Or­ganic veg­etable gar­den the pick of the crop

Central Leader - - News - By Janie Smith

Gar­den­ing isn’t just a hobby for Michael Owen, it’s a way of stay­ing up­beat and feed­ing him­self.

Mr Owen’s veg­etable gar­den has been named the win­ner in the veg­etable cat­e­gory of Hous­ing New Zealand’s Gar­den­ing Awards for the Morn­ing­side neigh­bour­hood unit, which qual­i­fies him for the na­tional awards.

When Mr Owen moved into his Pon­sonby flat two years ago, the back­yard was a bar­ren lawn.

With the help of some friends, he dug it over to cre­ate veg­etable beds, bor­dered by re­cy­cled bricks.

Now it sports a wide range of pro­duce, in­clud­ing toma­toes, let­tuce, mar­row, red onion, sil­ver­beet and sev­eral herbs.

“All the stuff in there is or­ganic. I col­lect the seeds to re­plant for next year. I don’t see the point in buy­ing seeds all the time if you can prop­a­gate them your­self.”

Be­fore mov­ing to Auck­land, Mr Owen lived in the Bay of Is­lands and dis­cov­ered gar­den­ing dur­ing a dif­fi­cult time in his life.

“I was work­ing in a job that was very stress­ful and low paid. I got pretty de­pressed and ended up tak­ing time off work. The only thing that pulled me out of de­pres­sion was gar­den­ing.

“I hadn’t re­ally gar­dened be­fore. But there’s some­thing about dig­ging your own plot. The pills didn’t work but gar­den­ing did.”

Mr Owen en­joyed gar­den­ing so much that when he moved to Auck­land, he got his gar­den up and run­ning again.

Be­ing veg­e­tar­ian means he can live largely off what he grows and al­ways has far more pro­duce than he can eat, which he gives away to friends and neigh­bours.

Mr Owen says most of the time gar­den­ing isn’t time con­sum­ing un­less he is pulling out old plants and putting in new ones.

He was pleased to win the com­pe­ti­tion sec­tion for his unit and says he will use his prize of Mitre 10 vouch­ers to get new com­post bins.

Nearly 2000 peo­ple around the coun­try en­tered the awards in the five cat­e­gories, which in­cluded gen­eral gar­dens, veg­etable gar­dens and chil­dren’s gar­dens.

“We had a phe­nom­e­nal num­ber of en­tries with the most pop­u­lar cat­e­gories in our re­gion be­ing small and veg­etable gar­dens,” says Auck­land cen­tral re­gional man­ager Denise Fink.

She says the cor­po­ra­tion is proud of the ef- forts the ten­ants put in.

The gen­eral gar­den win­ners for Auck­land:

Ngaire Col­lis from the Mt Roskill neigh­bour­hood unit, Colleen Ge­orge from the Morn­ing­side neigh­bour­hood unit and David Starkey from the One­hunga neigh­bour­hood unit.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Ed­i­ble par­adise: Michael Owen in his prizewin­ning veg­etable gar­den.

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