A capital community garden
Sarah Adams writes about Innermost Gardens, an organic community garden in the heart of urban Wellington
Innermost Gardens is a multicultural community gardens in Wellington where I’ve worked for about three years. Originally we had only a site in Newtown, then the council approached us to apply for the site in Mt Victoria: two old bowling greens surrounded by bush about 10 minutes’ walk from Courtenay Place, central Wellington. We couldn’t really say no!
We have a core group of ten people at Mt Victoria and another six in Newtown, with others from around the community participating in different ways, e.g. the watering roster, attending gardening days, coming to workshops or other events we run, or just coming and gardening in their own time. We are a collective of people who believe gardening and, in particular growing healthy vegetables, is important. Gardening is the way we share our interests and learn from what others are doing.
A difficulty of the Mt Victoria site, inherited from its previous use as a bowling green, is the DDT in the soil. While it’s low grade, we wanted to clear it out before we planted in it. On one field we garden in raised beds, in the second we are using mushrooms to break down the DDT. The whole field is covered in mulch inoculated with oyster mushrooms, but another spore has taken over! Mushrooms are fruiting in the field while their underground mycelia are breaking down the DDT.
I had always gardened on a small scale. This project came out of the blue for me, but I love it and feel lucky that it did. There were lots of holes in my knowledge – now I realise gardening is something you spend your life learning. As I was running the community gardens people kept asking me how to do things. I saw that Taruna offered scholarships and I was lucky enough to get one. The Taruna course was awesomely practical, with fantastic field trips to show how things are done.
It taught me all the basics: how to make great compost, what good soil is, how to get it and why it’s important, crop rotations, observation, what a farm management plan is, or in my case, a community garden management plan. Then the next level: how people are using can use these and much more advanced organic and biodynamic practices in their farm/ gardens. It’s given me heaps more confidence and also something to aspire to. Our garden is way off best practice, but we might get close to it one day!
After that course and my permaculture diploma, I was aware of how little information there is focussed on the urban gardener and gardening skills. I approached the Sustainability Trust, recognising that the importance of local food production, sustainable growing practice and developing a recognised ‘urban agriculture’ sector in Wellington is a big sustainability issue. Christina Bellis (the Sustainability Trust community manager) and I have been working together for over a year now, raising awareness around urban agriculture. We run a seasonal event called the Rhizome Effect Hui, when we invite gardeners from all over Wellington to celebrate the season, sharing what we are up to and talking about any difficulties the season might bring. See www.newswire.co.nz/2011/08/urban-gardeners-get-together-to-work-together
The last event was an autumn harvest celebration with a produce swap table, potluck meal with food from the garden, inspiring stories and great moments we had in the garden.
From this we set up the Urban Agriculture steering group of about 16 people working in community, commerce and university who believe that the recognition and development of urban agriculture in Wellington is an important issue. We meet monthly and are working on ways to promote what we are doing. Through our website we can get rss feeds and forward information on to our local community newspapers. It’s an easy way to put out information on what’s happening.
Sarah Adams is the project manager of Innermost Gardens and also chairperson of Permaculture in New Zealand. She is a graduate of Taruna’s Certificate in Applied Organics and Biodynamics.
Innermost Gardens www.innermostgardens.org.nz