News from the UC Sustainability Office

Leave a comment

Okeover Community Gardens are 15 and we’re celebrating!

Okeover’s beginnings in 2002

This year, Okeover Community Gardens turns 15. Over this time, the gardens have evolved to the peaceful, enjoyable space they are today.

In 2000, Kākāriki Environment Club first proposed establishing a community garden at UC, and in 2002 a suitable site was found. The gardens were based on permaculture and organic principles, with the idea of opening them up to staff, students and the wider community.

An orchard and annual vegetable garden beds were established, along with a pizza oven used for garden celebrations and events, a herb spiral and perennial vegetable beds.

2015-16 saw a redesign of the original garden beds, with the UC carpenters installing a mandala of macrocarpa raised beds. The previous Garden Coordinator, Jane Aistrope, designed the new set up. They allow for a crop rotation of four different groups of vegetables.

Future plans for the gardens include establishing a food forest in the orchard area – with edible and beneficial plants providing an understorey for the fruit and nut trees.

The gardens exist with the help of our wonderful cast of volunteer gardeners who put in their time at our Friday afternoon working bees. Over the years, we have had hundreds of keen beans weed, plant, compost and sow in the gardens.

To celebrate this landmark date, and the spring equinox (Sept 23), DigSoc will be hosting a gala, with pizza and cake, on Friday 22nd Sept from 3-7pm. Do come along and celebrate with us! Bookings are essential as space is limited; email

Here is a montage of some of the many garden photos from over the years. It has changed such a lot! Click to enlarge the image.

This message was brought to you by the UC Sustainability Office. Connect with us through Facebook or Instagram. Or email us:









Leave a comment

UC Garden make over – Jane’s Garden Update Oct 2015

As you may know, 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.

Have you been through the Okeover Community Garden lately? Where oh where has our garden gone!! It’s spring and we are sowing into containers, sacks and use what little ground we have left. And, as usual for spring, we are growing seedlings to transplant … this time into newly constructed beds. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, well, where there was once a beautiful mandala-shaped garden is now a cleared site (with some interesting seedlings starting to pop up!) The orchard remains unchanged for now.

After 13 years of production, two issues in particular have prompted a renewal: deterioration of the edging material and a soil pathogen, Sclerotinia. Over 2015 we have been planning Project ReScape through consultation and collaboration with both the gardening community and the UC Facilities Management team. The design outcome blends the simplicity of straight edges with the unique character and legacy of the mandala, resulting in a hexagonal shaped design with raised garden beds. We are very excited by the renewal of this space and the quality of the materials being used.

Leading up to Eco-week we began the process of deconstructing the existing garden beds by transplanting anything worth saving and harvesting as much as we could handle. Next we held an event for Eco-week with the SVA Green Platoon where all the edging material and irrigation was removed, followed by a pizza lunch. During the following week contractors came and cleared the site using a digger and took the garden away in a truck! During our first working bee to re-activate the site, we built a hot compost using many materials from the University Campus, including plant debris from the now disappeared garden.

And so the life of the Okeover Community Garden carries on to enrich, nourish and soothe many a student, staff or local gardener. Make sure to check in on the progress and to be part of the action on Tuesday and Friday afternoons.

For other information about the community gardens, check here. For information on becoming a volunteer and attending working bees on Tuesday and Friday, check here. The community gardens also have a dedicated Facebook Page.

Until next time!

Leave a comment

Jane’s garden news – April 2015

As you may know, 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.

The Okeover Community Garden has been buzzing, loudly! Over the last 3 weeks record numbers have been attending our regular Friday afternoon gardening sessions. Gardeners have been getting acquainted with weeding, bug hunting, harvesting, path maintenance and the delicious produce so abundant at this time of the year.  We’ve enjoyed a pizza session, apples straight from the tree and hot corn on the cob. YUM! As the days begin to shorten the Quince will be ready for preserving as jam and jelly.  Seeds of tomatoes, beans and flowers are being saved.

IMG_1706If you are keen on doing a bit of gardening (or would like to learn), come and join in for a couple of hours during a Friday working bee. They run every Friday from 1 – 5 pm at the Okeover Community Garden (off Engineering road). No experience needed and you get to take some free veges home if you do a minimum of 1 hour’s work!IMG_1714

We are now also trying out a second working bee on Tuesday afternoons 2-4, so if Fridays have always been difficult for you then this may be your chance to try it out and/or become a regular gardener.  On Tuesdays we will focus more on the orchard area than the annual beds.  Don’t forget to like our Facebook page UC Community Gardens as we regularly post updates and things of interest for your enjoyment.

For other information about the community gardens, check here. The community gardens have a dedicated Facebook Page.

Until next time!

IMG_1713 IMG_1736







Leave a comment

Jane’s Garden News – October 2014

 As you may know, 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.

Well, ‘t is the season to be busy! And that we are …Seeds have been sown for the summer crops of tomatoes, cucumber and zucchini as well as carrots, beetroot, parsnip, leek, brassicas, greens, herbs and flowers. Meanwhile we are harvesting greens, leek, parsnip, cauliflower and asparagus …. Other activities at Okeover garden include keeping the beds weeded, liquid feeding plants with worm juice and preparing beds for more sowing/planting.

Over at Dovedale things are starting to pick up for the growing season after looking quite unkempt for most of the year. With the help of Deans Rovers we were able to prepare a few beds and clear pathways. Thanks Rovers! We then held a Friday working bee to plant potatoes (Jersey Bennes for earlies and Chipewa as mains). Once the frost danger has passed (end of the month) we will sow sweet corn, YUM! The trialing of allotment style community gardening has begun with 5 gardeners taking up beds as well as the Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery School. If you want to be part of the action as an experienced gardener or a complete beginner wanting to pick up some skills, be sure to join us for a Garden Bee any Friday from 1-5pm.

For other information about the community gardens, check here. The community gardens also have a dedicated Facebook Page.

Until next time!

Leave a comment

Food Foraging at UC – Eco Week event 2014

For the first time, Jane and Matt from the Sustainability Office, ran an Edible Campus Tour around the UC Campus. The tour saw roughly 40 people visiting food plants around the campus. It was a great opportunity to share interesting facts about the ancient origins of these plants and modern uses of them, whilst raising awareness that they are for free harvesting!

Highlights were visiting an old Ginkgo Biloba tree and a nut producing pine tree. Also worth noting are the trial plantings of the Grounds Department which include lemons, limes, pears and Chilean guava. The word is that they are well browsed … enough to be sure that if similar plantings were established the food would not be wasted. The tour made its way to the Okeover community garden where the pizza oven was ready to go and everyone enjoyed crisp pizza, lemon water and fresh pine nuts.

The lovely Matt Morris from the Sustainability Office

The lovely Matt Morris from the Sustainability Office

Some of the tour participants

Some of the tour participants

Preparing pizza together

Nothing like preparing pizza together

Timm Treskatis, the president of DigSoc, attending as well.

Timm Treskatis, the president of DigSoc, attending as well.

Fresh ingredients ...

Fresh ingredients … ready to go into the community garden pizza oven.



Those who forage together, eat together :-)

Those who forage together, eat together 🙂




















A lovely map was produced for this event which is available here or the Okeover Community Garden.


Leave a comment

Eco Club profile: Kakariki (August 2014)

The Eco Club Q & A profiles a campus-based student club that has an environmental and/or social interest. In this profile they explain what they are about and what projects they are involved in.

This time we focus on the UC environment club Kakariki and talk to Katie Collier (2014 President).

Who are you?

I’m Katie Collier, the club’s president. I study law and environmental science, and I’m in my second year.

Katie and Michael from Kakariki

Some quick facts about your club:

– What does your club name mean?

Kakariki, is Maori for ‘green’ and also the name of a native parrot.

– When was your club founded?

We were founded in 1989 when a set of students got disgruntled about the state of the waterways around campus, and though the university has taken on responsibility for those it’s now our job to be less disgruntled perhaps, but very active about recycling, energy use, promoting green innovation – all the standard roles of an environmental club.

How many members do you have?

We currently comprise 88 members.

In a few sentences, what is the focus of your club?

In the long term we aim to ensure true sustainability at UC. Not many people know this, but over winter the buildings are heated by an onsite coal burner, hence the big chimney. That’s the kind of thing we want to be a distant memory, but unfortunately it’ll be a while into the future before that happens.

In the short term our real goal is to change the perception of ‘environmentalists’ around campus. We want to show the social side to the movement, while maintaining the importance of keeping it green. In particular, we’d like to demonstrate the kinds of innovation that can grow from a more environmentally aware community.

Can you give an example of the projects Kakariki is/has been involved in?  

The Green Gig

The Green Gig

A Bike Voyage

A Bike Voyage

So far our major success of the year has been ‘The Green Gig’; that was my little Summer project. Post-earthquake the club had languished, and people didn’t really know that we existed, much less what we did as a club. So in March we had a pizza and drinks night in the community garden that advertised not only what Kakariki did as a club, but we invited the other sustainability-based clubs on campus to join us, and pitch their ideas.

Since then we’ve worked to maintain our connections with the clubs involved: DigSoc, Generation Zero and many others. In fact I can’t really say too much, but BioSoc, who were a key club in the event, have something really cool in the works that we’ll be working in the near future. In the mean time, we’ve had bike trips to urban farms, movie nights, and are currently planning for another end of year ‘Green Gig’ and maybe a quiz night to disseminate some epic environmental wisdom.

Also, in the early 2000’s, we were the catalyst for the creation of the community gardens on campus.

How do students have an opportunity to participate in sustainability issues through Kakariki?

This question should be so simple, but it’s hard to put into words without saying it outright – our entire club is sustainability issues. Everything we do is geared towards bringing students to consider them and their solutions. We take trips to see people composting from new café developments in the city, restoring poisoned rubble. Even our social events are based around the merits of sustainable living – home brewed beer, home made and grown food, and of course speeches by anyone with an idea and a voice to share it.

So for future members: Who should join Kakariki?

Of course I’m going to say everyone. But I do mean it – we aim to engage everyone, from fanatics to free-food-ists. In fact I’d say we particularly want the latter. Because there’s nothing more rewarding than cajoling someone who came along (for whatever reason) into providing an opinion, or having them listen and take something away from ours.

For more information on Kakariki, see here or join their FB page here.





Leave a comment

Jane’s Garden News – August 2014

 As you may know, 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.

With the year at its coldest and darkest, the working bees have been quiet. The sun has been fairly consistently out, however, and it’s always good to be under its rays at this tiUniversity of of year. We have been pruning, tidying and fixing, enjoying a nice hot cuppa as well as the winter veggies. Parsnip, yams, leeks, greens, stored pumpkin, garlic and quince jam.

We have said goodbye to study abroad students who often like to garden with us during their short stay at UC. As a new semester begins we are looking forward to meeting some new gardeners, there is plenty for you to get stuck into! Spring is just around the corner; so beds will need to be prepared by digging in green manures and we will get onto seed-raising soon as well. It is a lovely time for gardening and getting outside after hibernating.

On the horizon for the Okeover community gardens is the reconstruction of the 2 garden sheds. This may cause a slight disruption for storage and access but will make for a better use of space in the long run. InIMG_1421cluded in this plan is a new shade house. As part of this process we are clearing out stuff and some things will need rehoming. We hope to do this on Friday 8th August so if you are interested in some gardening gear keep watching for updates of what is available!

We will grow some main crops at Dovedale community garden again this year. This requires a couple of working bees to prepare and establish the beds, and there will also be a need for assistance with watering and weeding throughout the summer. Allotment beds may also be available so if you are interested in having your own plot this season, get in touch with the sustainability office.

If you would like to get involved with UCs community gardens, come along to a Garden Bee, every Friday from 1 to 4 pm (with a cuppa at 3!). For other information about the community gardens, check here. The community gardens also have a dedicated Facebook Page.

Until next time!