High up on the roof of The Wayside Chapel is a 200 square metre garden filled with over 50 different varieties of organic fruit, herbs and vegetables. The garden – boasting sweeping views across the parklands and the CBD – is a community space where disadvantaged people and local residents can work together, sharing skills and supporting each other to nurture a vast array of plants.
Opened in July 2011as part of Wayside’s $8.2million redevelopment, the garden features the latest in sustainable design and architecture. It has two rainwater tanks, solar panels, two worm farms, a compost system, five European bee-hives and a native bee hive. Growing organic produce is only a small part of the reason for gardening at Wayside. The wider purpose of the garden is to create community, teach living skills, practice sustainability, engage with our neighbours and beautify Kings Cross.
The garden provides the opportunity for Wayside visitors to be part of an initiative that yields a sense of belonging, pride and satisfaction. Cared for by participants in Day to Day Living, a program which provides support to people living with long-term mental health issues, the garden allows people to learn new vocational skills, gain confidence and enjoy the restorative benefits of gardening. Many participants will never have the chance to have a garden of their own and take enormous pride in tending to Wayside’s green space. Each week, participants plant new seedlings and harvest produce with assistance from skilled volunteers.
Sustainability is a huge focus of the garden. Scraps from the café and cooking classes are collected for the worm farm and compost bins on the rooftop. Worm juice and compost is then used to fertilize the garden. When ripe, organic vegetables, fruit and herbs are used in nutritious means cooked onsite and served in Wayside’s bustling ground-floor café. Produce is also used in the cooking classes delivered as part three core programs – Day to Day Living, the Aboriginal Project and Wayside Youth. People learn about the lifecycle of plants and nothing is wasted.
The garden features five beehives, the first of which was installed in 2012. Each hive has 40,000 to 50,000 worker bees producing more than 30 kilograms of honey a year. In October 2014, we welcomed 2,000 native bees called 'Tetragonula Carbonaria'. The native bees are tiny and can get into flowers and places that the European bees can't. The Wayside bees play an important role in pollinating plants in a five-kilometre radius from the hive. This takes in the Wayside vegetable garden, the nearby Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, Centennial Park and smaller gardens on balconies and other rooftops.
The rooftop garden has become the pride and joy of many Wayside visitors and supporters, including Wayside Ambassadors Indira Naidoo. Indira is a gardening expert, broadcaster and author of the best-selling book The Edible Balcony. She shares her passion for reconnecting with nature through gardening during a weekly gardening class for Day to Day Living.
“The garden is a haven. A lot of hard work has gone into it and it’s a great little place to get away and relax. The garden has come to life over the last couple of months. I enjoy seeing it grow and the little vegetables are great. I’ve had a bite of the odd lettuce leaf and they’re full of flavour. I was homeless there for a while. I was living on the trains and I got myself into a lot of trouble and was in dire straits; my own fault. Wayside helped me. I became involved in the garden and I feel completely at home here.” – Alan, Day to Day Living Participant
You can make a donation to help keep our garden flourishing here.
The Day to Day Living Program is supported by financial assistance from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.