Growing Your Own

by / 02/03/09

VUWSA and Gecko (with the support of Facilities Management) are the proud caretakers of VUW’s latest environmental venture— a vegetable garden.

Universities around the world, as well as around New Zealand, are growing productive and beautiful campus gardens. They are a project that works on many levels. They are relatively inexpensive to set up, and once they are established they do not require too much maintenance other than weeding, watering and harvesting.

At VUW, the food produced will go to students using the Food Bank, in order to supplement the food parcels with something fresh and nutritious. It is also a chance for students to get involved in a project they can have ownership of and belonging to, and creates a huge sense of achievement for everybody involved.

Furthermore, it is a productive use of university land, is attractive and is also a learning opportunity for anyone interested to learn more about gardening.

While at this stage the garden is just a pilot and is therefore very small, it has successfully survived the worst of Wellington’s wind, rain and sun, as well as fears of marauding vegetable thieves that have, as yet, not eventuated. In future, there is potential for it to occupy more space and produce a significant amount of food for the Food Bank, and even for there to be voluntary roles for Vic Plus students (or anyone who is interested) to get involved in.

The garden also acts as inspiration for others, the Salient office already realising how easy and great it is to grow your own veggies, nurturing a passionfruit vine, tomato plants, five types of chilli, banana melons, beans and basil.

The vege garden project reflects the recent resurgence in gardening, vegetable and otherwise. A few years ago it seemed that gardening, · · · · particularly vegetable gardening, had been relegated to the same (supposedly, at least) obsolete realm as tripe and onions for dinner and Benny Hill being the most risqué thing on TV. However, vegetable gardening is back, apparently motivated by several factors, such as rising fruit and vegetable prices (and food prices in general), a growing awareness of the environmental effects of transporting food long distances and a desire to grow food organically and without genetic modification.

As further encouragement, many retailers have picked up on the shoppers’ desire to grow their own, and in many supermarkets it is now possible to buy handy little vegetable seedlings and flowers to pop in the garden, and my local Four Square even stocks potting mix from time to time.

So VUW’s vege garden should act as inspiration to grow-your-own at home. There are many websites (such as www.bestgardening.com), and books out there to help you on your way. The other day I was given the honour of inheriting my grandad’s book, Cost-Effective Self-Sufficiency: Or, the Middle-Class Peasant, dating from the year 1978. My grandad was clearly a visionary man.

You don’t necessarily need much space or money to get a garden going. Tomato plants can be grown in plastic buckets (that usually retail for less than $1) with holes punched in the bottom. Herbs are happy in pots, and another trick is to cut a hole in a bag of potting mix, then plant vegetables straight into the potting mix in the bag to make a transportable garden. Stacked up tyres also make good vegetable plots, particularly for potatoes. You’ll be self-sufficient middle-class peasant in no time.

To get involved with VUW’s vege garden, contact Georgina Hart at environment.officer@vuwsa.org.nz.

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  1. Joe says:

    If you decide to try growing vegetable plants in containers, keep in mind that they will dry out faster. Keeping the soil moist at all times is the key to vegetables in pots. Starting with a good hardy plant is also recommendable. Garden Harvest Supply offers over 200 varieties of potted vegetable plants. http://www.gardenharvestsupply.com/category/home-garden-plants-potted