Ambitious as I am, without becoming great at gardening and since the NZ government is encouraging city farming (which I've written about on the wonderful Pattu's terraced gardening blog) I've started toying with the idea of a produce swap day in our area. I'm aware that some of the everyday fruits and veggies available in NZ (not talking about exotic ones like hapus keri, the queen of mangoes) use up a lot of fuel to get here. We do have our Saturday Farmers' Market where local growers sell their produce at half the price of supermarkets. But why not take it a step further - get to know the community we live in and help ourselves become more self-sufficient by growing and swapping our own veggies?
This post is about two organisations I feel are helping my efforts. The city council - amongst many things, offers free visits and advice to individual homes. For example, a plot in our garden was overun by weeds. We'd been eyeing it for weeks and were reluctant to use a weed killer. We knew there was only one thing to do. Get the shovel and start digging. After a day of hard labour my husband managed to get one weed out with half its roots. Those roots seemed to reach middle earth. One down, thirty to go. Seeing how hopeless the task was we decided to shut it out of our minds and concentrate on the rest of the garden.
The lady from the city council showed us an easy way to get rid of the weeds and prime our soil for our edibles. She said this particular weed (unfortunately I don't remember its name) is very rich in nitrogen and rather than pull it out we should bury it as it would decompose and enrich our soil. The following diagram says it all.
- The lime makes the soil acidic
- the cardboard prevents sunlight and air from reaching the weed
- the third layer is basically a carbon rich (and dry) layer
- the fourth is nitrogen rich (and wet) and
- all this together slowly decomposes to form more compost ready for the next lot of plants even as we grow our edibles in the compost which is the top layer.
Next, I'd like to talk about the free course on starting a project - any project. It is through an organisation which has a strong presence in India. In fact, it is through the Indian branch that I heard about the course. The only qualifier - you can't go it alone. Between 2 and 6 people in a group are invited to enrol for the course - I asked my neighbour if she would like to do the course with me and she said she would. The course teaches "Human Centred Design" - design based on stepping out of our comfort zones, reaching out to people, formulating ideas, prototyping and evolving them, interview and feedback skills and more. It is a five week course and we are into the second week. All groups - from over 130 countries - keep in touch through google+. We get no certificate at the end of the course - only knowledge to improve our skills of going out into, and dealing with, the community.
Let's see how successful we are. We'll keep you posted. As for our daughter, I'm sure you'll agree, she owes us a song.