The Gavin-Matai-Fincham Road Greener Neighbourhood group met with Hannah Zwartz, Council’s Green Gardener to discuss nutrient recycling in the garden on Sunday 2nd November. We started out at Hilary and John’s place, where they have tamed some of the wilderness down the steep south side of the Gavin Road sandhill. This area is a drained swamp and the land is peat: shaky and prone to sinking, so garden beds need to be built up constantly. John showed us how he makes compost for this. There is no shortage of green material, but he goes collecting brown leaves to mix with it. The lawnmower is used to chop it all up with kitchen scraps, and it’s loaded into metre-square bins where it turns into ‘black gold’ in about six months. Wandering willie (tradescantia) enroaches on the garden from all sides. John gathers it up and drowns it in in a barrel of water before composting it. Everyone was impressed with the neat garden including some handsome borage and a fine mandarin tree.
Over at 17 Gavin Road, mine and Rebekah’s place, the group saw the worm bin where all the household kitchen scraps go and its new rat defenses, the weed-eating chickens and some of their handiwork, and looked at my biodigester. This is for ‘cooking’ weeds like tradescantia into safe compost, but as the chickens were doing such a good job, it’s on offer to anyone that wants to try it. We had afternoon tea on the lawn, where I had cut paths through to long grass. I’m letting it grow so the local bees can enjoy the clover and other wildflowers – honest! Heather offered seeds around, and the group saw some I had already got growing in newspaper seedling pots. The pots are easy to make and it avoids having to traumatise your seedlings pushing them out – the whole pot can be planted.
Then most of us went over to Matai Reserve to discuss setting up a community garden there. There is a nice little corner where it could go. Hannah recommended planting low maintenance, low water requirement crops that need room to grow – e.g. corn, pumpkins, beans and kamokamo. If all the permissions can be obtained, one big working bee could create it, using cheap or free materials. Time is of the essence though – plants need to be established before the dry summer months.
Hannah finished up by giving some tips to Jackie for her garden – who, like others in the group, is keen to have working bees so we can all help each other sort our gardens out for the summer.
All in all it was a great session where we got to meet some people new to the group, learn a lot and discuss a whole range of ideas of what we can do next. Thanks Hannah!