Over the past ten years, Jane Street Community Garden has been a special place for West End where people can come together to grow plants and make new friends. However, it has had its share of challenges in recent years, with the garden being dug up so Council could install new drainage pipes, and they narrowly avoided the flood in early 2022. In April 2022 they lost their shed and contents to a fire.

Things have picked up over the past year and every Thursday and Sunday, people meet to help care for the garden and learn about growing food. Everyone is welcome, and no gardening experience is needed.

Melissa Smrecnik stepped down as coordinator a little over a year ago when Thomas Carroll took up the reins. The role is auspiced by Micah Projects.


Thomas met with me in the garden last week for a chat.


“I studied Landscape Architecture back in the day, which was the start of my gardening life. 


Thomas said he lost interest in the landscaping world and went to live in Norway for a few years. 


“I needed to go somewhere that was the opposite of Brisbane. And when I was there, I met some people doing small-scale farming and edible gardening. So, I did a permaculture course, and things snowballed from there.


When he returned to Brisbane, Thomas focused on edible gardening, and Mel suggested he step into her role as the coordinator at Jane Street.


Thomas is pleased with the garden’s progress since the disruption after Council laid drainage pipes across the site; for example, there are new raised garden beds, a new greenhouse and a new composting hub. 


“There’s a lot of nice changes in the right direction, considering what has happened.”


Some of the new works were made possible with money paid by the Brisbane City Council to compensate for the  disruption to the garden during the pipe laying. Also, some organisations and individuals have sponsored garden beds, some of which are set aside for private use.


“The private beds provide some income for the garden – we rent out a plot for $500 per year,” Thomas said.


Currently, four garden beds are rented, but they aim for six for private use and six for volunteers. 

The reason for the raised garden beds is soil contamination at the site, but they do have the added benefit of being ergonomic and back-friendly.


Volunteers are an important part of the garden and those who participate in regular working bees at the gardens divvy up the produce, and they often return it in some way to the garden. While I was there, one volunteer, Brian, brought in some delicious sourdough bread made with the garden’s spinach and chillies. Another volunteer brought in some home-made syrup. 


Tom said the number of volunteers coming to the garden varies.


“Today’s a really nice day so hopefully if we get ten people that would be really lovely. Some weeks would be much less, like in the summertime when it’s hot”.


Thomas said only some people are available on the day they run working bees, but people still wanted to help, so some come and water through the summer as part of a watering crew. 

If you take your compost to the garden, you’ll notice that the composting hub has moved from the garden’s edge. 

“I’m really happy with the how our composting system is going. We’ve got a nice little rotation of our bins. I made some signs about what not to put in and what to put in the bins and there’s been a real improvement with what’s going in.”

Things not to put on compost, include meat and dairy. And Thomas says they don’t want compostable bags because they don’t break down fast enough.

Thomas would also like to grow more compost hubs in suburban streets.

“I really want this space to be connected to businesses and the community and to be a part of the circular economy, where it’s providing its own revenue to be able to fund and grow more. It’d be lovely to get into a position where we can do something like that.”

Herbs such as basil do well in the garden, as do eggplants, and the rosellas are being harvested for jam. Sadly, they cannot grow fruit trees due to soil contamination.


When he is not at Jane Street; Thomas works with the state school at Bulimba, teaching kids about gardening.

The Bulimba State School’s garden program provides students from the third to sixth grades with opportunities to cultivate, harvest, and cook their own produce while learning about environmental sustainability and nutrition. Last week, Thomas was teaching older students about soil PH.

At Jane Street, Thomas has a vision to get more people involved, and he is hoping to have a once-a-month market stall to sell cuttings and other plants and produce. And he would love to see more parents come to the Jane Street Garden with their children.

If people have ideas about improving the space, that’d be great. And I’d love to have more young people involved.”

One of the volunteers talked about the mental health benefits of being in the garden. Another, Brian, travels from Salisbury each week to assist with the garden because of its uniqueness.

“There are several community gardens, like four or five in the area, but none of them had logistics or people working in them. So, this was the only one I could find. And it’s a good one. Because Tom is here, he’s trying to make something happen.”

Brian said he learned to make sourdough bread during Covid. “So, I’ve been putting the spinach in the sourdough and bringing it back here to feed the troops.”


How to volunteer

If you want to join in, working bees are held every Thursday from 3:30 pm and the first Sunday of every month 3.00-5.00 pm. No gardening experience required, and everyone is welcome.

If you are interested or have any questions, message them via their socials or join a working bee to see what we are all about.


Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/janestgarden

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/jane.st.gardens/

Website – http://www.janestgarden.org.au/

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Cover image Thomas Carroll – all images by Jan Bowman