Plots produce keen following

Marlborough Community gardener, Philip Cresswell
Marlborough Community gardener, Philip Cresswell

To many people gardening is one of life's great pleasures and for the past 35 years it has been Philip Cresswell's favourite pastime, even though he doesn't particularly fancy eating the produce he grows.

He is one of some 20 gardeners who make use of the Marlborough Community Gardens at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, in Ballinger Dr, growing a huge variety of vegetables in their spare time.

"The gardens are really for anyone who doesn't have the space at their own home and want to grow vegetables," said Philip.

He and the other gardeners pay a modest $1 per square metre a year and grow a range of crops including tomatoes, beetroot, potatoes, broccoli, corn and lettuce.

The garden, a collaboration between Riversdale Community House, the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board and the Marlborough Farmers Market, has gone from strength to strength and is now moving into phase two, said one of it's founders, Chris Fortune.

Phase one, he said, was creating and using the plots for growing vegetables, with phase two being a mix of plots, an orchard and a Maori medical herb garden.

"The garden has been a real success and is probably one of the most successful in New Zealand. When we started the plots were taken very quickly and they are being well used."

Before the garden was established the land had sat vacant for 10 years and had become badly overgrown with weeds, requiring much work to bring it up to standard for cultivation.

Eager members of the community pitched in and have achieved something of value.

More than a group of gardeners, they are also a tight-knit community group, said Phil.

"If one of us gets a bit behind or isn't able to tend their garden because they are sick then we all pitch in and help.

"We also help each other with trying new techniques for growing different vege - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

"We also just like to have a good yarn together."

The gardens are an initiative aimed at regenerating the culture of growing one's own produce. Officially opened in late November 2009, its plots were in hot demand, with phase two providing new plots for avid growers.

Phil has been a keen gardener most of his life, first developing his love of the pastime as a boy while helping his father tend their large garden.

He hasn't any space at home for growing vege but has secured one of the larger plots at the community garden.

"I worked on and off with a friend, Alister Dawson, who was a commercial gardener for many years and learned a lot from him," said Phil.

He produces a large crop and gives much of it away, but does sell occasionally at the Marlborough Farmers' Market.

"I don't really like eating vegetables myself but I do because they are good for you. Mostly I just like growing them, working the soil and getting my hands dirty."

The Marlborough Express