We believe in the power of Community Gardens to enrich and engage a community, through shared spaces, goals, and food. At The Cape sustainable housing estate, we are working on creating a large ‘Community Farm’, which expands on the current community garden that has been a central feature of the development for the last 4 years.
The existing community garden has been the centrepiece for community events. A highlight of the year is Passata Day, where the Summer’s bounty of tomatoes is processed and bottled into hundreds of gleaming jars of fresh red sauce. Food production, preparation and consumption is a core part of community building across all cultures. It makes sense that our housing estates and communities would benefit from being centred around a place of growing and cultivating food.
Studies of community gardens also find that they promote stronger neighbourhood leadership, outreach and volunteerism. These spaces and communities also work to strengthen emotional bonds to the neighbourhood. As climate change impacts intensify and food prices increase, well designed community farms can reduce food bills for households. The physical layout of gathering spaces at The Cape’s farm, and diverse range of community activities to be hosted in the farm, is intended to similarly inspire leadership, outreach, and care for the community and beyond.
The landscape at The Cape is devoted to two distinct yet complementary planting types—the native plants for local biodiversity, and food production gardens.
Our previous blogpost detailed how we use Biodiversity-Sensitive Urban Design to enrich the landscape at The Cape, by creating a diversity of habitat areas and planting locally indigenous species. These landscape features allow for residents to nurture and connect to the local flora and fauna of Cape Paterson, regenerating cleared land previously used for cattle farming so that it can once again support indigenous coastal species. Our nursery at Australian Ecosystems collected dozens of species with provenance to the local area, propagating them to tens of thousands of plants to be replanted in The Cape’s landscape. These locally indigenous plants have encouraged the proliferation of many species of birds and insects, as well as local native animals like the echidna and mobs of kangaroos.
As these plants encourage a liveable landscape for animals, birds, and insects; we have also sought to create a landscape that allows for people to produce their own food locally. Being sustainability-minded, The Cape sees the environmental benefits of empowering residents to grow their own food, including creating diverse, circular economy food systems, closing nutrient loops, reducing food miles and supporting lower footprint and healthy plant based diets. While maintaining a garden may be daunting for many people, growing your own food can be an inviting and rewarding way to engage with the outdoors, local climate, soil, plants and ecology.
The household level farms also work in tandem with creation and use of compost in those homes, reducing food and organic waste to landfill. These farms will be supported by the existence of the larger community farm, which will be the source of vegetable seedlings, training, knowledge, mentoring and skill sharing as well as landscape plants.
This unique combination of native plants for biodiversity, and high-production low-maintenance food gardens, highlight our passions for creating landscapes that benefit local ecology, minimise water consumption, and provide opportunities for people to connect to nature in a multitude of ways. The outcomes displayed at the residential and public landscapes at The Cape encapsulate the driving forces and priorities behind The Sustainable Landscape Company’s landscape design.
The Sustainable Landscape Company is contributing to the delivery of The Cape – a zero emissions housing community in Cape Paterson, bursting with thriving wildlife and urban biodiversity.
The Cape estate overlooks Bass Strait near Phillip Island and is rapidly transforming a degraded former cattle station into thriving habitat site for residents as well as flora and fauna. A growing number of carbon neutral, solar powered, energy efficient homes are being built across the 230 dwelling estate, while the landscape team is simultaneously taking cleared paddocks previously covered in pasture grass and weeds, and creating wetland, habitat corridors and wild zones. A range of habitats are being designed and constructed, followed by planting programs that are installing hundreds of thousands of biodiverse coastal plants. The result is a rapid increase in wildlife numbers and diversity being recorded on the site in the past three years, with more than 95 species of birds recorded on site to date, as well a dramatic increase in the frog population, reptiles, insect diversity and an increase in observation of mammals on site including kangaroos, wombats, echidnas, microbats and swamp antechinus.
The Cape is well known for setting a national benchmark for sustainable energy efficient housing, with homes averaging over 8 star energy efficiency coupled with solar power and energy efficient fitout, a national first, and is the home of Victoria’s first 10 star home. A recent RMIT/Renew study showed that the homes are using 88% less energy than a state average dual fuel home. Establishing an energy positive, operationally carbon neutral estate underscores the Cape’s leadership in taking positive action on climate change which is a major threat to global biodiversity.
Working with The Cape, TSLC has designed and built the estate landscape including a shared path network connecting formalised parks, a community garden, and play spaces with informal sheltered viewing points and rest stops within the wetland and habitat corridors. Other biodiversity-focused initiatives include:
The usual image of a housing project is bulldozers clearing remnant vegetation followed by asphalt, concrete, lawns and suburbia, followed by the decline of nature in that area. The Biodiversity Sensitive Urban Design approach is showing that good design, science, clever planting and site management can create the conditions for the growth of biodiversity on degraded sites in housing estates. Best of all, the residents have embraced it – creating habitat and introducing nature back into our urban form is beneficial for people’s wellbeing and mental health.
Going for an evening walk and watching parrots and microbats feeding on wetlands, or seeing echidnas gamboling across front yards and kangaroos lazing in the parks is attracting nature-loving residents and giving children the opportunity to delight in our natural world. We are delighted to see this site rebound with nature moving in alongside our residents, and this unique wildlife friendly approach is proving up a model for how housing estates and communities to show that some of the investment in housing estates can also create space and habitat for wildlife including species that are increasingly under pressure from urbanisation, habitat fragmentation and climate change.
Thanks to resident of The Cape, David Hartney, for the amazing images of animals onsite at the estate.
All other photos of landscape are credited to Will Hamilton-Coates, 2020.