Growing good things at Te Kaakano

community - groupYou could be forgiven for thinking spring was in the air at Te Kaakano Community garden last Friday.

Officially, it was the final day of summer 2014, but for the folk who came together to get their hands in a communal patch of soil, the sun shone and the conversation sparkled.

Gordonton’s Judy Chrystall took me out to have a look at the garden at 145 Powells Rd, just a hop and a skip from Gordonton.

The gardens are run in partnership with Desert Spring Ministries, which Judy is a board member of. A keen gardener herself, she enjoys seeing others learn new skills.

“It’s a good community project, helping people to grow their own food. Anyone can come along. And of course they can help themselves to the pick of the crop – it’s expensive to provide for a household in these challenging times.”

Judy Chrystall
Helping out.

There are fruit trees and beds full of produce – at the moment there is a particularly fine bed of taro that needs eating.

Most Friday mornings, from 10am until 1pm, people come to the gardens. Some are newcomers, others regulars. There is usually from four to 15 people present. Today a baby and one enthusiastic toddler are taking part.

Tania Ashman is the manager at DSM, and head wrangler in the community garden. She is planting out rows of beans as well as completing two or three other tasks, including talking to everyone.

The gardens were established about 12 years ago and have grown organically since then, she says.
Recently, they have partnered with A Rocha, a community conservation organisation with a Christian ethos.
A composting toilet has been built, along with new compost bins and a worm farm, in addition to numerous vegetable beds, all from recycled materials.

Tania Ashman
Tania Ashman concentrates on the beans…

And at the heart of it all people from throughout the community plant and weed and chat together.

“Sometimes the more people there are, the more chat there is. It’s a good way to make friends; we always share food afterwards,” Tania says. “It’s lovely to see grandmas and mokopuna working together. I read somewhere that you don’t just plant the seeds (in a community garden), because people themselves are the seeds.”

There are also monthly afternoon working bees, which attract a larger number of helpers. Projects include building new beds, turning compost, potting native seedlings and the like.

“There is a job and place for everyone and we welcome any contributions for new ideas, planning and development of these wonderful gardens.”

But there is more than gardening going on – later that afternoon a new pilot scheme starts with the aim of getting local kids outdoors.

For nine-year-olds and up, this will include exploring gullies, kayaking, eeling or checking out the beehives at the community garden.

Kristel van Houte, from A Rocha and busy dealing to oxalis in one of the beds, will take a group to Claudelands Bush after school. She began the scheme in Raglan and brought it here.

“Afterwards we plan to make pancakes on camp cookers. The idea is to give them an opportunity to do things outside, including in their own backyard.”

The pilot will run until April. “If it works, we’ll apply for more funding so we can continue.”

To find out more about the community garden, contact Tania on 07 855 2728.

  • Te Kaakano can make good use of your unwanted bits and pieces. They would be very glad to receive bark, mulch, timber and the like. Seedlings are also appreciated. Also high on the wish list at present are children’s spades and trolleys.
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2 thoughts on “Growing good things at Te Kaakano

  • March 4, 2014 at 9:14 am

    A worthy account of the great work done at Te Kaakano. You have really captured the flavour of the objectives of the gardens.

    • March 4, 2014 at 10:44 am

      Thanks Valerie, it is a real treasure nestled near our own doorstep. Very inspiring people.


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