Thoughts from my back garden office – 14th April 2020

The last 20 days in our bubbles have been uncharted, unsure, and challenging times for New Zealanders. We have had to change the way we do things, learn new ways to get by, and we have had more than enough time to look at our ‘normal’ everyday lives.

The Plant to Plate Aotearoa team has been interested to see New Zealanders reaction to the lockdown, and we are delighted to see the increased interest families and individuals have in growing and cooking healthy produce for themselves and their whanau.

Plant to Plate Aotearoa has been working in Manawatu primary schools for the past 11 years doing just that. We have always approached this task in a fun and simple manner, giving students basic information and letting their natural interest grow their knowledge. One question I get asked regularly by our tamariki is, “How did you learn to garden?”, and my answer is always the same… “by gardening!” I would never claim to know everything (actually I am regularly stumped by some of the students questions!) but by never giving up because something didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped, I guess I have picked up a few tips, tricks and pearls of wisdom. Most of the pearls of wisdom come from my 98 year old Nana who is my real life gardening bible!

So to help out those of you who are keen to get growing but aren’t sure how, where, or what to start with, here a few gems that may be helpful to get you going.

  1. YOU DON’T NEED TO SPEND A LOT OF MONEY
  • Raised beds may look lovely but are completely unnecessary. Plants are just as happy, and grow just as well when planted in a patch of dug up lawn. If you can’t do this – a plastic bucket with some holes in the bottom will do the trick too. This option has the added bonus of being portable so you can follow the sun around – they do need regular watering though.
  • Soil can be found in the ground!!! No need to buy it J Also, kitchen scraps can be dug straight into the soil and will break down providing nutrients for the small plants – no need to buy compost either!!!
  • Gardeners are a friendly bunch and if you ask they will share seeds, cuttings and heaps of advice with you – all you need to do is ask. (From 2 meters away…)
  1. ONLY GROW STUFF YOU NORMALLY BUY
  • Please don’t plant leeks if they make you gag when you eat them.
  • But if you love broccoli then go for it, but only plant what you can eat. Don’t plant 20 seedlings all at once because they will all be ready at the same time – then you won’t like broccoli anymore…
  1. GROW WITH THE SEASONS
  • Even if you could eat zucchini all year round they won’t grow all year round, no matter how hard you try. If you have planted tomatoes and cucumber in the past 3 weeks you may be in for heartbreak!
  • Plant to Plate Aotearoa has put together these 2 guides to help you know what to plant when. (One for planting seeds and one for planting seedlings.) 
  1. EAT IT!!! (OR SHARE IT)
  • What on earth is the point of doing it if it just gets left in the garden to go to seed and die? If you can’t (or don’t want to) eat it then share the love There will be plenty willing takers.
  1. DONT LOSE HEART IF IT ALL GOES TO CUSTARD
  • There are numerous reasons why a crop may fail and having a so called “Green Thumb” does not exclude anyone from these. Do some research, ask a fellow gardener and try again maybe a different way next time. You’ll feel so chuffed with yourself when it finally works J
  1. LET THE KIDS GET STUCK IN.
  • Is everyone cranky and getting on each other’s nerves??? Give them a spade, a shovel, or a trowel and get them to dig a hole – It works… Believe me! Some of the toughest students I have worked with absolutely excel in an outside classroom environment. There is so much to be learnt in the garden for our tamariki; Science, Maths, English, P.E and Communication. And if they grow produce themselves they are far more inclined to try eating it – That’s why our programme is still running after 11 years J

Most of all just give it a go. Being outside is good for the soul, and growing healthy food is good for our bodies and the earth. Our team are always happy to share our knowledge, our many healthy recipes and tips and tricks – just ask. (Email me: planttoplateaotearoa@gmail.com )

Kia Kaha New Zealand – Keep gardening and carry on!

  1. Still getting loads of huge cucumbers even though they have had no love at all for a few months.
  2. Sweetcorn got KO’d by yesterday’s blustery Manawatu gales.
  3. Massive yellow zucchini plant (yes that’s just 1!) that is nearing the end of it’s time in my garden, but I am having trouble pulling it out beacuse of the family of frogs who have taken up residence in it’s leaves (Frank, Philippa, fiona and Felix!)
  4. Winter peas up – way over sown but…
  5. I can’t grow cauliflower! Savoy cabbage on the other hand 🙂