Its official a group of green fingered families from Pahiatua have been crowned the overall winners of The Tui Great NZ Grow Off competition for 2010. The annual competition run by Tui Products aims to encourage, recognise and foster growing veggies around the country. The winning entry Vince’s Veges in Pahiatua is a community garden project that entered the garden in the competition whilst it was in its beginning stages in August 2009. The garden is named ‘Vince’s Veges’ after the previous owner of the farm where the garden is, the late Mr. Vince O’Brien. Their outstanding efforts have won them a Garden Master Shed filled with Tui garden products and an all-expensed paid trip for 2 to any garden event in New Zealand.
The shared garden idea came about when current owners, Todd and Traci Wheeler were felling the trees in an area which was formally an effluent pond. Todd thought the area would an ideal spot to grow veggies, with its rich, black fertile soil in a sunny sheltered hollow. The idea was sown, next a fence was put around the ¼ acre area and planning began. The garden was far too big for a family of four, so they decided to open the garden up to their extended family and neighbours; soon 4 families (around 15 people) were involved in the project.
It quickly became apparent that the garden produced more than four families could eat so $10 mixed veggie trays were sold and the local café regularly buys silver beet, radishes and spring onions. Funds raised from the sales of produce are used to buy supplies like seeds and materials for the garden. The group decided to work together in the garden with the aim to supply all their families with constant fresh produce and veggies.
“We have been very surprised at how successful the garden has been so far, it has really brought our family and community closer together.” The children in the family are really getting in to it and it is great to see them enjoying planting, picking and eating vegetables. Winning The Great NZ Grow Off is amazing and will hopefully inspire more people to be involved in community gardens.” Says Traci Wheeler.
The Great NZ Grow Off was open to all New Zealanders due to the various categories to enter including Best Use of Space, First Time Gardener, Heritage Homage and Group/Community Garden. A Garden Master Shed filled with Tui Products was awarded to each category winner.
Christine Smith from Auckland won the Heritage Homage category, she was a standout winner with her impressive range of heirloom and heritage edibles planted and enjoyed impressive harvest success.
The First Time Vegetable Gardeners title went to Andrew & Donna McLaughlan from Christchurch. Andrew and Donna decided to action their dream to build a medium sized vegetable garden alongside a playground for 2 year old daughter Nicola, the results speak for themselves.
Takapuna gardener Margaret McGuigan won the category that received the most entries which was Best use of space. Margaret looks forward to the weekend where she spends time planting, pruning and trying to squeeze more fruit, veges, flowers, pots and garden beds in her small backyard.
St Francis Aroha Community Centre in Rotorua claimed the prize for the Group/community project category. St Francis is a non-profit early childhood and family support centre that shares seeds and cuttings from crops with families in the area to encourage more people in to starting a garden at home.
The annual Tui Great New Zealand Grow Off competition begins again in spring 2010. For more information on the competition and to see images of the winning gardens visit www.nzgrowoff.co.nz