An inspirational young family
nthony and Zarnia Smith of Palmerston North make no bones about the fact they have a deep passion for eating nutrientdense food, regular exercise and maintaining a positive attitude toward life and living. Together, this young goal-setting couple want to be the best example of healthy living they can be for their children, five year old Te Arangamaioteata (TeA) and three month old Tairawhiti (Tai).
“When we bought our home two years ago, we talked about how when we were kids, we ate more vegetables from the garden than from the supermarket,” says Zarnia. “Home grown food has to be the best option and with my daughter TeA suffering from eczema since she was a baby, we felt we needed more control over what foods she ate. One of the promises Anthony and I made to each other was to get serious about growing our own veges once we bought our own home.”
Anthony, a Gunner in the NZ Army Artillery Regiment, remembers his mum and dad spending hours growing vegetables at the family home in Gisborne. “I don’t remember my parents ever buying vegetables from the shop. They grew everything including Kamo Kamo, ku-mara and Maori potatoes. When I became a dad I knew I wanted to grow a garden big enough to feed my whole family.”
Zarnia remembers seriously considering studying horticulture at school, but her interest in physical education took priority. When she left school she enlisted in the NZ Army and her weekends were spent gaining her Certificate in Personal Training. She also has a Bachelor of Sport & Exercise with a major in Education and a Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Primary).
“These days I’m busy teaching group fitness classes and being a mum, so keeping fit and eating good food is very important to me. I’ve been curious about horticulture since my teenage years and these days with children of my own to feed,
I’m hungry for as much information about gardening as I can get. We have spent hours on the internet trying to find easy-to-understand gardening information but found a lot of it is contradictory,” she says.
The couple’s first attempt at a garden saw them fill a small raised garden with cheap potting mix, around an existing baby lemon tree, in the corner of their backyard. They planted lettuce, celery, parsley and a passionfruit vine up a string. Capsicum plants went into terracotta pots and carrots into a large tyre. To their disappointment, the plants didn’t grow as well as expected, so when Zarnia’s uncle Anthony gave them a garden centre gift voucher as a wedding gift last year, she made plans to go shopping for plants again.
“It was the first time I had been to this garden centre and they explained the importance of having the right nutrients in my soil. I came home with everything I needed to fix our garden and didn’t blow the budget either. Honestly, it’s easy to grow things once you know how and it’s awesome to talk to people who want your garden to succeed. That’s the kind of help we have been searching for.”
A big part of their problem, they now realised, was that their plants needed more sun and more food. While Anthony dug pelletised sheep pellets, blood and bone, organic potting mix and compost into their existing garden (with extra sheep pellets around the drip-line of the lemon tree as citrus need lots of organic matter), Zarnia planted corn close to the fence to protect it from the wind.
Their tyre garden was emptied and lined to form a barrier to any toxic chemicals that might seep into their soil. The soil was then replaced and fresh carrot seed sown. The potted capsicums were given a makeover too and plans were made to move the family’s unhappy feijoa tree to the north facing side of the house for more sunshine.
To ensure all their hard work didn’t go to waste, the couple created a wall planner for watering and feeding. The plants soon began to bloom and last summer the family harvested lots of tasty salad ingredients from their little garden and proudly took salads to friends’ barbecues.
Anthony and Zarnia’s passion for growing their own food has created an unexpected bonus, one they want to share with other parents of young children. “Little TeA has taken to gardening like a duck to water,” says Anthony with a proud smile. “She’d learnt a bit about gardening when she went to daycare, so when we created our own garden, she was very excited. She was so keen we bought her gardening gloves, a little fork and a shovel. She will often arrive home from school, have a drink and head straight out to the garden with at least one of us in tow. She’s learning to be responsible for her plants and she loves it.”
Zarnia plans to take all the family with her on her next visit to the garden centre to spend the remainder of their wedding gift voucher and this time she knows exactly what she wants to buy.
“I want New Zealand seaweed concentrate made from a renewable resource from our Wairarapa Coast. It’s cold-pressed to retain all goodness and ensures veges and fruit trees get every mineral and trace element they need including Boron, Zinc and Selenium. You just spray it on the foliage as often as you can and the plants take it up through the leaves and the soil. It’s pure and natural so even TeA can use it,” she smiles.
She will often arrive home from school, have a drink and head straight out to the garden with at least one of us in tow. She’s learning to be responsible for her plants and she loves it.”
With Zarnia and Anthony’s enthusiasm and energy for achieving goals, it won’t be long before this family’s next plan is on the drawing board. They dream of owning a home out in the countryside with space for a large duck pond, chickens and of course one very big, very productive garden where they can grow lots of the best vegetables ever for family and friends.
Left: Chillies in a pot
Below: Frilly lettuce Right: Five-year-old TeA is discovering the joys of gardening