Andrea has a variety of chickens including a Chilean Araucana that lays green eggs.
The gardens start out as pig pens before being transformed.
Welsh bunching onions, left, and lemon balm.
Andrea is building an adobe wall from recycled and natural materials.
Andrea Graham has been building a food forest out of a bare paddock in Kaiwaka, using only organic and permaculture practices.
The property began as barren land riddled with kikuyu grass, which it is impossible to grow a garden in.
Andrea has been building temporary pig and chicken pens and allowing the animals to strip the tough grass back to bare earth over time, which she then plants.
Defying conventional wisdom, Andrea allows her veggies to go to seed and weeds to grow in her garden.
She says allowing this is better than leaving the soil bare because the sun kills the soil’s microbiome (microorganisms). Moreover, the weeds can be harvested and fed to the pigs.
Andrea has created natural irrigation by planting on the contour lines of hills and digging perpendicular trenches which catch and slow water down as it flows.
Another method she uses is to plant small trees around fruit seedlings to provide shade on the soil, and she has dug holes to collect water around them.
Andrea puts her plant cuttings straight in the soil, but if they need a boost, she makes a natural root hormone by putting crushed willow branches in water for a few days.
She has planted over 200 trees in two years. Most of them have been cuttings shared by friends and other gardeners in the community.
Andrea’s herb garden contains Welsh bunching onions, lemon balm, native American sage and celery along with an array of teas, including apple mint, lemon mint, pineapple sage and nettle.
Alongside, she grows large red wine mushrooms, which taste like shitake mushrooms, but are firm and not slimy.
The greenhouse contains seedlings of papaya, jackfruit, mango, and lúcuma, which is a south American fruit with bright yellow flesh.
She also has cherimoya, a central American fruit with a scaly appearance and creamy white flesh.
Despite the volume of plants and expected produce, Andrea says she is not growing for commercial purposes and intends to share everything she grows.
Meanwhile, Andrea is building Airbnb accommodation so that eco-tourism visitors can stay and learn about permaculture practices.
She has built a small wooden cabin with a double bed and mezzanine, and is in the process of converting a shipping container.
She has been building a bathroom for the accommodation with walls made out of glass bottles from Mahurangi Wastebusters and clay mixed with straw.
The wall is styled in the shape of a Fibonacci spiral, while the glass bottles create an image of a pohutukawa tree and waterfall.
Andrea has been hosting workshops throughout the build, and in future wants to show more people how they can make their own organic garden.
“I want to share the passion of growing your own food for wellbeing. Having your hands in the soil makes you feel good,” she says.
“Whether it’s a planter box on a patio or converting a lawn into a garden, it’s a great mindfulness exercise.”
Andrea is a psychotherapist working in Mangawhai, Wellsford and Albany three days a week, but spends the rest of the week working on her property.