Behind an unassuming wooden fence in the heart of New Brighton,; so close to the beach, you can hear the waves slapping the shore; lies a garden of such surprising abundance it will take you breath away. Fruit trees drip with fruit, butterflies flit from flower to flower. There is birdsong and the buzz of bees in the air and beneath your feet is a hidden world of worms, and bugs and grubs and billions of marvelous microbes, all creating the remarkable ecology of our garden. Whether you are two legged or 6 legged or 100 legged you will be valued and acknowledged for being essential to the success of the community gardens. Our cutter bees are even lucky enough to have a flash custom built home to reside in, donated by one of our many special supporters. Our volunteers have established bug hotels and worm motels amidst an absolute profusion of plants and flowers.
The garden ebbs and flows with visits from school children, volunteers and visitors from our community and beyond, we’ve even had a celebrity chef to lunch! With so many businesses and organisations donating their time and resources, we are able to get special projects off the ground. It’s a heart-warming sight to see all sorts of people working together, always happily, while making the garden more special with their efforts. There are so many different things going on at any given time ,you could spot between the hedges a lady gamely swatting White butterflies with a badminton racket or hear the sweet sounds of someone tickling the ivories of our outdoor piano. Such is life in the gardens, it’s an idyll that’s magic is not lost on any who enter its gates.
The New Brighton community gardens have been buzzing since they came to life in an unused bowls club 14 years ago. The ambitious project was started by a small group of people who came together, with a common purpose: to create a low impact vegetable garden based on sound environmental and ecological principles. Their wish was to create a garden that would nourish and feed the community : physically, emotionally and socially, through mutual collaboration, with the hope that people would take that knowledge with them, into their communities share it with their whānau and incorporate the ecological gardening principles into their own gardens.
What we now have is a collection of gardens and open spaces grouped around an expansive vegetable garden of concentric circles that flourish with each each season. It is a garden that shapes the environment around it and uplifts the community who share it. It’s a type of edible botanic garden, that invites visitors in to have access to the profusion of special and heritage varieties of plants.
The New Brighton Community gardens have been extraordinarily successful in growing a sustainable garden that enriches the environment and food supply as much as it enriches society. By maintaining organic principles, the garden is an environment of rich biodiversity. Every system in the garden seeks to work in harmony together. This is reflected in how the gardens are managed, from volunteer coordination, to planting and harvesting. By taking care of the soil and respecting the balance of nature, we are able to produce impressive quantities of truly delicious food year after year.
The gardens are tended to by volunteers and community service workers, some of whom have been contributing to the garden for years. Thousands of hands have helped make the garden what it is today and it is so heartening to see people bringing their friends and families to visit a place they are so obviously proud to be a part of.
The ethos of the garden is to share knowledge and resources to grow a diversity of fruits and vegetables. The community benefits by being exposed to new and unusual food they may not have grown or eaten before and it’s great for people to have access to fresh, wholesome, nutrient rich food, that is grown close to home. Being exposed to growing food helps people appreciate the resources it takes to maintain food production while demonstrating that we all, no matter our age or abilities can grow our own food to feed ourselves and the ones we love.
The New Brighton community gardens were a lifeline to many after the Canterbury Earthquakes. A place where the community could gather, hold each other up, to support one another and feel supported. The mere presence and persistence of growth and renewal in a garden can be tremendously uplifting in times of acute stress and uncertainty. Working together on something that has a meaningful impact on the community, inspires people and gives people that marvelous sense of peace we experience when we do something for others and at sense of belonging and purpose.
As gardening is an activity that almost anyone can participate in, we are able to create a space that welcomes everyone and that anyone can engage in. With food being our universal commonality, community gardens are a wonderful place to celebrate and explore our different cultures through growing ,sharing and eating food together.
It is our hope that the seeds of compassion and love that are propagated at our gardens continue to scatter and grow throughout New Zealand and that we inspire many more gardens and gardeners.