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What is your ear­li­est gar­den­ing mem­ory? Has gar­den­ing al­ways been a part of your life?

Pick­ing peas in the gar­den with my grand­fa­ther comes to mind. I was about three or four and would com­pletely de­vour them as we went along. I was ex­posed to the value of na­ture and gar­den­ing from a very young age. Grow­ing up, I spent a lot of time with my gree­nie grand­fa­thers, both of whom had veg­etable gar­dens and were very much men of the land.

You started the com­mu­nity ini­tia­tive Hand Over a Hundy in 2010, how long had you been cre­at­ing ed­i­ble gar­dens be­fore this time?

I had started a cou­ple of years be­fore Hand Over a Hundy, while vol­un­teer­ing for Birthright. While I was there I worked with fam­i­lies to put gar­dens in their homes. As for my own fam­ily, we’ve en­joyed ed­i­ble gar­dens to­gether since 2001.

Can you tell us more about the Hand Over a Hundy ini­tia­tive?

Hand Over a Hundy has worked with hun­dreds of fam­i­lies since it first started. It works by spon­sor­ing fam­i­lies to start a veg­etable gar­den with just one hun­dred dol­lars. That money gets put into the es­sen­tials that they need such as seeds, seedlings, com­post and seed rais­ing mix. Each fam­ily is part­nered with a men­tor from their com­mu­nity who is then able to pass down their knowl­edge of gar­den­ing. The chal­lenge is to earn back the money through sav­ing or sell­ing ex­tra pro­duce from their gar­den and af­ter a year, the fam­ily then ‘hand over a hundy’ to another fam­ily. The project is about get­ting com­mu­ni­ties talk­ing about food – how much it ac­tu­ally costs and where it comes from. We want to build mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions be­tween young fam­i­lies and older gen­er­a­tions through shar­ing the lost knowl­edge of grow­ing our own food.

For a hun­dred dol­lars, what do you sug­gest a be­gin­ner gar­dener pur­chases to get started with an ed­i­ble gar­den in spring?

It re­ally de­pends on what kind of set up you have at home, such as a raised gar­den bed, ground level plot, or bal­cony pa­tio. If we’re go­ing back to ba­sics, all you’d need is a good qual­ity seed rais­ing mix, one bag of com­post, seaweed, about $50 worth of her­itage seeds, and some seedlings. Th­ese es­sen­tials will earn you back around $1500 worth of food. It’s good to start sim­ple, veg­eta­bles like; toma­toes, salad greens, and broc­coli. Radishes grow fast so they are great for gar­den­ing with kids.

What veg­eta­bles do you sug­gest peo­ple grow if they have lim­ited space?

Salad mix is al­ways a good op­tion, things like rocket, baby spinach, and mesclun, as well as new pota­toes. It’s about us­ing what ma­te­ri­als you al­ready have. For ex­am­ple, plant toma­toes in pots or herbs in tyres. Beans make great use of space as they can grow up walls.

With home own­er­ship on the de­cline, espe­cially among younger ki­wis, what do you think needs to change, if any­thing, to make veg­etable gar­den­ing more ac­ces­si­ble to home renters?

Mov­able gar­dens are par­tic­u­larly good for rentals – I’ve been known to cre­ate ed­i­ble gar­dens in a wheel­bar­row! They’re per­fect for mov­ing in and out of shade, wind, and spots to get that ex­tra sunshine. For big­ger projects, it’s about talk­ing to your land­lord and work­ing out how you can utilise the space with­out dam­ag­ing it.

Based on your ex­pe­ri­ences with your own five chil­dren, what are some of your best ways to en­gage chil­dren in grow­ing food?

My kids don’t have a choice, it’s all they know! It doesn’t take much to get kids in­volved but a lot of the en­cour­age­ment needs to come from the par­ents. Make it fun and get them try­ing things out for them­selves. You can paint wa­ter­ing cans or put stripes on the hose and en­cour­age them to make it their own. Give them their own mini gar­den of straw­ber­ries for ex­am­ple, and work with them to take care of their own patch of soil.

You’ve been work­ing on a very traditional form of ed­i­ble gar­den, named a food for­est. Can you tell us more about how this works?

A food for­est is a way of gar­den­ing that’s meant to re­flect a nat­u­ral com­mu­nity of plants and an­i­mals work­ing to­gether for sur­vival. They can work in a ter­race style set up with minia­ture ‘ecosys­tems’ placed at dif­fer­ent lev­els to feed and sup­port each other. As a re­sult, food forests are self-sus­tain­able, which means they can thrive with­out the up­keep that a con­ven­tional gar­den would need, such as wa­ter­ing, weed­ing, pes­ti­cides, fer­tilis­ers and so on. It works be­cause it’s been road-tested by Mother Na­ture.

We are look­ing for­ward to see­ing you this De­cem­ber at the New Zealand Flower and Gar­den Show. What can you tell us about your en­tic­ingly named project, T ne Mahuta – God of the For­est?

The theme of Tāne Mahuta is about tak­ing a few steps back in his­tory to see how Maori have used the land, and how we could bring th­ese traditional prac­tices into the present, as well as the fu­ture of gar­den­ing. Our land pro­vides us with so much and our an­ces­tors recog­nised that by mak­ing use of na­tive re­sources both medic­i­nally and prac­ti­cally. The aim of the project is to fol­low in their foot­steps and sus­tain­ably nur­ture this abun­dance of nat­u­ral re­sources to unite and feed fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties right in our own back­yard.

Jade Te­mepara’s dis­play gar­den at the 2012 Eller­slie Flower Show in Christchurch.

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