Gardens face ruin if it doesn't rain soon

"We need it to rain"

CHRISTINE WALSH
Last updated 05:00 04/04/2014
Coastal Taranaki School pupils, from left, Catharine Carrie, 17, Charlotte Walsh, 17, and Jana Taingahue-Rongonui

BONE DRY: Coastal Taranaki School pupils, from left, Catharine Carrie, 17, Charlotte Walsh, 17, and Jana Taingahue-Rongonui, 17, say their gardens are in desperate need of water.

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It's not only Taranaki farmers praying for rain, townsfolk are suffering too.

Coastal Taranaki School's nine vegetable and herb gardens risk being destroyed "if it doesn't rain soon", teacher Sandy Hickey says.

The school has nine 3.5 metres x 1m vegetable gardens and a fruit orchard that students, teachers and local helpers tend.

Even with the aid of a heavy carbon mulch the soil was very dry and getting worse, Hickey said.

The lack of rain and the New Plymouth District Council's water ban meant "the plants won't last much longer", she said.

Hickey, who is also a visual arts teacher at the school, said its winter vegetables were ready for planting but it was holding back until it rained.

"Bring on the rain," she said.

The NPDC introduced a complete ban on all outdoor water use in Okato at midnight on Tuesday due to low flows in the Mangatete Stream, which supplies the town's drinking water.

"This means no non-essential use of water - no washing cars or house windows, no carrying buckets of water for the garden and no hoses or sprinklers at all," manager water and wastes Mark Hall said.

Seed Coastal Organics owner Annie Newman, who grows fruit and vegetables and sells on behalf of other growers, said she would not be able to harvest her late-season tomatoes if it didn't rain soon. No water meant the plants were under-nourished and more susceptible to pests and disease, she said.

"My kale is covered in aphids."

She said growers were becoming increasingly affected by the water shortage and she was unable to order in some greens this week.

"We need it to rain."

According to Niwa, North Island rainfall was about 50 per cent below normal in February and MetService says there has not been any substantial rain in Okato since March 16. And it is not forecasting any this coming week.

But Okato resident and keen gardener retiree Peter Liddle isn't letting that dim his outlook.

"I don't believe the forecast, weather forecasters are in the same category as politicians," Liddle said.

Before the ban took effect on Tuesday he gave his flowering plants and vegetables, grown in large outdoor pots, a final hose down.

Liddle said he was not too bothered if it did not rain soon.

"My begonias are due to die off and the lawn is covered in weeds", so the dry weather would help it to die before it's re-sown, he said.

Partial water restrictions remain in place for the rest of New Plymouth district, where sprinklers and unattended hoses are banned but hand-held hoses can be used on the odds and evens system.

The normal use of water by businesses is unaffected. Christine Walsh is a Witt journalism student

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