Youngsters sprouting green fingers

Nine-year-old Isabel and her brother Jed, 7, can chatter knowledgeably about their prolific vegetable garden.

They don't just rattle off the names of the plants, they talk about what varieties they are, and how and why they've been planted.

It's little wonder that they have won the inaugural Ray White Nelson Gardeners Cup, judged from more than 150 home gardens grown by children from Tahunanui, Hampden Street, Clifton Terrace and Nayland primary schools.

Sharing freshly picked peas from their garden, Marc Steyn, co-owner of the real estate business, presented the two Tahunanui pupils with an impressive cup and $50 gift vouchers each.

He hopes the competition, which started after an approach from Hampden Street's enviroschools teacher Simon Ashby, will grow to include more schools.

Isabel said they started preparing their garden in winter by planting lupins to put nutrients in the soil. In spring they planted the peas then lots of seedlings, and put terracotta tubes around their spring onions. "That stops them turning green because we eat the white bits."

The lush garden is packed with vegetables as well as herbs and calendula. "You can eat the petals and we put them in salads," she said. Next to the vegetable garden they have planted a flower garden. "We planted ones that have blue flowers so they attract the bees."

Jed loves weeding, while Isabel says her least favourite job is terminating the caterpillars. "I pick them up and squish them. We really like the peas, they're yummy. Every morning we come out and eat some and sometimes put some in our lunch box," she said.

Jed shows off more peas he planted by himself.

"This is the essence of what this is all about," said Mr Steyn. "He got some pea straw and planted some seeds without his parents knowing. He did it independently and knew what to do."