story by Council's Green Gardener, Hannah Zwartz, photo by Kirsten Drysdale
What makes a good community garden? In 2014 I was lucky enough to travel to the US and Cuba looking at school and community gardens on a Winston Churchill Fellowship. Seeking, I confess, a magic formula that makes these gardens work, I found instead a diverse range of gardens with different aims, programmes and structures. And what I realized was that a true community garden reflects and serves its own unique neighbourhood - there is no one-size-fits-all formula.
That’s because community gardens aren’t just about gardening; the word community is (at least) equally as important. One thing all humans have in common is that we all eat, so these gardens usually grow food but they also serve as meeting places; common ground for sharing knowledge; places to get fresh air, exercise and mental health time. They can be about medicinal plants, getting out of the house and meeting your neighbours, spaces for art, kids playing, watching butterflies, connecting with nature, sharing food, sharing seeds and seedlings, finding what grows well locally, learning new skills…. Just as each community is different, so is each community garden.
Hosting the first of 2018’s Community Garden Parties: a new community garden behind the Māoriland hub in Ōtaki’s Main Street
The garden is about sharing knowledge and providing a community venue, as well as growing food to be used at the film festival
Kāpiti Community Garden Parties are a chance to get to know your local gardens and to celebrate and support them. Eight out of the twelve-odd community gardens up and down the Kāpiti Coast are hosting a party and have put together their own programme, from workshops and seed swaps to potluck pumpkin pies, sack races and Watermelon Jenga (don’t ask).
The series kicks off on February 13 at Kāpiti’s newest community garden, planted just a few months ago in the car park behind the Māoriland Hub (the old Edhouses store in Ōtaki’s Main St). ‘Taiao Tuesday’ will look at a kaupapa Māori approach to gardening through korero, chat, karakia, a cuppa and a couple or three short films. Bring along any seeds for a seed swap, and any seedlings you may like to plant.
Next up, on Saturday 24 February, is a celebration at MOA community orchard in Jeep Rd Domain, Raumati South; one of Kāpiti’s oldest community gardens, established in 2010. Here, residents chose to plant fruit trees rather than vegetables, as needing less labour and water. The afternoon kicks off with a walking-talking workshop touring the orchard with instigator Cree Hatfield, looking at what has worked and what might have been done differently; which varieties have thrived in the windy, sand-dune conditions and which have struggled. Great knowledge-sharing for anyone wanting to grow fruit in Kāpiti, followed by a potluck meal and entertainment from local musicians.
March brings a mini-festival of workshops at DreamCatcher Co-op (based at Windsor Park Orchard in Te Horo, on Saturday 10 March.) The co-op and orchard are all about local food networks, so workshops will include fresh-milling of grains; foraging for edible and medicinal plants; building a raised bed (this one to be planted with lentils); how to sharpen tools without electricity, and a BBQ where people can bring and swap local baking, produce and preserves.
Garden Parties carry on into early autumn with a family games day at Matai Rd (March 18), an equinox celebration in Waikanae Beach (March 20), a pallet/potluck pumpkin pie party at Paekākāriki Pumpkin and Potato Patch (March 25), an open day with pizza and popsicles at Ōtaki College Community Garden (April 7) and an introduction to winter vegetables and worm farming, with the chance to test-drive electric bikes and e-cars, at Te Newhanga Kāpiti Community Centre in Paraparaumu (April 15).
More details on these events will be in next month’s On To It, or on the Community Garden Parties page