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.


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.


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!


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.





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.

Christchurch gears up for biggest climate march ever

As the world anticipates the incredibly important United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris this November, people around the world are busy organising a massive worldwide climate march for the weekend of the 28th and 29th of November.

Hands across sand New Brighton May 14 pic
“Hands across sand” New Brighton Climate Action 2014

Here in Christchurch the march will take place on the Saturday the 28th of November (12:30 – 3.30 pm, Victoria Square, Christchurch). We spoke to Torfrida Wainwright who is involved in organising, what is gearing up to be, Christchurch’ biggest climate march ever.

Hi Tor, who is organising this march? A group of organisations and individuals concerned about climate change, coordinated by 350 Christchurch. 350 Christchurch has been active since 2009, making people aware of the scientific facts behind climate change and the need to reduce carbon levels to 350 parts per million if we are to keep global warming within the 2 degree safety level.

The group that is meeting to organise the march includes people from 350Chch, Forest & Bird, Sustainable Otautahi Christchurch, unions and others. Groups and individuals are joining this team all the time (like the Muse community choirs or Frocks on Bikes) as we get closer to the 28th of November.

Why are you organising this march? What do you hope to achieve?

  1. To show the government that the people of NZ want them to take a stronger stand on climate change than they have so far shown. Politicians follow, they rarely lead, and we must show them that we urgently want them to develop and implement a national plan for reducing carbon emissions to safe levels.
  2. To stand in solidarity with all the other Peoples Climate Marches being held around the world on that same weekend – we will see a global mobilisation on the 28th and 29th of November. Climate change has no national borders, people around the world all want real climate action NOW.


A lot of things are happening in the build up to the main march in November – around NZ there are talks, film evenings, market stalls and petitions being organised by a wide variety of groups and individuals. So keep an eye out for those!

350 on the New Brighton pier

So why is it so important to take action now? Scientists are telling us that the planet is very near the point of no return, locking in disastrous global warming of many degrees. Governments and business have not heeded this message. Urgent action can and must be taken NOW to reduce carbon emissions through shifting investment out of fossil fuels (coal & oil with their increasingly extreme & risky extraction) into renewable energy sources.

Why are marches such a powerful tool? Because they are fun! People often get a feeling of exhilaration walking alongside others who share the same concerns. For Chch we are planning a family-friendly festive format, with lots of music, people in costume, walking/biking/scootering in their groups.

To know that hundreds of thousands of people around the world are also in the streets for the same reason at the same time sends a powerful message to the people taking part, to those watching and to the decision-makers that a huge number of people want real climate action NOW and are willing to come out onto the streets to say so.

How is the march related to the UN Climate Conference in Paris? The UN Climate Conference (COP21) in Paris is the focus for the November march, which is being held in the weekend before the Paris Climate talks. (Ed. What the COP21 in Paris aims to achieve is a legally binding and universal agreement on climate action, from all the nations of the world.)

However, is also looking beyond the march. If negotiations are not working, we plan to send a stronger message to politicians as part of an international day of action, on the last day of talks: Plus there are other ways we can take strong action for the climate, that don’t rely on politicians. Like making sure your bank isn’t invested in big oil and coal companies. You can find about how to bank fossil-free, here:

Finally, if people want to get involved, either by joining in with the march or by helping out in the organisation, what can they do? People who want to get involved can:

  1. Come along on the 28th of November, at 12.30 – 3.30 pm (Victoria square) as an individual – you don’t need to register but if you “pledge to march” here, you’ll be kept in the loop as to what is happening and where. You can also indicate there if you want to volunteer.
  1. Get a group of friends together, decide on a message/dress-up them and register with the climate parade to come along as a group n the 28th of November. You will then lead the march! You can register at any of these: or or
  1. Come along to the planning meetings – most Tuesdays 7pm at the WEA, 59 Gloucester St (opposite the big Art Gallery).  All welcome, there are lots of jobs to be done, now and right up to the day!
  1. Contact us at with other ideas you may have, either for the day or around the time of the march/parade. E.g. one woman is planning a wheelchair hikoi to Wellington and could do with a support person. There are a thousand ways of publicising the Peoples Climate March/Parade – let your imagination run wild!


Thanks Tor, and good luck with the preparations!

Details march: November 28, 2015 at 12:30pm – 3:30pm, Victoria Square, Christchurch

For more information on the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, check here. For more information on 350 Aotearoa, check here. For more information on what kind of climate action is being taken at UC, see for instance or check out an earlier Q&A with UC’s Nick (from Canterbury Fossil Free) here

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!

UC Eco Week Next Week! (September 14-18)

ENGS4531_Eco_Week_WordPress_BNRNext week the Sustainability Office is bringing you some spring time sparkle into your life!

Eco Week (September 14-18) is a festival of sustainability-focused events, which celebrate and promote what you can do for

Make your own body products workshop
Make your own body products workshop

the environment, your community and your life.

We’re bringing you inspiring, fun and educational events that will get you thinking and provide opportunities to Make A Difference, both in your own life and in the wider world. Keep in touch via our Facebook page, and check our website regularly.

Free fair trade banana icecream!
Free fair trade banana icecream!

Join the UC Green Team! – April 2015

This year we are introducing a new initiative called the UC Green Team!  The UC green tJoin Green Team Image 2015eam is the Sustainability Office volunteer pool for when we need some extra hands for campus-based sustainability events and activities.

Our next major UC based event will be Fair Trade Fortnight (May 8-22). As part of FTF, we will host tasting sessions of Fair Trade products for staff (available through the Office Max catalogue) and students. We’re keen to find out what tickles people’s taste buds so we can promote these products with enough confidence to give a certain brand of coffee a jolly good run for its money. Among other things, we need assistance with trialling a tasting session (whoop, you get to be a tasting panel), and hosting both the staff and student tasting events. Here’s a hilarious You Tube clip on how to taste coffee (don’t you just love that shirt?) – we need to adapt this for instant coffee in particular, and we would welcome your ideas on how to make it both fun and feasible.

Another project we need assistance with every month is sorting single use-coffee cups, so they can be sent to a composting plant. Whilst this may not sound particularly glamorous, this important work is part of an exciting trial which explores the potential to prevent compostable or biodegradable packaging going to landfill. We need to make sure that the coffee cups collected through this trial are free of non-biodegradable items so they can go straight into a ‘Hot Rot’ composting system.

You will get a FREE re-usable coffee cup when you give us a hand through the Green Team!

To volunteer for either of these events, please contact or call 364 2025. To subscribe to our Green Team list go to , and select UC Green Team. We will contact you about other volunteering opportunities.

To find out more about Fair Trade, check it out here