City Farming In New Zealand

This a guest post from one of the hugely popular bloggers of Indian origin KayEm ., now settled in New Zealand. She is a versatile writer , taking up serious issues for discussion, putting forward her views in simple and honest

KayEm has authored a book, “Never Mind Yaar” which is published on Amazon and in New Zealand. She is trying to publish, a slightly modified version (with no explanations of Indian terms), soon in India.

Most of us in India think of New Zealand as green and beautiful with gardens and water bodies adorning the country. It is also in news most of the time for the Earth quakes that occur.I for one keep a track of how they overcome these adversities so courageously. I never imagined that they needed to promote kitchen gardening, sustainable gardening and saving on carbon foot prints. Once again , I am amazed at the meticulous planning that is done , with the co-operation of the citizens. Wish we had such initiatives in our leaders and Junta too!!!!

OVer to KayEm

City Farming In New Zealand

The other day I received an invitation. It was from “Sustainability Trust” (ST) – more on the organisation and its various activities at the end of this post.

The invite was to participate in a brain storming session on growing vegetables in NZ cities. One of the reasons ST wants to encourage this is obvious. It would like us to reduce our reliance on foreign vegetables and help reduce NZ’s carbon footprint (petrol used for transportation being the major culprit). Another very good reason is to make individuals as self-reliant as possible. NZ is earthquake prone and after a disastrous earthquake everyone ought to be prepared to survive on their own for at least three days.

After the Christchurch earthquake, the city emergency services swung into action immediately and it was heartening to watch all of New Zealand plus people from all over the world pooling resources to help. The Mayor, Bob Parker, let ordinary people know how best they could help.

The Indian Community put up a (well appreciated) donation effort of our own with donations of food from every Indian restaurant we knew, drinks from Coca-Cola Amatil and entertainment by our Indian kids.

The reason we still have to know how to survive on our own for three days is to be prepared for the worst (if emergency services are not able to reach us immediately.) The NZ civil defence website advises us on storing a survival kit,( ), schools and offices practice earthquake drills regularly, sirens are maintained in prime condition and a lot more is done to help ordinary people stay prepared.

We were looking forward to the Sustainability Trust session because we’d already decided we wanted to try our hand at growing vegetables. If we were getting free advice just before doing so, that was a stroke of luck. As it turned out, the session wasn’t on how to grow vegetables but rather a brain storming session on where to grow them in cities and how to be more visible growing them so that passersby feel enthused about giving it (growing fruit and veggies) a go. ST felt it would be good if people got together and got involved in community gardening through better co-ordination and centralised resources. “Each garden is kind of standing alone at the moment,” said Christina Bellis, community projects manager at the trust. “If we had some more co-ordination, we’d be able to pull independent gardens together and we wouldn’t double up on resources.”

There were quite a few suggestions and the following, probably already being followed by people around the world, are worth a mention.
• Share (or barter) resources with your neighbours. For example, you might want a patch of your garden cleared of weeds and someone else might want to borrow your tools.
• Produce or seed swaps.
• Take a potted vegetable plant to work and grow it at your work station at your office. If your peers could see that growing even small amounts of edibles is creative, fun and rewarding it might enthuse them into growing veggies of their own.
• Children at school to grow veggies and either sell the produce or prepare a dish and sell that – say, once a month.

ST gave us the addresses of quite a few others doing similar work. Here are the names of a couple
 Guerrilla Grafters: You find the spot (on public land – perhaps outside your home) and they’ll plant you a fruit tree! But you need to commit to caring for the tree. (note, no www prefix!)
 Rooftop gardens in Japan: (Amazing set ups. Not much land but efficient use of space.)

We enjoyed our evening at ST. We felt it was rewarding. We’ve planted many vegetables and fruit since that day – cauliflower, spinach, chilli, tomatoes, herbs like coriander, basil and tulsi, Lebanese cucumber, potatoes – plus plum, feijoa, cherry and lemon trees and are delighted with the saplings that have sprung up. We’ve added our own homemade compost – from making a smelly, gooey slop we’ve finally started making decent, sweet-smelling earth. It took us two years but it was well worth the effort. As all gardeners will testify, gardening doesn’t replace having your own kids or pets but it comes a close second!

It is our own garden and not a community effort as yet. First, we need to ensure we do have a green thumb. From next season, perhaps we might get involved in a community effort. There are quite a few benefits. I’ve heard that people are really supportive of one another’s gardening efforts and take a lot of pride in their neighbourhood – another plus for urban gardening.

“Sustainability Trust” advice on a whole bunch of things. Here are a few things, in their own words, that they do – home insulation, e-cycle, home advice, eco shop, warm fuzzies and curtain banks. If interested, please click on their link at

About gardenerat60

As you guessed, I am a retired executive, looking for hobbies. Stumbled into gardening after reading blogs. Always wanted to use eco-friendly items in daily life. So, there was no heistation in deciding to put the vast terrace balcony to use for organic garden.
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48 Responses to City Farming In New Zealand

  1. I wonder why roof-top/urban gardening is not actively encouraged in India by the Govt? Maybe bcos people can get vegetables at a relatively low cost, mostly next to their homes? I feel that the health benefits of organic farming in our own houses is not emphasized enough. I hope urban-gardening will pick up big-time in India.

    It is good to know about the efforts of the NZ Govt. to promote green-living. Inspiration is the right ingredient to get any movement become a mass movement!

    Destination Infinity

    • gardenerat60 says:

      Yes Rajesh, I agree, it is cheap vegetable available next door. But not all localities get that. For being nearer to vendors, one needs to compromise on noise and air pollution, and other headaches In suburbs, vegetables are expensive, at least in Hyderabad and Mumbai. The more you know from where and how the vegetables came to be in the vendor’s basket, one does not want to consume them!. In this shortcomings, growing vegetable for a community is a very good idea, provided community is willing.

    • gardenerat60 says:

      Rajesh, another relevant point you mentioned – about roof top gardens. In Hyderabad , it was started, but I am not sure whether it is still on. The scheme is being shared with private participation. I am not sure whether it will succeed. We need to wait.

      I am not sure whether Govt, by their own initiative have mooted any such easy, path breaking ideas anywhere in the country. If they have, I will be glad to know about it. We have man power, we have roof tops, we have local bodies, but we will not do anything that is good and long lasting.

      Meanwhile small efforts are being made in Mumbai, Bangalore for community gardens, by individual groups carrying on relentlessly.

    • Roof-top or terrace garden is old concept, though may not be in cities. As an architect – teacher I encouraged my students to practice it. At least one of my students is practicing it for past six years.
      The cost of any commodity reduces as the distance between producer and user reduces, particularly the food products. Also it is healthy to practice farming/ gardening regularly, for mind and body. I practiced it wherever I lived, at different scales – micro/meso as area permitted.
      What could any government do about it? If it works HONESTLY for eight hours a day, it
      will do a great GOOD!

      • gardenerat60 says:

        I agree Remi de Souza!. It is heartening to note that people have been practicing for years. What little I have seen, in Bangalore it has caught the fancy of apartment dwellers, and they are at it with full zest. I also appreciate the effort by Mr.Vishwanath, Mr. Laxminarayan , Geek Gardener and many others who offer free advice, spend a lot of time for organic terrace gardening, and allied activities.
        But still a negligible minority.

        In this scenario, if local bodies, ( not the Govt.machinery), take interest, it will surely be better.

  2. Meenakshi says:

    wonderful post, There are many vegetables that can potted in a small place like spinach, coriander, fenugreek, etc. Their leaves are cut from the top they keep regrowing for the entire season. Even summer creepers like, gaurds and torai.can also be grown in pots. It is only a lack of initiative to promote city farming in India.

    • gardenerat60 says:

      Thanks Meenakshi. True, it is lack of intiative, which is stopping our people from trying anything out. I heard of some flat owners even objecting to another person greening the terrace, even though he is prepared to share the produce with all!.

  3. Really interesting…I really how as a community it is being taken forward..I am myself now working on trying to grow some herbs in our balcony… let us see how things develop…

  4. Really interesting…I really like how as a community it is being taken forward..I am myself now working on trying to grow some herbs in our balcony… let us see how things develop…mint is the first one..I think I mentioned that long ago I grew some tomatoes….in our balcony.

    • gardenerat60 says:

      True Desi Traveler. I am a little sad that , we , a country of such educated people, still will not come forward for community based work!

      And happy growing of herbs. Pl. Post pictures in your blog.

  5. Jeevan says:

    It’s well precautious and healthy move by the Govt. of NZ! Home gardening is bit everyone could do for a large-scale green atmosphere. It’s always good and wonderful sharing something with others.

    My advance Deepavali wishes to you 🙂

  6. matheikal says:

    You know, I expected a lot of wonderful photos here too. You provide some of the stunningly beautiful shots on plants.

    This is delightful too in its own way.

    • gardenerat60 says:

      I agree,Matheikal. I asked the guest KAyEm for photographs, but she could forward only these small ones. I found many on the net, but I was hesitant to use them:-)
      I have a dissatisfied feel that the post is incomplete.

  7. Well, yeah I too expected some pictures but truly lovd what all is offer in this articles. Some lovely tips there. Happy Diwali!!

    • gardenerat60 says:

      Thanks Dheeraj. I know it is like reading your posts without those lakes and snow visuals 🙂

      Thanks and Happy Diwali to you too. I am sure you will have a pollution free celebrations 🙂

  8. kayemofnmyk says:

    First, let me thank Pattu Raj for letting me talk about the Trust. I’ve followed her (Pattu’s) terraced gardening efforts with admiration for a while. Definitely love her photographs. As for my photography efforts, I tried to stick to photographs of a few veggie saplings and avoided the rest of our garden since it is more flowers, trees and lawns. This is our initial forray into veggie gardening and I’m looking forward to the results. Perhaps I’ll put up some “after” photos on my blog later. In the mean time, if you click on the ST and Japanese terraced garden links you’ll see some beautiful landscapes.

    • gardenerat60 says:

      Thanks KayEm, for the lovely link ups. I am sure you saw the response to the post. We all long for community effort in India too, but .. we are waiting for that right moment , and right persons .

      • kayemofnmyk says:

        You are already on the right path, Pattu – you grow those lovely veges, you’ve written a post about your fb friends with whom you exchange pointers on growing things organically and your posts on moisture retention techniques are full of value.
        Hopefully, the pointers from ST add an extra dimension for all of us.

      • gardenerat60 says:

        Thanks KayEm. I am doing something only for my satisfaction. I still need to buy from market to augment my supplies. My efforts are miniscule.

        I appreciate the efforts of so many young Indians, who , despite holding a demanding job, try to grow and encourage others.!

  9. Jayanthi says:

    Hi, Feel wonderful to have enrolled your blog . Highly useful and productive info.
    I have never thought seriously of the transportation value (in terms of pollution ..I mean)
    that go into the veg. & fruits that we buy. Thank you so much. I wish to have a copy of the book once
    it is published in India so please have us informed. Btw, the brinjal plant in our terrace has given
    out a couple of flowers…..

    • gardenerat60 says:

      Thanks Jayanthi. Yea carbon print is much talked about in the west. In India too, when i see fruits from California, I wonder which month it was harvested and how much refrigeration has gone into it. When I ask for Kashmiri apples/or Kulu ones, the vendor thinks I am crazy.
      I will pass on the comment to KeyEm.

      And great, about brinjal flowers. What color? the purple flowers or white? Keep me posted please.

  10. Community Participation is an ancient Indian tradition, now continues particularly in rural India. Please see this Link: . Community Participation occupies family, social, religious, house building, village water tank building, temple building… and farming. Government or bureaucracy has killed it by being ignorant about it.

    • gardenerat60 says:

      Yes,This is what my parents might have known. But our generation went to cities and stayed there.And the next generations forgot how plants are grown and how milk is on the table.We did not teach the right way. Only from text books and no hands on. So we need to go back.

      This is what I also feel.Govt/bureaucracy need to know and appreciate. Local bodies need to be encouraged.

    • kayemofnmyk says:

      I agree with your sentiment that community participation doesn’t happen too often but when it does, people achieve much more and gain confidence in their own knowledge, initiative and enterprise.

  11. That is a great effort! Self reliance in vegetables and fruits is a necessary. It should be promoted widely in India too.

  12. ashreyamom says:

    very informative post.. got to know many things.. now i know where i should improve on design. next time when i design building, will ensure i provide features helpful for such gardening.

  13. inducares says:

    Kaym,Pattu,nice post ,the st gave novel suggestions.I too am following in your footsteps-just grown beans & gr.chillies.It is a delight to handle absolutely fresh veggies.

    • gardenerat60 says:

      Thanks Indu.

      Oh.. beans? I did not succeed much with them.Since I could not provide proper trellis, the vines are not co-operating. Hope your beans are fruiting well.
      Green chillies are delight to grow!

  14. Jayanthi says:

    It is purple 🙂 … and I meant to buy the book when published … I am sorry if my comment
    did not convey that earlier.
    Thank you.

  15. Bikramjit Singh Mann says:

    I wud love to have that, but the roof tops here in uk are slanting so dont know how ..

  16. I am so impressed with the direction encouraged by the ST. We don’t have anything nearly as organized in the U.S. We are told to have emergency supplies and provisions on hand for three days, but this really sounds like a very positive step. Certainly in California we watch the earthquakes in NZ and they are very frightening as we’re always shaking, too. But we haven’t had any nearly as large in a very long time. Emergency supplies are very important, for sure.

    • kayemofnmy says:

      Emergency supplies, knowing what to do through constant practice and through regular reminders, growing some of our own food and getting involved with the community is all we can do, TWB. And the last bit is something we’ve forgotten but have to relearn.

      It doesn’t guarantee anything but is better than leaving things totally to random chance.

  17. SRS says:

    Wow!! great post…I am going to reblog this on my blog! I hope it will spark some green initiatives in the minds of some of our chennai readers to do something for the environment…..i for one am intending to do some garedening usig pots at my moms place! Lets see how much I succeed..

    • gardenerat60 says:

      Thanks SRS again.. I feel Chennai is much better compared our dear Hyderabad, where people are very slow to react.
      All the best for your gardening.

  18. SRS says:

    Reblogged this on The Constantly Puzzled Mind and commented:
    Thought provoking post from the Terrace Garder! I simply love her blog and hope I can start doing something at my place too in terms of growing veggies and flowers and being more green….

    You can visit her blog at:

  19. purbaray says:

    Thank to you, I got a virtual tour of the Hyderabad Horticultural show!

  20. Rinzu Rajan says:

    Before starting Phd I worked with the tissue culture department in PUSA for quite a while! and we used to participate in wonderful initiatives like these where in we went on telling people about the benefits of growing greens at homes and offices! Was reminded of those days when I read this! Will watch this space more often! 🙂

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