Team Leader, Maria Tuia-Pemerika, has a vision for transforming Papakura Early Learning Centre’s unused outdoor spaces into an edible garden.

“Turning our unused outdoor space into a garden will make it so much more inviting for our children, whanau and visitors. Long term we want to create a community garden, where whanau are welcome to help sustain the garden. We want to have a worm farm, compost & recycling system to teach the children sustainability and use the produce from our garden for morning tea,” she says.

Maria Tuia-Pemerika in the garden space

Stage One of the project is to remove unwanted plants, tidy up the garden area, and move the existing shed. That space will be used for a walk-in garden with pavers to walk on and planter boxes with easy-to-maintain plants & vegetables, like beans, mint, coriander, strawberries, lettuce and tomatoes. Fruit trees will be planted in barrels and maybe there may eventually be a grapevine.

“An emergent focus for our children is gardening. They enjoy watering the plants we have with water they have scooped up from the water trough. If we have a proper edible garden, teachers and children can work together caring for the environment with tamariki taking on the Kaitiaki (Guardian) role and learning about growing plants, vegetables and fruit, says Tuia-Pemerika.

Love to dig

There are obviously a bunch of keen young gardeners among the ELC's children. As soon as the spades come out, they race to the patch of empty soil behind the playhouse and begin digging. It is clear that creating a proper veggie garden will offer wonderful learning experiences for the Centre's children. 

So far there’s not much to see as the team awaits the outcome of some funding applications to help kickstart the project.

Young gardeners excited about the idea of a real garden

If the applications are successful, the funds will help purchase the basics to get the garden started.

It will also provide funds to create a proper worm farm and recycling centre.

“The long-term goal for our outdoor environment is to create a community garden, where our whanau are welcome to come and help sustain it,” Tuia-Pemerika says.

“Getting this done is a long process, and there are a lot of people that will need to be involved, before the changes can happen.”

Growing for Good