Our community workshop programme kicked off last month with a visit from Hannah Zwartz – the Council’s Green Gardener.
The afternoon began at Julie and Jacqueline’s. Their house has become a community hub since the Greenest Neighbourhood competition started. It’s a place to learn and share. Their door is always open (figuratively speaking) and there always seems to be a neighbour or two hanging around – even when I pop in unannounced.
Well-fed and well-caffeinated, it was time to make best use of Hannah’s time so we embarked on a tour of the neighbourhood. First stop: Castle Kids Kindergarten.
One of our group’s goals is to learn how we can support businesses and other organisations in the neighbourhood. It’s great to have met Kay from Castle Kids and have the Kindergarten join our network. The Kindergarten has a number of established vegetable gardens. Hannah’s input was well-received. Kay lives just across the road and we ducked into her beautiful backyard for a lesson on effective mulching and water-wise plant placement and species selection.
We said ‘Cheery’ to Brent over the over the fence, scouted out a possible spot for a community garden or fruit and nut trees, visited the MenzShed and nursery before wandering down to Sigi’s.
Sigi’s garden is inspiration to anybody with limited space. Hannah offered tips on how to maximise food production in small areas: utilising the berm with salt-tolerant species, vertical gardening, and allowing pumpkins to spread out over the concrete patio.
Next stop was our (Kylie, Fee, and my) place. Aside from a lemon tree and scores of chickweed, there was nothing edible growing on the property when I signed the lease in February. I’ve since done a lot of weeding, pruning, and digging and now have the gardener’s equivalent of a blank canvas. Hannah’s input was extremely valuable in planning for the coming season. She pointed out a couple of bee-friendly plants and explained how to propagate them. We also discovered a healthy patch of New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides) in a very dry patch underneath a Phoenix Palm. The spinach subsequently passed a ‘dinner party’ test. It’s great to have a zero-maintenence crop thrive in a place that nothing else will grow.
A short-cut through the Lagoon led into Angela’s back yard for a discussion about why things won’t grow along the eastern fence-line. Her rhubarb patch, situated within a derelict dingy, had everybody oohing and ahhing.
Hannah’s tour concluded at Lisa’s. We were greeted with soup, freshly-baked bread, and – courtesy of Sigi – the most delicious carrot cake. I’m pleased to say that communal meals have become a regular part of life at Waikanae Beach since the Greenest Neighbourhood competition began. Unfortunately Hannah had to run, but she left us with a lot to think about and discuss.
Hannah will return in several weeks for a follow-up workshop to focus on low-maintenance pumpkin mounds.