Connecting Food Gardeners

By Doris Evans

Do you know that Avondale has a Shared Garden Space located in an outdoor area behind the library on Rosebank Road? It is an inviting place where everyone is welcomed. You can learn about gardening, meet other locals, share ideas and get practical advice from other gardeners.

Dutchwoman Silvia Spieksma is part of this community project, which started with an “open day and lots of food” in 2019. A lot of physical work was required to create the space back in the day. Volunteers offered their support to help start the project. The original soil of the allocated area was very poor. “We dug out a sandpit,” remembers Silvia, who moved to New Zealand in 2003. Free soil was delivered from Central Landscaping. Having the right people at the right time was crucial.

“We help people to get the food gardening going,” describes Silvia one of the goals the project. Immigrants without New Zealand experience benefit from the initiative, because they learn how to deal with the different climate conditions in Aotearoa. The participants of the project come from all corners of the world, from America to the Philippines, from Russia to the Pacific Islands, from India to Africa.

“There is a great demand for gardening in the community”, Silvia says, “to stretch household income.”  However, not all visitors come to learn about gardening, a lot of people visit the grounds to socialise. There is still a valuable group of volunteers, as well as some people in between jobs who try to fill in time by helping in the garden.

The Shared Garden project wants to bring people together. “Ideally, we would like to hook up those people who don’t have a garden with the ones who have surplus space in their garden.” But it is not only to connect people, inform about growing food or the best ways to recycle, it is also important to support innovative ideas. “Take mulching for example,” Silvia says, “we inform about alternative ideas that are not expensive. Sea grass for instance is perfect for mulching and lies around at the beaches, you do not have to buy it in stores.”

There is always a helping hand at the garden space, especially for frail or elderly people who are physically not in the position to carry heavy stuff for example. “We want to give people resilience and empower them to look after themselves with a healthy variety”, says Silvia.
The busy working bees of the Whau meet usually every Tuesday mornings from 10-12.30 in the garden space behind the community house. On Saturdays the troops are out and about in the community to visit different gardens of volunteers and local residents, helping them set up veggie beds. There is also the odd workshop about growing vegetables, herbs and fruit trees.
Information about the project is on Facebook:

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