourse, sugar cane offcuts from a farm in Luddenham and spinach offcuts from a Gozleme factory in Merrylands to use as mulch.

Auburn Friendship Garden Auburn Friendship Garden Auburn Friendship Garden

Dominic believes that “the purpose of the garden is to grow fruit and vegetables, but also to provide a social benefit” as well as being a place to “empower individuals”. From what we’ve seen, the Friendship Garden has certainly achieved this already and we are excited to see how it continues to grow.

Auburn Friendship Garden Auburn Friendship Garden Auburn Friendship Garden

If you would like to become a volunteer gardener or have any recycled materials that you think the garden may be able to use, such as sandstone, carpet offcuts or organic mulch contact call 9735 1222.

Auburn Friendship Garden Auburn Friendship Garden Auburn Friendship Garden

The Friendship Garden is located at the Auburn Centre of Community: 44A Macquarie Road Auburn 2144.

Note: The Friendship Garden is only open to volunteer gardeners to pick from; however there is a perennial herb garden that is open to all visitors of the Auburn Centre for Community. 

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