Kids, food & community

Jizzy Green was walking in Katikati with husband Mike when she came up with the idea of planting fruit trees in a public reserve so passersby could help themselves. “I expected the council to say ‘no’,” she laughs, ‘so when they said ‘yes’ I got a fright.”

At the time, almost 7 years ago, Jizzy was teaching at Katikati Kindergarten and had started taking the organisation into the Enviroschools programme and initially saw her fruit tree idea as part of that (the kindergarten achieved Green-Gold Enviroschool status in 2014).

It took 9 months of negotiation before Western Bay of Plenty District Council gave the go-ahead for Gilfillan Reserve to become home to the KatiKaiWay. “We thought wouldn’t it be great for people who don’t have citrus trees in their gardens to have them available here?,” Jizzy says. “Or for children who don’t have access to fresh fruit to just grab some and munch on it straight off the tree.”

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Jizzy Green (right) and Elizabeth Rae. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Before council staff would endorse the idea, they asked Jizzy to carry out community consultation, primarily with neighbours. Feedback was “very clear” the KaiWay should be organic, which it remains.  A planting plan came from landscaper Hugo Verhagen, now of Turangi but at the time a Katikati resident and member of Permablitz BOP. He included beds of one plant, two plants, three plants, four plants and five plants, designed to help youngsters learn to count.

The Fairview Rd kindergarten, a 5-minute walk for small legs from the park, has been behind the KaiWay from the beginning – mums painted a boundary fence and parents and children collected trash before the first 24 trees were planted in 2012.

“Two days after we planted the trees, about five feijoas were removed,” Jizzy says. “So the next year we bought extra feijoas and advertised that anyone who came to help plant could take one home for free.”

Jizzy, who was born in South Africa, has lived in New Zealand for 23 years, 14 of those in Katikati. Although she took 2016 off for health reasons, Jizzy stayed in touch with the KaiWay and last year was keen to renew her involvement.

Elizabeth Rae, a long-time member of the Tree Crops Association, is now supervising the project – both she and husband Bill, who also lends a hand on the KaiWay, have been chair for the local Tree Crops group, while Bill is coming into his fourth year as national chairman.

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Kindy weeders get to work. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Fruit available along the KaiWay includes lemons, oranges, mandarins, tangors (mandarin-orange cross), persimmons, feijoas, plums, Chilean guavas and blueberries, as well almonds, a walnut tree and rhubarb. Generally, the fruit trees are of several varieties for a longer cropping season. “Basically, it’s what grows well in the area and what people like,” Elizabeth says.

Trees have also been lost – a nashi contracted fireblight and an almond silverleaf, several citrus were destroyed by vandals and the replacement nashi was stolen as soon as it went in. “We’ll persevere,” Elizabeth says.

The KaiWay has proved beneficial to the reserve and surrounding homes – increased foot traffic has seen problems such as broken glass and tagging decrease markedly – and on the day NZ Gardener visited with a kindy group, the children immediately zeroed in on litter, begging to collect it.

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Miles of orange smiles from Katikati Kindergarten weeders. Photo: Sandra Simpson

People carrying out community work sentences have spread mulch and kindergarten head teacher Cushla Scott hopes the council will offer more such opportunities. “It’s many hands making light work.”

Because the kindergarten now has many more younger children on its roll, weeding trips  aren’t as frequent but groups still help at the KaiWay and late in 2016 were present for the installation of information signs designed by teacher Donya Feci and made by the local Men’s Shed.

It was hoped the project would be taken on by the wider community and although this hasn’t happened yet, the kindergarten continues to pursue that end.

“The KaiWay initiative was our way of trying to educate the community about things we teach at the kindergarten,” Cushla says. “Things like knowing where your food comes from, taking care of it as it grows and showing respect to the soil. They’re important lessons for us all.”

Teachers and children at the kindergarten don’t just talk about sustainability, they practice what they preach every day.

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Kindergarten head teacher Cushla Scott picks lettuce leaves from the kindy’s garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

“It all works so well,” Cushla says. “We grow our own food from heritage seeds, we recycle, compost, have a worm farm, collect rainwater, have no-waste water use and being an EnviroSchool means all our purchasing is done through a green lens.

[March 21 update: The kindy has become the first school in the Bay of Plenty to be awarded the Beyond Green-Gold status recognising its commitment to the environment.]

“We have lots of testimonials that the kids are taking it home and teaching their parents and grandparents! Our next learning step is to save seed from our vege garden.”

The playground features a custom-made adobe and wood area for imaginative play (including a ‘hobbit house’ with a living roof), as well as a custom-made ‘challenging play’ area. A child-sized maimai looks on to bird feeders and a bird bath in a quiet corner.

Re-useable food wraps, made locally, are sold at the kindy as part of the ‘litterless lunchboxes’ campaign. Also on sale are natural toothbrushes, fire bricks made from recycled paper, plant seedlings and ‘worm wine’ made from the kindy’s worm farm. The kindergarten is also involved in a plan to make Katikati an Envirotown.

Weeding takes place at the KatiKaiWay on the first Friday of the month from 9am-noon, all welcome. Meet at the Gilfillan Dr entry.

This article first appeared in NZ Gardener and is published here with permission.

Feeding the bees

Tree Crops Association branches are having sales – Waikato (July 4), Auckland (July 11) and Bay of Plenty (July 18). See the Events page for details.

Worried by a lack of bees in your garden? You should be for it is the bees and bumblebees that pollinate most of our fruit, nuts, vegetables and flowers but if New Zealand follows northern hemisphere trends these busy little workers are at risk – and so are our crops, whether domestic or commercial.

Bill and Elizabeth Rae, who have a kiwifruit orchard north of Katikati, have been following news stories and research on the threats to bees in Britain and the United States and are working to try and stop a decline in bee numbers here. They are members of the Bee Group within the Bay of Plenty Tree Crops Association – motto Bee Wise – and have compiled information and planting lists for gardeners.

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Alnus jorullensis (Mexican alder) flowers in winter in the Western Bay of Plenty and is attractive to bees. Photo: Sandra Simpson

“There seems to be a lot of information for the commercial growers and not a lot for the home gardener, either on useful plants or the use of chemical sprays,” says Bill, a trained botanist and former teacher at Katikati College.

“Spraying on roadsides and under kiwifruit vines takes away flowering weeds, monocultural cropping takes away the diversity of pollen bees seem to need to stay healthy, and home gardeners aren’t necessarily planting to support bees, especially these so-called easy-care gardens with lots of stones.”

Research is showing that the decline in bee numbers may be down to reduced plant diversity – those with access to pollen from a range of plants had healthier immune systems, French scientists have found – while another European study in 2008 showed that bee numbers were declining in step with a reduction in wild flowers.

In 2010 the French government announced a project to sow nectar-rich flowers by roadsides, while the previous year the British government pledged ₤10 million to research ways to halt the decline in pollinators, including bees and butterflies.

“There’s a general concern around the world about the decline in bee numbers,” Bill says, “and being orchardists ourselves we’ve heard a lot about being careful with the bees that are brought in for pollination.”

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If you have the space, banksia shrubs and trees are winter flowering and also attract nectar-eating birds. Photo: Sandra Simpson

In their own home orchard and vege garden Elizabeth sows mesclun salad plants and basil and encourages them to bolt to flower for the bees. “I’ve got lots of nepeta [catnip], borage, thyme and lavender that bees like, and corydalis flowers for a long time and is always covered in bees.”

She suggests an area planted in perennial wallflowers (erysimum) will help bee-food shortages from spring through to midwinter, and notes that so-called lawn weeds are of great value too – self-heal, clover and daisies. “I mow the lawn in areas now,” Bill says, “so there’s always something flowering in the grass for the bees.”

Good winter sources of nectar, according to Bill, are two weedy plants – gorse and mangrove, “perhaps worth considering when you say mangroves are useless”, he says. Other useful bee food includes conifers that, ironically, don’t need bees for pollination.

The Bee Group has made its information available to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and it is posted on the Tree Crops Association website. See also the Trees for Bees website (includes a North Island and South Island planting guide).

USEFUL BEE PLANTS:
Winter: Puriri (flowers off and on all year), casimiroa, hazel trees, hardenbergia, rocket.
Spring: Puka, maples, apple trees, ajuga, rosemary.
Summer: Lancewood, tupelo, citrus trees, alyssum, mock orange.
Autumn: Houhere, viburnum, zinnia, echinacea, fuchsia.

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A bee and a monarch butterfly are finding winter food in an aloe flower. Photo: Sandra Simpson

This article was first published in the Bay of Plenty Times and appears here with permission.