Garden growing ties

The Purple Patch.

By Casey Neill

A Mount Evelyn garden has brought together teens from Ranges TEC and adults with disabilities.

Melba Support Services’ Kerry Kift said the community garden concept came from a Mount Evelyn ideas night in 2016.

Yarra Hills Secondary College had a garden space they were no longer using and it became The Purple Patch, “named because the vegetables that are grown with the purple colour are of most health benefit to us”.

Community member Jacques is passionate about growing fresh food for communities and took a lead role.

“He is a wealth of knowledge about all things garden,” Ms Kift said.

Melba joined him, and set about clearing out blackberries and other weeds.

“We needed a space to grow our vegetables for the Able Bake House,” Ms Kift said.

Last year, The Purple Patch received a small Yarra Ranges Council grant to buy equipment, but one of the main issues with the garden space was it was not accessible to all people.

So Melba made contact with Ranges TEC and Year 10 students made it their mission to make access for all abilities possible.

They raised garden beds and put in a gravel path with a wheelchair turning circle, and raised more than $6000 in donations.

They spent five to six hours a week there every week for seven months.

Tyler, 16, said each student had a role to play.

“We’re all very proud of what we’ve done,” he said.

Everyone involved in the project came together in the garden on Wednesday 14 November to celebrate the partnership.

Melba support worker Tara Mitchell said Adam was among the 16 Melba clients who attended the garden each week and had grown rosemary plants from cuttings.

“He loves being outside in the sun and with all the different smells,” she said.

“When I came up here last it was dull, it was all overgrown.”

Ms Kift said what the students had been able to create was something quite amazing.

“They have called in family members with backhoes, they have worked alongside the people we support and listened to exactly what is needed,” she said.

“They worked on a garden plan with the input from Jacques.

“We now have a fully accessible garden with raised garden beds that is thriving, with another five community members coming on board to rent a plot.

“The garden will be used to grow fresh fruit and vegetables for our community with surplus produce being made into community meals.

“This is another example of when we all work together combining all our individual skill sets great things can be achieved.”

Melba is looking for a volunteer for a couple of hours a week to oversee its plots within the community garden.

Call 9212 0117 or email