Thursday, June 7, 2012

May Valley Voice

Kia ora koutou Aro Valley,
Autumn's back after an interesting summer harvest (anyone else have problems with their tomatoes this year?). We've had some great gardening Sundays recently, and all three of the gardens are looking fairly tidy and with bountiful crops either just been or soon on their way. I'm personally looking foward to the parsnips and jerusalem artichokes for some yummy roasts. 

We owe some great thanks to Aro Valleyites that have been using the compost bins at The Orchard at the top of Aro Street. The bins are filling up and we're looking forward to using the compost for the fruit trees and veggies growing up that way. If you're keen to compost but don't have space or a use for it at home, you're welcome to contact us about getting rid of your fruit and veg scraps in one of our compost bins or worm farms in Aro Valley - send us an email and we'll let you know the details.

We are also extremely grateful for a keen kai o te aro gardener that has expertise in fruit trees and has been pruning them appropriately (as now is the time!). We're lucky to have you on board, and we're looking forward to seeing our fruit trees growing strong and healthy with an abundance of plums, apples, fejoa (to name a few) over the coming years.

If you've got a special skill you'd like to share with us, pop us a line. All sorts of skills welcome, or, like lots of us, you can come along to learn as we go.

Show up to one of our gardening Sundays to join in or give it a go. We meet on the first and third Sunday of the month at 10am outside the Aro Valley Community Centre at 48 Aro St. We're also keen for people to get gardening at other times and you can email us to make a time for us to show you around. For questions or to jump on our email list, email us at

Happy gardening everyone! Here's to log burners, dark ales, roast vegetables, and crisp autumn days in the garden,

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February Valley Voice - welcome to new Aro Valleyites

Kia ora Aro Valley!

I was stoked to come back from holiday and see that the community gardens are going for gold. Kai o te aro has had some pixies over the summer break who’ve continued watering the three garden sites, planting new seedlings, and mowing the paths (good on ya!), and there's even some strawberries and artichokes ready to eat.

As it’s a new year, I’d particularly like to welcome new renters in Aro Valley. At my flat, we’ve been noticing old neighbours moving out and new neighbours arriving (I promise I will come over with some muffins shortly!).

What is kai o te aro? We (potentially including you) are a community garden group with three gardenrs along Aro Street. One is called "The Secret Garden", another "The Steps" and the third, "The Orchard". Any keen gardeners (or budding gardeners) are most welcome to join us on the first and third Sunday of the month at 10 o'clock outside the Aro Valley Community Centre. Simply show up to join in. We're also happy to show people around at other times if Sunday morning doesn't work for you - just get in touch.

Having lived in about 5 different flats around Aro Valley over the last four years, I know how frustrating it is to want to have a garden but not want to have to leave it behind if I were to move (yet again). Community gardens provide a space where we can grow some food, learn from each other, and get to know some like-minded people. I’ve also got the peace of mind that I can keep gardening there if I move, and that it will continue to be a well-looked after garden if I leave. People often ask me how we divide up the produce because they are shared gardens, but the truth is we always have an over-abundance of veggies and herbs to go around. So much more work can be achieved as a group than I’ve ever been able to manage on my own, meaning that I’ve always ended up with more of my veg coming from the shared gardens than any other garden I’ve had.

At our latest working bee, driven by a surge of enthusiasm from Richard, we re-laid our brick path in the Secret Garden. We pulled up the old brick path, put down some heavy plastic to stop the weeds coming through, and placed the oddly shaped bits of bricks back into the path like a jigsaw puzzle. See the photos for the results. Amazing what can be done in a couple of hours by a small group of people having a good old yarn.

Hope to see you soon - just show up at our working bees to join in! To get on our contact list or find out more about this project please email us at You can also find us on our ooooby page

Have a good one,

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November Valley Voice - it's all go!

Kia ora koutou Aro gardeners,

we had a great working bee this week, as we finally found time to get back to the secret garden. We have been so busy up at the orchard dealing with our rubbish issues, planting natives and getting the compost sorted that our special secret garden was somewhat neglected -much to the delight of the weeds and broadbeans (which are probably almost 2m tall!).

However once we cleared away the nasturtiums and bolting brassicas it was reassuring to find
that all those perennials we planted three years ago now are thriving. The grape vines are crawling along their wires and the espaliered apples are covered in baby fruits (which we had to pull off to help them grow up strong). Our 'crop guardian' strategy (in which different members of the group take responsibility for raising seedlings of different crops) is now coming into full effect as healthy looking patches of tomatoes, yellow pole beans, kamokamo, sunflowers, peas and other spring/summer plants are appearing throughout the three gardens. As we no longer have the safety net of our Fiskars grant to fall back on we have to be a little more self/community reliant in the way we source our seedlings, and while this can mean a little more work for us, it is helping out group to develop better communication and cooperation- which is what community gardening is all about!

Up at the orchard we are thrilled to find that the monster rubbish pile has not returned, as people appear to be respecting the changes we have made and effort we are putting in. However, a few rogue items like office chairs are still popping up in there so we can't rest on our laurels just yet. A big thank you to everyone who has been helping to keep an eye on the gardens for us and spreading the word in the community about what we are trying to achieve with the Kai o te Aro project.

Its come to our attention recently that we can be a little over dependent on email and social
networking for our communications, which means we can lose people who prefer not to use
computers. Over the next little while we will be doing some work to ensure we can be reached in other ways and that our community continues to grow offline as well as online.

It is time of change, in the garden and in society. Regardless of what happens at the upcoming
election we'll keep doing our best to grow kai and grow community in Aro Valley and while we
are apolitical as a group, one thing we will say is - whoever we vote for at the election, lets vote for strong communities :)

Happy gardening everyone


Ps- as always you can email us at, or find us outside the Aro Valley
Community Center at 10am on the first and third sundays of the month.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October Valley Voice - Spring is warming the earth!

Kia ora Aro Valley,

Spring is definitely here and the earth is warming up. I am loving watching the tui feeding from the kowhai flowers outside my window, and the bumble bees enjoying my fresias and bean flowers. The three gardens are really livening up, and there are even blossom on the fruit trees in The Orchard (see the picture for our "Black Boy Plum" blossom).

We just can't keep up eating the over-abundance of lettuce, herbs and other greens in The Secret Garden and The Steps. You can see a small selection of the harvest from this last weekend at The Orchard, a red radish, some delicious fresh peas and one of the potatoes we accidentally uncovered.

This is a really exciting time of year for the gardens; we get to plant all the things we want to eat over the next few months and it is getting warm enough to see things grow quickly (vegetables especially, but also the weeds!). If you love a particular vegetable or plant and would like to see it growing in our gardens, why not join in? You could be the latest crop guardian for anything of your fancy, from courgette and aubergine, to blueberries and sugarsnap peas.

We are incredibly grateful for Victoria University putting in a storage space for our buckets and things at The Orchard site. We've also planted some natives in the area that used to attract all sorts of broken furniture and rubbish - and we're optimistic that this area will now be rubbish-free. Thanks guys!

We'll also be putting in new raised beds at The Orchard, so if you have any old materials lying around that could make good boarders, please do get in touch. Bricks, rocks and timber are all welcome.

If you'd like to join in or give it a go, you can just show up to one of our working bees. We meet on the first and third Sunday of the month at 10am outside the Aro Valley Community Centre at 48 Aro St. For questions or to jump on our email list, email us at

Here's to daffodils, fruit blossoms and long evenings in the sun.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September Valley Voice: Thank you, mulch appreciated!

Kia ora e hoa mā,
It’s been so great to see our community compost bins at 'the orchard' (225 Aro St) filling up over the past few weeks. We really appreciate the people who are bringing their food scraps
down and covering them so nicely with mulch—our fruit trees will appreciate it too in a few months.

At our last working bee we put together a little sign to let people know that they could use the bins, and how we prefer them to be used...not that we're control freaks, we just want to
make sure we make food for the noke (worms) rather than the kiore (rats). If you're unsure about what goes in the bins, check out the sign, and if you're still unsure, flick us an email.

Regarding our fruit trees, you might notice that they've recently been pruned and staked. It’s really important to start a good pruning routine with trees early on, as it’s hard to re-
shape them once they get big, and the distribution of branches has a direct impact on the fruit yields. We are by no means experts on fruit trees, but are certainly enjoying learning. If you
however are an expert, we'd love to hear from you and pick your brains...we promise to share our peaches with you :)

While in general things are going great in the orchard, we are still facing an old challenge—rubbish!! A constant pile of household refuse (old TVs, beds, broken junk etc) miraculously replenishes itself each time we clean it up. This is a real burden to us as it not only takes up valuable gardening time, it makes our garden look shabby and potentially unsafe and toxic. We're working on a solution, closing off underneath the stairs and planting out the dumping zones, but we would love your help with this. If you ever see people dumping rubbish in the orchard, please go and tell them that it is not OK. Not only is it illegal, but it is holding back a project that is there to benefit our whole community. Once this issue is resolved the orchard will really take off. We'd love to get more fruit trees in there, more natives and more raised beds.

On the note of raised beds, we are definitely on the lookout for suitable materials to build them from, so please let us know if you have spare: bricks, timber, concrete scraps, pipes, rocks...or anything else you think might be useful. Please let us know about it first rather than dropping it off though...just to make sure someone doesn't think you're dumping rubbish and tell you off!

Happy gardening everyone, until next time.
Kai o te Aro

Monday, August 1, 2011

August Valley Voice - crop guardians and new community compost bins

Kia ora Aro Valley!

Hope you've all been seeing our beautiful posters around the valley, with a spade, a fruit tree and tui. We're excited to have them. At each of our three gardens, The Orchard, The Steps and The Secret Garden, you'll see a sign up too so you can tell that they're Kai o Te Aro Community Gardens (not other amazing private veggie gardens!).

Do you need somewhere to put your food scraps or compost? We now have a community compost bin at The Orchard, and we would love ongoing veggie scraps and dead leaves. Please email us at and we can give you the details and let you get composting as you wish. The compost will be highly valued to build up our veggie beds and to feed our fruit trees.

At our last potluck planning meeting, we discussed having crop guardians, whereby different people may take a special interest or guardian role over a particular vegetable or plant. Their task will be to note things like what time of year seeds should be sown and seedlings should be planted and what other plants make good companions (hopefully supporting growth and reducing pests). We can then all share this knowledge with the group. My crops are jerusalem artichokes (something I've never grown but am looking forward to eating!) and silverbeet (perhaps not the most popular, but a veggie I love). Anyone keen to join in and be a crop guardian? Join us at our working bees or to get on our mailing list for our monthly potluck planning meeting.

While it's definitely winter and the weeds aren't growing so fast, we're keeping on going with our fortnightly working bees to keep our garden beds in good shape, prepare them with compost, and looking after green manure crops (such as lupins, peas and beans). There's even great things to harvest and, amazingly, we still have an abundance of coriander and other tasty herbs.

If you'd like to join in or give it a go, you can just show up to one of our working bees. We meet on the first and third Sunday of the month at 10am outside the Aro Valley Community Centre at 48 Aro St. For questions or to jump on our email list, email us at

Cheers, and here's to crisp cold days outside and warm nights by the fire!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June Valley Voice - our vision and Lillian's perspective

Kia ora Aro Valley,

Winter's arrived (my mum
blames my birthday for the
arrival of winter every year!). We've planted broadbeans and lupins to feed our soil, pruned
the fruit trees so they'll prosper next spring, and we've harvested
lots of cauliflowers and

In our potluck before last, we had a visioning session which
was inspiring for the group and led us to ask, what do we like about the Kai o Te Aro community gardens? Why are
we each involved? And what's our vision for the future?

So I thought I would share with you my very own personal perspective on why Kai o Te Aro (and community gardens in general) are so phenomenal.

I grew up in Auckland and my parents have always grown fruit trees, but we only ever had a short stint with vegetables when I was young. The taste of my first home-grown fresh peas direct from the garden still lingers in my memory. After leaving home, I travelled and was blessed to WWOOF on a few farms in France and Argentina, for a few weeks each (that is, "Willing Workers on Organic Farms"). I was amazed at how easy and fulfil
ling it was to grow my own food and eat each meal according the seasons and whatever was growing in the backyard (I also learnt to milk goats but that's another story!). Coming back to New Zealand, I wanted to make sure that this new-found love of growing food became part of my everyday life.

So I made veggie plots in my back garden. But being a renter meant that I was moving flats often, leaving behind pumpkins that would be ready in a month, green tomatoes and soil I'd carefully composted. Community gardens were the answer!

Kai o te Aro sprung up three years ago and I heard how it was going through a few friends of friends. So I braved it one Sunday, and joined in at a working bee. What I found was an easy going bunch of people, lots of laughter and people all learning from each other. If I don't know if a little sprout is a weed or a vegetable, I ask and someone will know. If someone has a great idea, we all listen, chip in and run with it. We're a collaborative group that is non-hierarchical which is pretty amazing to see in action.

And aside from the pure joy of watching food grow on trees and appear out of the ground,
we garden organic so I know there's no nasties when I eat it. Eating local food means not eating so much oil - no transport over roads or across oceans. I haven't done the sums, but it feels good to know I'm part of something that is a tiny wee baby step towards reducing climate change.

Anyway, I'm sure there's more or different things others in the group would say, but that's my personal story of why I keep coming back each month or fortnight to the working bees and potluck planning meetings (did I mention that there are some incredible cooks in the group...?).

We welcome new gardeners and passionate Aro Valleyites to join in our monthly w
orking bees. We meet at 10am outside the Aro Valley Community Centre, 48 Aro St, on the first and third Sunday of the month. Just show up to join in! To get on our contact list or find out more about this project please email us at You can also find us on our ooooby page

Have a good one,

PS. Here's a before and after shot of The Orchard after a recent working bee (and I'm holding a proud potato!)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

March Valley Voice - compost welcome!!

Got compost but nowhere to put it? Or perhaps you want to help feed our worms?
We're looking for more compostable materials for our compost bins and food for our worms that live in the bath at the secret garden. All our compost will be used in our garden sites, and the truth is, we just can't get enough. If you have food scraps (not meat), coffee grinds, tea bags or grass clippings that you would like to donate, please get in touch with us by or phoning 3846998. We welcome other materials, seeds or seedlings - please get in touch with us if you've got something you think we might want.
Of course you could also join us as a gardener - everyone is welcome to come along to our monthly working bees to check it out. You don't need to have any gardening skills, just a bit of enthusiasm, a good laugh and willingness to get your hands dirty. We learn skills from each other every time we garden. Working bees happen on the third Sunday of every month, meeting at midday outside the Aro Valley Community Centre in Aro Park. Just show up on the day to join in.
We're stoked about the progress of all our sites - a bit of sunshine and some decent rain does wonders for all things edible. The steps garden has sunflowers that look onto Aro Street, and I have never before seen so many pumpkin plants. Perhaps our next potluck meeting will be filled with pumpkin pie, roast pumpkin, soup, stuffed pumpkins... (contact us to find out when the next potluck planning meeting is!). We've also been enjoying the harvest of sweetcorn, beans, tomatoes and a variety greens.

The orchard continues and is now definitely looking like a garden. Our fruit trees seem to be doing well in their first six months and some of us are already looking forward to next summer for when there might be fruit! We'd like to see this site being respected as a garden - if you know anyone that is leaving their old desks, mattresses or other unwanted furniture on the site, please kindly ask them to donate it to the Sallies as we don't really need any outdoor office furniture or beds (particularly not when it starts rotting).
The secret garden is just amazing as usual, and the self-seeded plants and herbs just keep on going. We've got fresh delicious coriander coming out our ears, as well as an abundance of silverbeet, kale, lettuce and other veg.
That's all for now! We look forward to seeing you in the coming months.
Nga mihi nui, look after yourself,

Friday, December 10, 2010

December Valley Voice

Hello Aro Valleyites

Kai o Te Aro keeps on getting stronger and we're loving the food that is appearing before our eyes. The three garden sites each have something exciting happening.

The corn planted at the Steps site is coming along well, along with lots of other edibles and some sunflowers. The Secret Garden is overflowing with greens - a lot of which appears to be self-seeded (or perhaps it's the elves?). The Orchard now is complete with all its trees, with an apricot and a macadamia being the last two that were planted.
Although it was absolutely heartbreaking to do, our baby pears and apples that were growing on our one-year-old trees at the Secret Garden had to be removed. We've heard that for new fruit trees, it's best to remove the first signs of tiny fruit, so that the tree can focus on making good strong roots and strong branches in its first year. Apparently it will produce much better fruit in later years after doing this, so the heartbreak will be worth it.

A kind person has generously given us some special kumara that is ready to plant. It is from an ancient kumara growing site on the coast near Martinborough where biologists have been working to look at the kumara's biological history. We're hoping this lot will like their new home in Aro Valley! Next year we'll be awaiting the kumara to be included in a Kai o Te Aro feast.

A big thanks to Fiskars who have just given us three new heavy duty spades. We're planning on doing a "double dig" garden at the Orchard this weekend, so they will be well used and appreciated as we attempt to break ground.

We've just had our last planning and potluck meeting for the year, including eating some of our community grown produce! We also figured out the watering roster for the next month. It's been an incredible year of growth for Kai o Te Aro - physically and as a group - and we're all super excited about 2011. Everyone is welcome to join in, and January/February would be a great time to join in if you're interested (we're particularly keen on encouraging those of you at the top end of Aro Valley so there's people who are close to the Orchard and the Steps sites).

For our monthly working bees, we meet at 12pm outside the Aro Valley Community Centre, 48 Aro St, on the third Sunday of the month. To get on our contact list or find out more about this project email us You can also find us on our ooooby page

Have a fab summer and we look forward to seeing some new faces and a bunch of familiar friendly ones in the New Year.

Nga mihi nui, na Lillian and the Kai o Te Aro 9th December potluck and planning meeting crew.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Salient Article: Kai o Te Aro—A local community gardening group

by Marino Harker-Smith, Mon, 19 Jul 2010. 1

As the cost of living continues to increase faster than wages, many people are turning to growing their own fruit and vegetables as a way to save money. So it comes as no surprise that over the last couple of years there has been a rise in popularity of community gardens throughout New Zealand. Individuals in towns and suburbs around the country have joined forces to promote community building, food sustainability and horticulture education. One such group is central Wellington-based Kai o Te Aro, which currently has three community gardening plots in Aro Valley.

Kai o Te Aro started about 18 months ago with founding member Charles Barrie, and a collection of Aro Valley residents flowing on from the Transitions Town movement. It started with the Secret Garden, a private patch of land that has been provided for the group. But today there are three separate community gardening plots, with Victoria University providing Kai o Te Aro with two areas for the group to develop into fruit and veggie plots. Although no longer living in the valley, Mr Barrie is still an active driving force of the Kai o Te Aro gardening group.

Te Aro resident and Kai o Te Aro member Lynsey Ferrari says community interest in the group was still strong, with about 140 people on their mailing list, and about 12 actively involved in working bees. Ferrari considers herself the only “granny” in the group, with most of its members being relatively young—around 20 to 50—made up of mainly students flatting in the area and working professionals. Despite being one of the senior members of the group, she says she is probably learning more from them than the other way around in terms of different aspects of gardening, including soil maintenance and compost building.

She says a main aim of Kai o Te Aro is “building community and giving people confidence”, by educating each other on how to best grow things in Wellington, as well as things such as permaculture and seed saving. In their three garden sites, they have planted a variety of vegetable and herb plants as well as fruit trees. But having only been established for a couple of years, Kai o Te Aro is still in the development stage with members constantly learning .

“The whole point of it really is to start co-op gardens where people can work alongside each other, learn about growing vegetables, seed saving, building compost, worm farms and getting rid of food waste,” she says.

“It has a strong environmental message, but it also emphasises that you don’t need a huge area to grow gardens. A lot of people grow herbs in pots, and there are a lot of apartments around here that are developing roof gardens—I think that’s a great idea.”

In the early days, a major high for Kai o Te Aro was winning the Australasian section of a competition by international garden supplies company Fiskars, which awarded them with vouchers to spend on gardening products. Ms Ferrari said that prize money was “a wonderful boost” and very instrumental in getting Kai o Te Aro off the ground.

New people are always welcome to get involved with Kai o Te Aro. They hold a working bee on the third Sunday of each month, meeting at the Aro Valley Community Centre, 48 Aro Street, at 12pm. Every month, Kai o Te Aro also holds a pot luck dinner, held at a different member’s house each time, when they have their monthly meetings. People wanting to get involved in the community gardens can either come along to one of the working bees or email their interest to

“We’d be delighted if people with more local gardening knowledge could come along and advise or help us,” Ferrari says.—a-local-community-gardening-group

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Dominion Post writes about us!

See the below photos for this two page spread in the Dompost about Kai o Te Aro and community gardening in the Wellington Region.

(Sorry about the quality)

Friday, May 28, 2010

May... moving into winter!

Kia ora koutou,

Winter is here and the Kai o te Aro gardens are looking better than ever.

While there is plenty of work to do to keep the plants happy over the colder months, our last meeting was spent on a different kind of mahi.

Kai o Te Aro has decided to formalise (ever so slightly...) our admin tasks and divide them amongst the group. This is an exciting move for us as it will both stabalise the group and give enthusiastic members new opportunities to be involved in the development of the project.

We discussed that while some more formal structure was required for the organisational and administrative aspects of the group, we will still remain a non-hierarchical collaborative group who made decisions based on consensus. We don't know exactly where the group is heading, but we do know that we are heading there together.

As always, new gardeners and passionate Aro Valleyites are very welcome to join in on our monthly working bees, it's a great chance to learn new gardening skills and meet your neighbours. It is a exciting time to be involved as we are preparing for the planting of a fruit and nut orchard in July.

We meet at 12pm outside the Aro Valley Community Center - 48 Aro st. on the third Sunday of the month. Each month, a different member hosts the monthly pot luck planning meeting. To get on our contact list or find out more about this project please email us at

You can also find us on our ooooby page

As the roles have been spread out among different people, we have a new person on board for Garden Notes... Charles and Lillian will now be alternating to keep you up to date with what is happening in the Kai o Te Aro gardens.

Naku noa,

Charles and Lillian.