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  • Writer's pictureLisa Maule

Joining the local gardening community during Covid 19

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

New coordinator

In March 2020 I had just been given the green light to become the new coordinator of the Karori Community Garden by the founder Paul Stevenson as Aotearoa New Zealand was moving quickly to a strict lock-down as a response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

I was motivated to be the coordinator of the garden as an investment in my local community and in the world through growing plants and looking and connecting with nature. My parents live nearby the garden and I had just moved back into the suburb to be closer to them. Increasingly I was interested in gardening and my own place was full of weeds so I also wanted to try growing some vegetables. I am at a time in my life with older kids, and less busy with work.

After a few meetings with Paul my first action was to clear the overgrown grass, so I got a weed-eater from Tony at the local lawn mower shop. The country moved to level 3 but I was unaware - I was weeding! Then we went into lock-down level 4. So my second action was to close the garden.

During the level 4 lock-down I tackled my own garden, I read about gardening, I installed the neighbours chicken coop in my backyard, and I looked after my parents. I was also contacted by a reporter through a gardening face book group.

In the news

Here is an interview of me for the Wellington newspaper:



Nikki Macdonald 05:00, Apr 18 2020

Lighting designer Lisa Maule had already been looking for work for several months when the lockdown robbed her of the contract jobs she had on the go – a performance at Te Papa and one at Christchurch's Court Theatre.

She's lucky to have a partner still earning and the wage subsidy helps.

Maule had moved back to the Wellington suburb of Karori to be closer to her parents. Her mum has Alzheimer's, and her dad is her carer. Her house had been rented out so the garden was a mess. She figured she'd plant some of the stir-fry seedlings she'd split with her dad, and some bean and radish seeds she'd bought last year.

She also took over the local community garden just days before the lockdown came into effect. There were 20 requests to join their Facebook group in the first few days before lockdown – some were looking for a sense of community, some were thinking about emergencies and having a food backup, others just wanted to learn.

For Maule – and her dad – gardening has been a release.

"Gardening for him is really important for his mental health, and it's the same for me. Because I think that seeing things grow is really exciting, and having an influence on that can really help you."

They're obviously not the only Kiwis finding solace in gardening.

Seed company Kings Seeds sold 77,251 items in the first week of lockdown, more than 20 times the 3548 units it sold during the same week in 2019. Almost 6000 Kiwis put in orders, compared with 375 last year. There was such a rush on broccoli that it sold out completely and the frantic staff took more than a week to clear the order backlog.

Lots of interest

Many people contacted the Karori Community Garden Facebook group, keen to learn about gardening amidst a need for sustainability as shopping for basics became harder. Weeks went by and the lock-down was successful in containing and then eliminating the virus. I am grateful to live in this country under our leadership that listened to scientists and encouraged compliance in citizens with compassion and clarity.

Once we were in level 2 we were able to start gardening again. Most of the photos are from some of the early sessions where a few people at a time emerged from their homes and cleared away weeds, planted donated seedlings and learnt about different no-dig methods of gardening. There is now a regular monthly Saturday session. The garden is open to all-comers and we are figuring out where to put new plots.

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