Lismore Community Garden was ticking away nicely until, Thursday 30th March when the monster flood began which has devastated the garden and our equipment to a large degree. The flood peaked at around 5pm on 31st March which left only the tops of the trees at the preschool visible. The flood water went right over the roof of the compound and our rainwater tank. The garden remained under water for two days so all of the veggies were ruined.
We began the clean up on Monday morning after the water had receded over the weekend. It was an overwhelming task at the beginning and a lot of items were put out for collection by the Council. Everything was covered in flood mud and some of us just wanted to throw the whole lot out. Others were quite keen to wash some things for keeping. By the end of the first week, the clean up process was going well. We have lost quite a few things that simply floated out of the compound – water cart, buckets, worm farm, straw bales,the list goes on. Pete has made a list and taken photographs of all the items we threw out which were ruined by the flood water.
Many thanks goes to Bruce and Martin who came over to the garden on the rainy Thursday and removed the batteries from our stand alone solar system. Bruce also bolted down the container and it managed to stay in its place.
I came over to the garden with my son Ollie at 12.30am on the rainy Friday also and at that stage the eastern side of the garden was impassable with water. Access was still possible from Brewster St so we managed to retrieve one lawn mower, whipper snipper, power tools and accessories, guitar and the files from the cabinet. The water was up to our knees inside the compound and it was raining hard. Of course it had all happened so quickly that most of us were caught off guard.
The assistance we have been given since the flood has been amazing! From the generosity of our volunteers coming in to help clean up, supporters of the garden donating much needed clean items, the firies pressure hosing off the roof including the underside, Rotary donating new soil, the people from Sydney who came to help move that soil into beds, people cooking food for us, pizza delivered to us during the first week, offers of funding efforts to help us re-start the garden and the tireless efforts of our volunteers.
So, five weeks later it is amazing to see what has grown back ( cassava, nasturtiums, chives, yarrow, asparagus, Japanese egg plant, rosellas, tarragon, bay tree and self-seeded (lettuces, basil, coriander, endives, borage tomatoes). Actually some things seemed to really enjoy being drowned and have come back quickly and strongly: vetiver grass, strawberries, comfrey and garlic chives.
I took samples of our garden soil, flood mud and water from the main tank to the Environmental Analysis Laboratory at SCU for testing. After a phone discussion with the manager there, it is my understanding that the garden soil is not a concern because the heavy metal levels are within acceptable limits. The coliform levels are able to be mitigated by aeration and exposure to the sun and since we have covered our beds with fresh soil to a depth of at least 30 cms, we should not have any problems with contamination. He suggested that any root crops should be washed thoroughly before eating.
The tank water however, has marginally elevated levels of bacteria and should not be used for drinking. Water can be treated and tank can be cleaned. Health department guidelines state that water used for irrigating leafy vegetables water must have nil level of coliforms. However, the sun would kill most of the bacteria. Faecal coliforms could be from birds droppings which may have been present before the flood if birds land on the roof. According to the information which was sent to me from the lab, boiling the water on a rolling boil for 2 minutes at least, should take care of this.
Volunteers have planted some seedlings and seeds in the last few weeks and we hope to supplement this soon with an event which will invite people to bring edible plants to the garden to plant out and water. This will bring a closer connection with the community and the garden.
The electricity is back on at the garden. Thanks to George, Bruce, Martin and Pete for their assistance there. We are looking to source another fridge soon.
Some of our projects have been put back of course. The pressing need at the moment is to have the water tank cleaned and re-filled either with rainwater or town water. Then we can continue to water the garden and clean our equipment as well as wash up kitchen items hygienically.
We held another successful Autumn Equinox event on Saturday 18th March where there was a good variety of seeds, plants and produce available. The ground was saturated from the week’s rain so the set up was outside the compound and that worked well.