Edible Gardens

Edible Gardens project
A project designed to explore how and why people grow food in urban areas.

The data collection for this project is now closed and we are analysing the data (see preliminary publications below). We will circulate further results as soon as possible!

 Thank you to everyone who contributed their time and effort to this project, we appreciate your valuable contributions.

This project was open to all South Australian home, community and school gardens. Participating gardeners grew all kinds of herbs, vegetables and fruits. They also kept urban livestock such as chickens, other poultry, fish and bees.



  View the gardens involved


This project had two parts – 465 people completed an online survey about their food gardens, and 71 people registered to collect data on their own food gardens.

  • PART ONE: the online survey – this survey was open to anyone aged 18+ living in South Australia who grew food. The survey asked questions about why people grew some of their own food, what challenges they experienced and whether they preserved or shared any of the food they grew. It also asked respondents to describe their food garden. This survey is now closed.
  • PART TWO: garden data collection – we included as many gardens as possible. People volunteered their gardens and selected gardeners were posted out a Data Collection Toolkit (we had a limited number of these). Each toolkit contained at least one water meter, a spring-balance, data sheets, instructions, a clipboard and pencil. Selected gardeners were posted the toolkit and asked to measure 5 things:
    1. Time spent on different food-gardening activities.
    2. Money spent on food-garden related costs.
    3. Water applied to food gardens (we provided water meters).
    4. Food produced (crop type and yield).
    5. Food shared with others outside of the household.

Enter/download past garden data (for registered gardens only)


Data collection

What did this involve?
Selected gardeners were sent a registration email, with instructions for how to register their garden in the Edible Gardens system. Once registered – we posted people out a Data Collection Toolkit. The toolkit contained all the tools and information they needed to help them collect data on their garden.

This part of the project was quite “hands-on” and our participants were prepared to keep their clipboard and blank data sheets (provided in the toolkit) near them while they worked on their food gardens. They needed to think about how much time they spent on different gardening activities, such as “planting/sowing”, or “pest control”. They also needed to check their water meters regularly to see how many litres of water were applied to their food gardens.

How much time did this take people?

  • Registering gardens took approximately 15 minutes – we asked people about the different garden areas they chose to collect data on, such as size, type of area, water source/s and irrigation method/s.
  • It took most gardeners around ½ an hour to familiarise themselves with the toolkit and install the water meter/s.
  • Typically, ongoing data collection took 10-15 minutes per day (on the days participants tended their gardens). This time included the recording the amount of time spent, any water applied and weighing any produce harvested.
  • Entering data online typically took between 10-20 minutes (once a fortnight). Once data were entered and saved, online results were automatically updated (see the data charts for each garden).

What did people get in return for collecting data?

Downloadable data and interactive online charts for easy comparisons: All the data a participant collected and entered into our system was available to download for their own records and analysis. When they entered new data, their results were automatically displayed as interactive charts (see the data charts for each garden). With these charts you can compare separate areas in one garden for their water use, time spent, harvest yield and water use efficiency. You can also compare one garden with any other gardens in the Edible Gardens project. These charts can be downloaded and saved by anyone.

A nutritional and retail value report on all the results from their food garden: our participants will be sent a final report. This report will provide results from their different garden areas, plus information about the nutritional and retail value of the food they grew. Our nutritional data analysis was based on commercial nutritional values from the NUTTAB database. Our retail value analysis was based on supermarket produce prices tracked over the life of the project.


Why did we need your help?

Because everyone grows food in different ways and for different reasons! We wanted to learn as much as we could about urban food gardens, but we are a small team of scientists and can’t visit and monitor enough food gardens by ourselves. This is where Citizen Scientists came in. Members of the public helped our research by answering our online survey, and volunteered to collect data on their own food gardens.

Growing food in urban areas is also known as “urban agriculture”, (see our blog to learn more).  Previous research has found that over half of all South Australian households grow some of their own food! However, we still know very little about how much food these urban gardens can produce, or how much time, money or water it takes to grow that food. This kind of information is important for a numbers of reasons:

“Does the way you grow food best match the results that you’re after for your garden?”

For example, you might want to grow lots of food but not use too much water – but without measuring the amount of water you apply to your food garden, how can you know if what you’re doing is working? Or what if you want to save money? Do you track your costs?

By collecting data on all different kinds of real food gardens, we can start to become more aware of what goes into and what comes out of our food gardens.


Our progress so far

Although both Phase 1 and Phase 2 (the data collection parts) of the project are now closed – we are still working on analysing, comparing and calculating the HUGE amount of data that everyone has contributed! 

View the gardens involved

Below you can see how many people have participated in the Edible Gardens online survey and the spread of suburbs and postcodes across South Australia. Please Note: no individuals’ address is identified (this map shows suburb or town markers only). Click on the map to enable zooming and moving the map!

For project updates, follow our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/thediscoverycircle

Reports, Publications & Presentations

Here you can find scientific publications, reports and project updates on the Edible Gardens project.

Edible Gardens Project at CitSciOz18 Adelaide Conference from Georgia Pollard on Vimeo.


Questions & Answers

  • Why is data collection closed now?
    We’ve wrapped up the Edible Gardens project after 1 year and 7 months of data collection. We have a large quantity of valuable data collected with considerable effort (thank you again to everyone involved)! Now it’s time to analyse our results, so that we can share what we’ve learnt.
  • I’m a current registered participant, can I keep collecting data for myself?
    While we are no longer collecting data, we encourage people to continue. Our online system has closed, but if you download your data as an excel spreadsheet you can continue to monitor your inputs and yields in your own spreadsheet.
  • I’m interested in hearing about the results from this project, where can I find out more?
    To stay informed about our program, including results from Discovery Circle projects and opportunities to participate, please register for our eNewsletter. Additionally, check out the collection of reports, publications and presentations in the section above.
  • This project sounds really interesting! Is it open to any other states in Australia, or other countries?
    A great deal of time, money and work went into developing all the online infrastructure for this project. We are keen to make the project infrastructure available to others. Please contact us (details below) if you would like to know more.

Project team

Contact us and stay in touch

Edible Gardens project