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NZ Gardener digs up country's gardening dynamos

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
NZ Gardener digs up country's gardening dynamos

A small Northland primary school that's created a natural cure for nits using ingredients from their garden, a young mother of four helping out families struggling with skyrocketing food prices, and an Auckland community garden using a bicycle-powered irrigation system are all regional finalists in the New Zealand Gardener 2011 Gardener of the Year Awards announced today.

Fraser Smith, principal of Kaitaia's Oturu School, says he's schooling a generation of budding entrepreneurs. Over the past eight years, the kids have planted vegetables and more than 200 trees, including olives from which they extract oil every year. They grow medicinal plants like kawakawa, aloe vera, catnip and lavender, all used to make ointments and remedies. So far the kids have created their own mosquito repellent, as well as potions for scabies, eczema and nits. The latter proved so effective, it sold out; the school and its kids are giving their next batch to district nurses.

The school is a finalist in the school garden category of the annual awards, the first time the award has included the category. Best community garden is another new category that has been introduced this year.

Other finalists include Jade Temepara, a Canterbury mother of four who was tired of seeing families she worked with struggling to pay the cost of skyrocketing food prices so she came up with the "Hand Over a Hundy" scheme. Families are sponsored with "a hundy" ($100) worth of seeds, tools and seedlings and receive a gardening mentor for a year. When the year is up, the families need to sell enough produce to raise $100 for the next families.

Jade still can't believe how quickly "Hand Over a Hundy" took off. "Our community has just lapped this up," says Jade. "Locals have donated old tools, money, compost and mentoring hours. Neighbourhood mentality is back again, which is what I love more than the gardening part, to be honest - it's the sharing in each other's lives again."

In Auckland's Point Chevalier, Kiwi ingenuity is on display at the community garden where rainwater and pedal power keeps the gardens flourishing. Everything about the garden is local - the compost heap consists of vegetable scraps from a nearby supermarket and coffee grounds from a local organic caf�.

NZ Gardener editor Jo McCarroll is thrilled about the calibre of finalists that have emerged from this year's entries.

"The Gardener of the Year Awards is about recognising people who give something back," says Jo. "These finalists are passionate about gardening, give generously of their time and are making a real contribution to their communities. It's going to be really exciting to see who emerges as our overall supreme gardener and the winners of the new categories."

The stories of the Oturu School gardens, the Canterbury mum and her "Hand Over a Hundy" scheme, and the Point Chevalier community garden along with the stories of the other finalists are in the NZ Gardener November issue, on sale on October 31. The winner of the 2011 Gardener of the Year, in association with Kiwicare Garden Products, will be decided by public vote which closes 30 November: full instructions on how to vote are in the November issue or on the magazine's website (<a href=""></a>).

The overall winners of the school garden and community garden categories will win $1000 of Mitre 10 vouchers and $1000 worth of Kiwicare Garden products. The overall winner will be named the 2011 Gardener of the Year and receive $3000 of Mitre 10 vouchers, a year's supply of Kiwicare Garden Products and a luxury trip for two to the 2012 Ellerslie Flower Show in Christchurch. The supreme winners will be announced 19 December.

The 2011 regional finalists are: Joan Farrell, Northland; Di Celliers, Auckland; Alice Dwyer, Waikato; West Marshall, Bay of Plenty; Bob and Lady Anne Berry, Gisborne; Lenora Buchanan, Hawke's Bay; Sian Cass, Manawatu and Wanganui; Craig Butchart, Taranaki; Julia Milne, Wellington; Anthea Kershaw, Nelson; Annie McDonald, Marlborough; Ross cherry tree pruners, West Coast; Jade Temepara, Canterbury; Fran Rawling, Otago; Annie Roska, Southland.

The School Garden finalists are: Oturu School, Northland; Eskdale School, Napier; Owairaka School, Auckland.

The Community Garden finalists are: Kaiapoi Community Garden, Canterbury; Point Chevalier Community Garden, Auckland.

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