A central Oamaru garden growing plants for food and medicine is bearing fruit – as well as vegetables and herbs.
Sowing began in the spacious back yard at Te Whare Koa Community Marae, in France St, in mid-2016. Now it has reached the stage where its gardeners have created a “farmacy” to share its bounty.
Head gardener Uriana Campbell is delighted with progress at the site, which has benefited from some expert input.
She credits Ian Ford for his invaluable contribution, and second-in-charge Dale Leigh for helping to establish the vegetable beds and mowing koru designs into the lawn.
After he moved away from Oamaru, Ms Campbell asked her friend David Schofield from Waimate for advice. He grew vegetables at the Waimate Community Garden and was involved with Timaru’s Oxford St Community Garden before that.
He also worked with the late George Lochhead, who spent many years producing vegetables in a 1ha churchyard at St Stephen’s, Washdyke. The pair gave vegetables to people in need and supplied foodbanks.
Ms Campbell and Mr Schofield have built a mobile pantry from recycled pallets, with shelves to contain an array of produce from the gardens at Te Whare Koa. It will be painted black, red, and white and adorned with taniwha – one of Ms Campbell’s favourite symbols.
The first food crop she harvested was puha, which became the base for “Sunday stone soup”. Everyone was encouraged to add a vegetable or two, as in the old folk story, resulting in a flavoursome broth for all to enjoy.
Ms Campbell and Mr Schofield are keeping a close watch on a special planting of kumara at the garden. Despite the common belief that it would not grow this far south, Katrina Fowler succeeded in sowing it in a raised bed at Te Whare Koa.
The vegetables sown there were heritage varieties, renowned for their flavour and nutrients.
Ms Campbell is keen to move from vegetables to herbs, which are her main interest.
She wants to provide medicinal, healing products especially for children.
Chickweed, stinging nettle, and parsley are prevalent ingredients, and she is nurturing a seedbank of healing plants at her home.
Mr Schofield said they were trying to encourage as many people as possible to extend whatever they have growing into the community.