Spring is in the air and pre-schoolers from Panmure’s Tamariki Ataahua Early Learning Centre are getting busy sowing seeds for their summer crops.
Children from the Centre have been making weekly visits to the Panmure East Residents Association (PERA) Community Garden, just a ten-minute walk away, since late August.
Centre owner Sharon Stephens says the trips are great for teaching the children where their food comes from and how to plant and care for fruit and vegetables, not to mention mucking in with weeding. And she says the learning doesn’t stop there.
"It’s not just about the gardening. It’s also about the walk there, learning how to cross the roads properly, participating in the community and the importance of wearing sun hats when we’re outside."
The children have recently planted peas and corn, and have even painted their own stakes to mark which vegetables are planted where in the garden.
Sharon says some of the children live in homes without garden areas so giving them the opportunity to ‘get their hands dirty’ is a great experience.
Nerissa Henry, Community Gardens Outreach Programme co-ordinator for PERA, says the garden was established in 2010 on land Housing New Zealand set aside for community use.
"It’s open to anyone from the local community who wants to come along," she says. "It’s a secure garden but we have open days every Friday and Sunday from 9.30am and beginners and experts alike are welcome. I tell beginners to come and learn and experienced gardeners to come and teach!"
Nerissa, who holds workshops throughout the year on topics like Bokashi Composting (which they use at the garden), says there are a variety of tasks to help out with.
"We currently have 15 people, plus the preschool, making use of the garden but we’d love to have a lot more people come and join us - it’s great fun and a great way of making friends. I’ve been involved for four years and I feel like the people here are all my family".
And Nerissa, whose two young children have been coming to the garden with her since they were babies, says she’s experienced first hand the value of growing your own food.
"There have been times where I’ve had nothing, but I’ve had veges and fruit from the community garden and I’ve been able to make things like soups."
Currently the garden is raising crops ranging from strawberries, peas and carrots through to lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini and even watermelons.
A $5 per month membership fee enables the garden to buy seeds, plants and other materials such as sheep pellets and plant food. All financial members receive an equal share of the crops at harvest time. Tools and other equipment are provided.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the PERA Community Garden, contact Nerissa Henry on 021 073 6995 or email@example.com.
WEEDY FOR PLANTING: Jarra Teohaere (left) and Amelia Tupou, both four, dig in to some weeding to help ready the garden bed for planting.
SPOT THE SLUG: (Left to right) Amelia Tupou, Jeremy Henry and Amanakit Latuila investigate the slug that hitched a ride on their seedling before removing it ready for planting.
Frequently asked questions
What is the Panmure East Residents Association (PERA) Community Garden? It’s a place for people to grow food together and share deliciously fresh produce with the associated aims of building a sense of community and shared knowledge.
Where is PERA Community Garden? It is located in the Coral Cres, Panmure area.
How did the PERA Community Garden come about? The garden was established as part of the Tamaki Transformation Programme that took place in 2009. As part of that programme Housing New Zealand undertook a modernisation programme to refurbish a number of properties in the area. At that time, engagement with local residents found that they wanted to know their neighbours better and establish some sort of residents’ association. The garden arose as a way to help meet those goals.
What other activities happen at the garden? Special events have been held to mark occasions like Neighbours Day, Easter and Christmas. Working bees are also held regularly.
Is the garden organic? The garden adheres to organic principles as much as possible. Quality composting, crop rotation, companion planting and mulching all help to achieve this. All organic matter is composted on site and non-compostable waste is taken away to be recycled or otherwise appropriately disposed of.
What is Bokashi Composting? Bokashi is Japanese for "fermented organic matter." It is a method of composting using a specific group of microorganisms to anaerobically ferment all food waste (including meat and dairy). The process takes place in a closed system so insects and smell are controlled and the process is very fast, with compost usually ready for use in around a fortnight.
What are the benefits of having a community garden? Community gardens involve residents in the shared creation, maintenance and rewards of gardening. They provide food, recreation and therapeutic opportunities for a community, as well as promoting environmental awareness and community education. The activities that take place in community gardens (social events, working bees and the like) bring people of all ages and all walks of life together to build stronger, more integrated communities.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.