Late February 2017
The time has come for me to branch out, to spread my wings, to venture forth and bring about change, one garden at a time. Know me as the ‘travelling (kiwi) gardener’, motivated to bring food growing back to local communities, to promote the ‘preventive medicine’ of nutrient-rich food grown visibly, responsibly, biologically and ecologically.
Twenty years a gardener, seven as an organic market gardener, and I have earned my stripes, now a gardening ‘green beret’ of sorts, ready to mix it up in Northland’s trenches (garden paths between raised beds), ready to ‘throw caution to the wind’, to form partnerships with others and support them in growing food on their land.
Why would I leave my river, spring water, alluvial volcanic soil, ‘self-sowing garden’ and relative peace and solitude? Answer – a call to service and a sense of adventure, of course. (Also, my marriage broke up and we’ve since sold the property, river included.)
My master plan remains intact. I will earn my crust (nutrient rich cucumber sandwich) by teaching others, by ‘growing gardeners’, by assisting others to grow local nutrition both individually and cooperatively. This I intend to do both physically, on the ground, and online via Kiwi Gardeners educational courses.
The produce that I have managed to grow thus far has been good, but I know that it could be better. The month by month, season after season demand to supply vegetables to the farmer’s market pressured me into making compromises that I’m no longer willing to make. In particular, I am referring to cultivation practices, namely the overuse of a rotary hoe (walking tractor). In the process of rotary cultivating the soil its basic structure is damaged and much of the soil life is destroyed and this can take many months or longer to become re-established. In fact, without remedial action, the beneficial soil biology may never fully recover, because rotary tillage also accelerates the depletion of the soil organic matter component called humus, which provides a home for the microorganisms. I’ve heard it said that for soil microbes, rotary cultivation is like a tornado, storm and earthquake all in one!
So, with less market garden production pressure, I intend to initiate a minimal tillage, pro-biology approach to gardening. Part of this is my intention to acquire the newer, more sophisticated European walking tractor with the gentler on the soil power harrow and other useful attachments such as the berta-rotary plough (used to establish raised beds), and flail mower, which will be useful for mowing down green manure crops to feed back into the soil. And this equipment can fit on my trailer to be used as I go forth to assist my fellow Northlanders in growing high vitality local nutrition.