News from the UC Sustainability Office


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Donna’s Garden Update: Spring ahead

It’s great to know we’re past the Winter Solstice (June 21) and heading for spring and warmer soil.

Turning the compost

The year has been a busy one so far. Semester 1 began with loads of volunteers attending our Friday afternoon working bees – up to 35 at one session! This meant that we were able to do plenty of planting, harvesting and general sorting of the gardens. Spring cleaning the shed and tidying the back shed were two great achievements.

In June we had a pizza party to celebrate the Winter Solstice and the end of Semester 1. We bid farewell to some of our international gardeners who had helped to make the garden a lovely place to be over the semester.

Our compost area had been rather neglected most of the year, while the garage at the back of one of UC’s properties, directly behind the bins, was being rebuilt. In June our bins were back and we were able to build a compost heap – a great workout for everyone – which heated up very nicely. We’ve just turned it again and it’s breaking down nicely.

Tatsoi

In terms of growing, we’ve been harvesting tatsoi, a very attractive leafy green veg, loads of delicious yams, kohlrabi, mini-caulis, garlic, surprise Urenika potatoes – the biggest once was about 15cm long – perpetual spinach and Florence fennel, Jerusalem artichokes and much more. The purple sprouting broccoli is still going strong (I’ve heard that plants can live for up to 5 years is you keep harvesting the florets!). We’ve got enough leeks and parsnips to see us through to the end of winter. The broadbeans we planted back in May are doing well, and we’ve sown some red-flowering ones to add a bit more colour to the gardens. Our garlic went in in May, and is doing well; we’ve got a couple of different types, Prinatour and Southern Softneck, and courtesy of Bridget, one of our volunteers, we’ve got some elephant garlic. The quince tree outdid itself again this year with more than 30kg of fruit which volunteers made into quince paste and jelly.

Some more garden highlights:

  • A garden angel who delivered Welsh tea cakes for afternoon tea
  • Revamping the herb spiral and establishing two herb baths. We’re slowly increasing the number of herbs we have in the gardens and will hopefully manage to keep our lemon verbena seedling going over winter!
  • The procrastabaking of some of our volunteers meant goodies for afternoon tea
  • Pineapple sage tea! A very refreshing and relaxing brew. Luckily we harvested and dried some leaves to see us through until next season
  • The huge puffballs popping up in the orchard – the largest weighed over 2kg!
  • The revival of DigSoc, the student gardening club, thanks to the lovely Ailsa and Alice

Tending the herb bath

In the next month or so, we’ll be working on the hugelkultur bed, planting NZ Cranberries/Chilean guava and creeping fuchsia, generously donated to the gardens by UC Grounds. We’ll also be putting in a selection of other perennial plants, including herbs. We’re coming up to the busy seed sowing and planting time of year, so that will be a big focus for the next few months.

The Gardens are involved in the Poroporo for the Port Hills project, organised by the Port Hill Rangers. The project aims to germinate thousands of poroporo seedlings to help revegetate the Port Hills following February’s fires. Our seedlings are up and hopefully by mid-August we’ll be potting them into recycled coffee cups ready for growing on a bit and then planting out. If you’d like to be involved in this, just let us know.

UC Sustainability will be holding Sustainapalooza in September (18-22nd), a week of sustainability-related events. On Friday the 22nd Sept, DigSoc will be hosting a Spring Equinox Gala at the gardens with pizza and cake. This will also be a celebration of 15 years of Okeover Community Gardens. If you’d like to come along, please book in, as spaces are limited. See the Sustainapalooza page for details.

For other information about the community gardens, check here. For information on becoming a volunteer and attending working bees on Friday (12-4pm), check here. The community gardens also have a dedicated Facebook Page.

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Abundance in UC Gardens – Jane’s Garden Update July 2016

IMG_1725 (2)UC has two community gardens on campus: Okeover (off Engineering road) and Dovedale. Every few months Jane Aistrope, UC’s community gardens coordinator, provides an update on what’s been happening in the gardens.

In May we had back-to-back pizza parties using our own Okeover pizza oven. We had a lunch to thank the University staff who supported Project ReScape, attended by grounds keepers, carpenters and management, who all played an important part in making it happen. We kept the fire burning and held an early dinner for the gardeners to celebrate food, community and the epic and unusual season we have had. With such a huge male-over in our garden, it’s been quite a feat to have continued growing and harvesting so much food. It was pretty nice to have Okeover Pesto as pizza sauce, using IMG_1704our own basil, hazelnuts and garlic. We also roasted Dovedale Crown Pumpkin to go with chilli, greens and herbs. Sometimes being a community gardener means being spoiled with bounty!

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We certainly had a long Autumn in 2016 allowing for late sowings of mescalin, spinach and herbs, and many lovely sunny afternoons out! Unfortunately the  warm days have caused our Brussel sprouts to blow (loose sprouts which are more like flowers) and some of our lovely leeks have gone to seed early. Now we have garlic shoots just poking through and the broad beans are all up and growing well. We continue to sustain our crops with liquid fertilizers made from worm rum, comfrey and nettles.

Winter in the garden is a good time to recoIMG_1857nfigure garden beds, prune fruit trees, sharpen tools, tidy the shed, plan for spring and read gardening books! We’ve already done a lot to finish off mulching the paths but we certainly have more reconfiguring to do in the orchard, starting with a new hugelkultur mound. This, pruning and mulching will occupy us until spring sowing begins.

IMG_1859 We are excited to be hosting another sculpture exhibition at the end of term 3. UC Sculpture students will have the opportunity to create works for outdoor public spaces and consider wider social and political issues around sustainability. Keep an eye out for this exhibition as it really brings another layer of interest and vitality to the garden.

For other information about the community gardens, check here. For information on becoming a volunteer and attending working bees on Monday (2-4) and Friday (1-4), check here. The community gardens also have a dedicated Facebook Page.

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Abundance in UC Gardens – Jane’s Garden Update March 2016

UC has two community gardens on campus: Okeover (off Engineering road) and Dovedale. Every few months Jane Aistrope, UC’s community gardens coordinator, provides an update on what’s been happening in the gardens.

We have been enjoying the changes of the post-makeover garden! Summer gardening in our new raised beds has been fantastic. People enjoy a nice solid edge to rest on and not having to bend down all the time! With lovely rich compost (UC’s own leaf mulch, rotted wood chip and soil) amendments the plants have made good growth and are cropping well. We have beans, courgettes, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beetroot, celery, silverbeet, kale, lettuces, radishes, corn, potatoes, pumpkins, apples, pears, hazelnuts, herbs and winter crops of leeks, yams, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, quince and feijoa. Peas, beans and more winter greens will be going in soon. Big thanks, as always, must go to the gardeners who share the work and the many joys of community gardening. This is your garden!!

We also have our numbers in for 2015. We increased our veggie production again despite the interruption of the makeover. And our attendance has increased 40% on the previous year. Woohoo!

Speaking of attendance, our gardener numbers have had a boost since the return of the academic year, and we can carry on with some of the bigger tasks. It’s also great to meet new people and share the autumnal abundance. This year we’ve had gardeners preserving at home, making apple cider vinegar, dried zucchini and berry jam. We have also grown chamomile and dried it for making tea. There are many opportunities for growing and gathering plants for interests/hobbies. For example, hops, lavender, rosemary, water-chestnut, hazel canes and grape vines. Don’t be shy if you have a growing idea you’d like to try … gardeners love to learn from each other.

As for Project ReScape, I believe we are halfway there. The new planter boxes are now really starting to show the beautiful design, which blends the simplicity of straight edges with the unique character of the mandala. 2016 will be a year of continuing and finishing this project as we work on the orchard glade, a wheelchair accessible planter box, an outdoor kitchen and recladding the tool shed. Come and be part of the action whether you’re new to gardening, have green thumbs or are handy with tools. Friday afternoons can be as relaxing or energetic as you choose, but good people and fresh produce are guaranteed.

For other information about the community gardens, check here. For information on becoming a volunteer and attending working bees on Monday (2-4) and Friday (1-4), check here. The community gardens also have a dedicated Facebook Page.