WAITATI EDIBLE GARDENERS
By Lynnaire Johnston
The first fine, sunny and warm day in what seemed like weeks fortuitously coincided with the WEGies annual Edible Garden Tour on January 23.
Fifteen WEGies and friends visited three properties in the Purakaunui area, all with completely different gardening styles.
First stop was John and Christina Bueller’s (apologies if misspelled) property where their son, Toby, and his friends have spent the past five months turning a disused back paddock into a thriving vegetable, herb, fruit and nuts garden. The youngsters, who all live in town, regularly spend their weekends working on the plot, over which there is no parental supervision. Not a formal garden in any sense of the word, the group are turning the resources available on the property – including massive amounts of wood left behind from a disused sawmill – into a highly individualised and heavily cropping plot. One of the innovations is the construction of small adobe walls built as wind breaks, whose principal structural material is bottles – a usually infinite resource where young people are present! A series of gardens within gardens arranged in a spiral, a mushroom farm growing in semi-rotted wood, and a chicken coop are all in various stages of planning and construction. Not a single visitor failed to be impressed by the ingenuity and enthusiasm of these young people, who clearly relish the opportunity to experiment and learn new horticultural techniques.
Second stop was the communal property of Danielle Cameron and her family and friends which has been hewn out of the clay hillside above Purakaunui. Constructed on a terrace format, Danielle’s key to organic horticultural success – the leaves on her rhubarb are the size of gunnera – is compost. She sees everything in the garden as either on its way to or from the many compost piles she has dotted about. Like many of us, Danielle’s garden has suffered from lack of sun this summer, with fruit trees most affected. Danielle also has several beehives which she believes contributes massively to the success of her garden, along with the horse manure carried over from the adjoining paddock. Danielle’s plans include a cow shed, currently under construction, which will house a couple of milking cows – a learning curve she expects will be steep.
The group lunched at Danielle’s where the home-built pizza oven provided a constant flow of delicious, hot, crusty pizzas, supplemented by a massive array of salads and sweets made from locally sourced food. The reputation of the WEGie tour for awesome food remained intact!
The final stop on the tour was the recently purchased property of Cath and Robin Dickson, Koromiko. A much smaller property, the Dicksons are still working out what to do with the land they’ve acquired which is divided into small paddocks surrounded by deer fencing. They currently have a “flockette” of sheep, as Cath describes it, and a number of poorly producing fruit trees planted by the previous owner in completely the wrong place. A derelict barn, concrete pig pen and massive numbers of felled trees give them plenty of options to consider, and suggestions from the WEGies were warmly welcomed.
Participants left the tour keen to try some of the many ideas they’d picked in their own gardens.
The tour is just one of several initiatives the WEGies are currently involved in. The potatoes and garlic in the community garden are flourishing, while the WOO (Waitati Open Orchards) initiative is in full swing (see separate story). The allotment scheme is also expected to move forward this year.
Meanwhile, the first harvest market of the year will be held on Sunday February 21, from 10.30am on the front porch of the old store in Harvey Street. Buyers and sellers are most welcome. There is no charge for a stand, but goods sold must have been locally grown or produced.
For further information on any WEGie related matter phone Lynnaire Johnston on 482 1364.