Garden class­room

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

Home­less­ness, job­less­ness and the cost of liv­ing have re­sulted in com­mu­nity gar­dens be­ing ‘‘ on trend’’.

How­ever, many’s the garden that started in a flush of en­thu­si­asm, only to peter out as the re­al­i­ties of main­tain­ing and sus­tain­ing a long-term suc­cess­ful oper­a­tion take toll.

The city’s lat­est com­mu­nity garden in Roy St has pos­si­bly found a way of over­com­ing any prob­lems with per­son­nel and planning by us­ing the site as a class­room.

Since Fe­bru­ary on this do­nated sub­ur­ban site, Land Based Train­ing and the Green Hub have been run­ning a free 17-week full-time ac­cred­ited level2 Na­tional Cer­tifi­cate in Hor­ti­cul­ture.

The first 20 have just grad­u­ated, with tu­tor Paul Smith in­struct­ing them in the likes of plot man­age­ment, soils, fer­tilis­ers and plant prop­a­ga­tion.

‘‘They start from soil and seed, and do ev­ery­thing. It’s a real hands-on prac­ti­cal course,’’ Paul ex­plains, ‘‘and it’s given them a ba­sic knowl­edge of plant pro­cesses.’’

The course at­tracted an eclec­tic bunch of stu­dents.

‘‘It’s as di­verse a se­lec­tion of peo­ple as you’ll find any­where. They range in age from 16 to 76 and all come from vastly dif­fer­ent back­grounds and from five dif­fer­ent cul­tures.’’

Among them are for­mer pris­on­ers, an en­gi­neer and a bi­ol­o­gist; and hav­ing lasted the dis­tance on a plot that has a clay pan, as well as all the typ­i­cal prob­lem pest plants – ox­alis, but­ter­cup, con­volvu­lus, and onion weed – can’t speak highly enough of their ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘I like gar­den­ing,’’ re­sponds John Wright, ‘‘and I wanted to take it to the next level – and I’ve learned heaps about dif­fer­ent cul­tures.’’

That’s a com­mon theme – in learn­ing about gar­den­ing, they’ve learned about other peo­ple and their ways.

John would like to come back and take the level-3 course when it is of­fered next year.

‘‘The knowl­edge I’ve gained from Paul is price­less. I’ve done more right on this course than I’ve done in my whole life.’’

And then there are the thriv­ing rows of or­gan­i­cally grown veg­eta­bles that to­gether this ec­cen­tric group has pro­duced.

The next free level-2 course be­gins next Mon­day, July 11.

The Green Hub’s Yvonne Marsh says stu­dent al­lowances ap­ply, but as it’s on from 9am – 3pm dur­ing the week, the course is a real com­mit­ment. Any­one wish­ing to ap­ply should give Yvonne a call on 06 560 2150 or email green­hub.manawatu@gmail.com.

PHOTO: MUR­RAY WIL­SON/FAIR­FAX NZ

Hor­ti­cul­tural in­struc­tor Paul Smith with some of his grad­u­at­ing class at the Roy St com­mu­nity garden.

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