Liz Sharek holds a log impregnated with mushroom spawn – part of a project to produce shitake mushrooms.
Every Monday morning, a small group of eager gardeners, can be found digging, weeding and planting on a plot of land behind the Matakana Community Hall.
One of the founding members, Trish Allen, says the Matakana Community Garden is the perfect place for locals who enjoy gardening together or for anybody who wants to learn more and become a better gardener.
“We do a lot of chatting, sharing gardening tips and cooking tips,” Trish says.
The garden hosts regular workshops, most recently on how to grow shitake mushrooms.
The garden started in 2012 when the Matakana Hall Committee agreed the land could be used for a community garden and 40 people turned up for a big working bee to construct it.
Since then, the garden has gone from strength to strength.
The garden features a worm farm, composting system and an orchard with feijoa, apples, plum, pears, figs and citrus trees.
Right now, it is producing garlic, peas, broccoli, lettuce, coriander, silverbeet and kale.
Surplus produce is placed on a stall with an honesty box, for people to help themselves.
Payment can be made in cash or something for the garden – such as grass clippings for compost or sea weed for fertiliser.
Trish says the garden is tended according to permacultural principles, which emphasises sustainable water use, reducing waste, and being energy efficient.
“It’s about living our lives in a way that leaves the planet better than when we found it,” she says.
Quentin Jukes, coordinator for Homebuilders Family Services, which assists struggling families, says community gardens are a great initiative, especially for those who are renting.
“Their landlord may not be keen for the tenant to dig up the lawn, and for the tenant there is always the chance of having to move on,” he says
“The social aspect of working collectively in a garden is another bonus for those involved.”