BAL­CLUTHA COM­MU­NITY GAR­DEN

NZ Gardener - - Front Page - TEXT: NICKY PEL­LE­GRINO PHOTO: ROBYN EDIE/STUFF.

Only last year the Bal­clutha Com­mu­nity Gar­den was just an un­used quar­ter-acre block of land with an old house on it. Now there are 12 raised beds that are help­ing sup­ply local res­i­dents with an abun­dance of fresh, healthy food.

Friends and neigh­bours Beatrice Pratt and Robyn Bell are behind this amaz­ing trans­for­ma­tion. “We’d been hear­ing about com­mu­nity gar­dens and thought we could do it here. Then it just sort of snow­balled,” Robyn re­calls.

She de­scribes her­self as a “dead keen am­a­teur” when it comes to gar­den­ing but she’s learnt a lot from Beatrice and the other vol­un­teers. De­spite own­ing and run­ning a local café, she still man­ages to spend a good 10 to 15 hours a week work­ing in the gar­den.

Mean­while, Beatrice is a re­tired teacher and very fo­cused on get­ting local chil­dren in­ter­ested in grow­ing, cook­ing and eat­ing veg­eta­bles. Last sum­mer, there was par­tic­u­lar ex­cite­ment about a kohlrabi crop as most of the chil­dren had never heard of the veg­etable. “They come back with pic­tures they’ve drawn of the gar­den and we give them seeds to grow them­selves,” she says.

On Satur­day morn­ings over sum­mer, the gar­den is open to lo­cals who are wel­come to get fresh pro­duce in re­turn for a small do­na­tion.

“If there are any veges left we take them to the se­nior ci­ti­zens,” says Robyn. “They’re so ap­pre­cia­tive, so that’s my re­ward, going there.”

There are plans for six more raised beds and 25 her­itage fruit trees are on their way. Soon there should be enough crops grow­ing to sup­ply lo­cals with fresh pro­duce all year round. “We just want to get peo­ple ex­cited about veg­eta­bles,” says Robyn.

The re­sponse they’ve had from their com­mu­nity so far has cer­tainly been en­thu­si­as­tic.

“To be­gin with, we knocked on ev­ery­one’s door ask­ing for help and we’ve been ab­so­lutely over­whelmed,” says Beatrice. “Peo­ple come up to me in the street now and give me do­na­tions. They give us plants, sacks of blood and bone, tools and ad­vice. They’ve been fab­u­lous.”

From left: Beatrice Pratt, Diane Ben­nett, Michael Cather­wood, John Evans, and Gill Scarth.

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