Christine Moginie shares her experience of setting up a BD garden to service an eatery in Auckland’s Epsom.
In March 2015 Mark Nicholson from Raven & Cook Cafe introduced me to Guy Malyon owner of the well-known restaurant One Tree Grill Restaurant in Epsom, Auckland. Previously I had helped redesign and plant the courtyard at Raven & Cook with pots of herbs, flowers and veges.
Guy had a wish to create an organic garden on part of a 1/4 acre site just across the road from One Tree Grill to not only partly supply that restaurant but a new venture called Little Jimmy, just metres up the road (on the corner of Manukau and Empire Rds.)
Guy knew a bit about organic gardening and was interested to learn about Biodynamics. He hoped the chefs and staff would also take an interest and become involved. With the growing interest in restaurant gardens and an enthusiastic permaculture graduate Logan Cairns on the staff, the time seemed right to transform about 600sq metres of volcanic soil into a thriving garden. Discussions on what to grow took place, plans for the boxes, wildflower area, and beds evolved, lawn and weeds cleared, soil ordered, and later plants purchased and planted.
The kitchen staff visited the gardens to learn about what was there for future harvesting and what was growing. The main challenges were how to grow enough of something for regular supply, and not all produce would be the same size, nicely washed, and packed and delivered in boxes. Many people hadn’t seen the plants growing naturally before, and were surprised about what the whole plant looked like. Education began and has continued through staff changes over the past 18 months.
As with all dreams….there are always challenges. Logan battled onion weed, oxalis, convolvulus, kikuyu, tonnes of small rocks, glass, old bottles and assorted metal remnants from what had obviously been a rubbish dump in the past. He did an amazing job with help from Marketing Manager Aaron Hanson and Guy, creating 6 beds and 6 raised boxes.
Tonnes of Daltons Organic vege mix was brought in to fill the macrocarpa boxes and beds and left to settle, irrigation set up, planting designs finalised, and planting began, showing Logan how to use companion planting and crop rotation, and how to use the BD Calendar and Preparations.
Problems occurred later as holes weren’t drilled in the bottom of the boxes, and the coffee sacks I suggested couldn’t drain properly. They weren’t a good idea especially in the winter when plants didn’t like having wet feet! It is a hot, windy site and the boxes have never done as well as the beds, even when we redid them later using gravel and made shade covers for the summer months……you can’t beat planting straight into the earth I say but as the landlord had only agreed to limited space being used we had to compromise.
Digging deep holes for the citrus, and fruit trees in the wild flower area was a serious workout but we persevered and abundant flowers, herbs, vegetables, and mixed cropping flourished there and in the new beds. Excess produce was happily snapped up by other cafes, and the very interested locals who regularly look over the fence in admiration of the garden.
Education and information sessions for Guy, Aaron, Logan, chefs, and staff to learn about organics and using the BD Preps were held, focusing on when to harvest what, at which time of day, cycles of the Moon etc, and then planting and harvesting the herbs, flowers, and vegetables became the main focus.
Then Logan moved to Vancouver in Canada for an amazing landscaping job in October 2015, and Council requirements for Little Jimmy dragged on past the Christmas 2015 opening date, and meant interested staff with some gardening knowledge moved on. The challenges of the hospitality industry I guess.
Logan recommended Abundant Gardener John Allan who enthusiastically and competently took over the weekly tasks and garden management. I moved into more of a mentoring role which my old “Gardeners back” appreciated, and John learnt how to make a Cow Pat Pit, stir BD 500, make comfrey and weed teas, a small BD Compost heap, read the BD Calendar, and become more familiar with flowers and companion planting.
We have worked well together and the range of produce grown has become much more streamlined, especially after John attended Curtis Stone’s Urban Gardeners workshops earlier this year. He has focused on micro greens, baby vege, flowers, and herbs to try and balance the massive outlay setting up and maintaining such a garden requires. Purchasing a small hothouse would extend the quantity of produce and seedlings we could grow and if anyone has one for sale please let us know.
Little Jimmy finally opened in early February to wide acclaim with Chef Russell Billing taking over the reins in May. Guy continues to support the garden venture with a hope that at some stage it will repay some of his very generous investment, and we have all learnt valuable lessons along the way.
And so in November 2016 John moves on to other projects, and Leah Wilson has stepped in to take the garden into its next phase. …Nature continues to bless us with her abundance and the ever present change in seasons and experienced gardeners.
If anyone is interested to volunteer time with watering over summer or help with planting or weeding in return for some BD produce please get in touch with Leah or myself……and come and visit the garden, enjoy a fabulous meal at One Tree Grill or Little Jimmy sometime soon.
For more information or for help establishing a cafe garden, home, or community garden using Biodynamics please contact Christine Moginie 0211796471 or firstname.lastname@example.org.