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Green Thumbs of the Northern Rivers

At Achieve Australia’s homes in Casino, enthusiastic gardeners have been putting their green thumbs to work lately with some impressive results.

The Northern Rivers region of New South Wales is blessed with a subtropical climate and rich soils, making it the ideal place to garden. At Achieve Australia’s homes in Casino, enthusiastic gardeners have been putting their green thumbs to work lately with some impressive results.

Service Manager, Karen Moore-Evans, says recent gardening projects have inspired both clients and staff. “The four people we support at Frances Street have different support needs, so it has been a chance to build a new garden that everyone could get involved in and enjoy,” explains Karen. “We don’t have to go to the shops to buy produce as much either since we are growing a lot of our own food.”

At the Frances Street home, the team started by removing an old hedge in the garden to make room for some vegetable garden beds. The people we support then got involved in planting seeds, maintaining the gardens and watering the plants with support from staff as needed.

Today several flourishing patches are filled with seasonal fruits and vegetables, including zucchini, tomatoes, squash, cabbage, pumpkin, watermelon, strawberries and much more. Along with keen gardeners, the team say the secret to their success is the alpaca manure from a staff member’s farm.

Over at the house on Hickey Street in Casino, the gardens have also been receiving lots of care and attention. Originally created during Achieve Australia’s Creating Home Competition in 2018, the garden at Hickey Street has continued to develop and thrive under the watchful eye of client, Matthew Lohman.

The garden beds thriving at Achieve Australia's Hickey Street location
The garden beds are thriving at Hickey Street. Credit: Achieve Australia

“We started out with just a couple of fruits trees. Now, there’s an Indigenous totem pole, waterproof artworks, a bird bath, fruit trees, vegies and renovated outdoor furniture,” says Service Coordinator for Casino, Shawn Gill. “It’s all been created by the team and the people we support, but mostly championed by one person, Matthew Lohman, who is an avid gardener.”

Every day you can find Matthew out in the garden, tending to and watering the plants and lawns. “The garden is a bit of therapy for Matthew,” says Shawn. “Everyone else enjoys sitting out in the garden on a sunny day or when family and friends come to visit.”

There are many benefits to getting out into the garden to either build your own vegie patch or to nurture some potted plants if space is an issue. Stress relief, exercise, healthy eating and increasing our connection to nature are just some of the known health and wellbeing benefits to gardening.

Gardens can also be a sensory experience for people. “The gardens are beneficial for people who may not be as involved in the planting or watering. Everyone can still enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of the garden,” says Karen.

The benefits also extend to the kitchen where new recipes using the seasonal produce are encouraging home cooking and healthy eating. Right now, there are plenty of zucchinis in the garden and zucchini fritters have been one delicious item on the menu.

The gardening project in Casino is reaping great rewards for all involved. Great produce, teamwork, sense of achievement and pride. Why not give gardening a go?

Find out more about Achieve Australia at achieveaustralia.org.au/home

This feature first appeared in Travel Without Limits magazine. You can subscribe here.

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