6 April 2022

During the pandemic, some people turned to baking, others to knitting. One SIL house in Sydney turned to gardening!

Two men outside gardening.

The impacts of lockdowns during the pandemic have been hard for most of us, but for a group of housemates living in St Marys, Sydney, this time has been dedicated to giving gardening a go - and they are fast becoming avid green thumbs.

Rick Clancy is the team leader at St Marys Supported Independent Living (SIL), a purpose built complex, where five people with physical and intellectual disabilities live together. Together, they transferred a simple outdoor space into a beautiful life-filled oasis.

“Twelve months ago, we only had two lonely geranium pots in the shared yard - we have come a very long way!

“When lockdown first happened, one of the biggest challenges we faced was keeping the guys motivated and optimistic. The team members decided to bring in some plastic pots and cuttings from their own gardens, to see how interested the men were in putting together their garden and also to see if the plants would survive.

Two pictures next to each other of people gardening.

“The first thing that became apparent was how well everyone worked together and the common desire to create something they could all enjoy and appreciate was overwhelmingly positive.

“Everyone was super keen to begin growing their own food after the initial success, so we repeated the process on a larger scale to incorporate vegetables to go with the flowers and succulents. "

Rick says things were working so well, they started working towards a series of group goals, which are:

  • Understanding the value of teamwork by working together.

  • Respecting and understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

  • Learn how to care for plants. When and how to water and feed them.

  • Enjoy getting dirty and as one with nature.

  • To become as self-sufficient as possible - our goal for next summer is a totally home-grown salad.

“We have three different types of tomatoes, spinach, peas, capsicum and a good range of herbs which everyone is pleased with as a first crop.

“We have just put down garden beds for our winter crop and as everyone is excited to have their favourite vegie fresh from the back garden, we have lots of suggestions as to what we should plant next.

“All of the guys here communicate well so it becomes a very collaborative approach as to what will fill our new garden beds.

“Equity is at the core of what we are trying to achieve and The Communal Garden shares both the workload and the proceeds between everyone."

Two gentleman in the back yard collection tomatoes.

Picture is Team Leader Rick Clancy, and house residents Jeremy Roberts, Mark Robinson, James McNeil, Paul White and Fred McDonald.

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