The COGS Constitution states that “organic gardening principles must be complied with at all times in the community gardens”. While COGS is not engaged in commercial agriculture or horticulture it has adopted the National Standard for Organic and BioDynamic Produce as the overarching standard governing its practices in community gardens. Organic certifiers in Australia are required to apply this standard as a minimum for products placed on the market that claim to be produced under organic or bio-dynamic systems. To give practical effect to this policy, COGS also applies the Australian Certified Organic Standard – specifically, its General Primary Production and Crop Production Inputs standards – in its operations of community gardens. Australian Organic (AO) is a preeminent certifier in Australia. The Australian Certified Organic Standard is comprehensive and detailed in terms of permitted materials, one of the strictest in Australia and aligned with relevant international standards. Approved inputs and products under this standard are readily identified by gardeners and consumers by the Australian Certified Organic green bud logo.
In its simplest terms, organic gardening is the cultivation of plants as part of a sustainable management of a healthy eco-system without the use of artificial fertilisers or pesticides or herbicides. It aims to work with nature to optimise the conditions for healthy plants (and food), constantly improving the health of soils and managing pests and weeds through preventative and biological controls.
The organic gardening principles applied by COGS can be summarised as:
COGS experience with community gardens in Canberra since 1982 has proved the practicality of applying organic principles to grow nutritious and plentiful fruit and vegetables in an environmentally sustainable manner in an urban environment.
The community aspect of COGS gardens is emphasised in the COGS Constitution: “…garden committees are behoven to administer gardens in a manner which promotes the spirit of harmony, fair-mindedness and goodwill amongst gardening members. Likewise, individual plot holders are to conduct themselves in a manner which promotes the same spirit, the spirit viewed by COGS to be essential to a true sense of community well-being”.
Community values are essential to the shared processes in the garden (eg composting) and the development and maintenance of communal facilities (eg sheds and water reticulation), common areas such as pathways and sharing gardens and fruit trees. Gardens will often have working bees.
The overall administration of COGS gardens is the responsibility of the COGS committee, although the gardens are expected to manage their ongoing operations implementing the General Garden Rules and Policies . The day-to-day operation of the gardens is delegated to individual garden convenors who are assisted and advised by local garden committees. Garden convenors and committees are elected by all plot holders at the Annual General Meeting of each garden that is usually held in August or September each year.
Gardens are funded through annual plot levies that cover the cost of insurance, water, repairs and maintenance and depreciation. All plot holders must be financial members of COGS and pay all plot levies when due.