A healthy crop of silver beet, lettuces and radishes is the result of work by green-fingered staff and students who have created the first community garden at the Albany campus.
The raised vegetable bed is the first of several planned by the group who worked last spring to build the garden behind the library. They hope it will inspire more students to learn how to grow their own food.
Campus chaplain Ricky Waters spearheaded the project after he was inspired by an established community garden he visited at Canterbury University when he was there for a conference in 2010. He was also motivated after he heard of students living nearby lamenting the fact that they could not grow or get access to affordable fresh vegetables. Others he has met through his role tell him they have no idea how to grow vegetables.
“The campus garden provides an opportunity for them to learn these skills,” he says. “The idea was to produce food for those students who felt they didn’t have access to fresh vegetables. I was aware of students who don’t eat well. They were complaining they couldn’t grow vegetables living in urban accommodation.”
He and fellow chaplain Britt Kusserow put out the word around the campus and attracted around 60 people. Three working bees later, the first vegetable bed was completed with the help of donated seedlings and materials, and advice from people at the long-established Devonport community garden. They used a sheet mulching method, comprised of layers of cardboard, clay, compost, seaweed and topsoil.
While weeds have not been a problem, keeping peckish pukeko off the vegetable patch has been a challenge, Mr Waters says. Chicken wire covers the coveted crops to deter pukeko living in nearby bush. With an abundance of green leaves ready for harvesting right now staff, students and their families are being invited to harvest produce in return for carrying out a small task, such as weeding or watering.
New students will have a chance to see the garden during Orientation Week, which starts on February 20, and to become involved. Mr Waters hopes the project will expand over time to include more vegetables and herbs, and fruit and olive trees.