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Weekend Gardener Magazine article - Nov/Dec 2008

Islandstyle

Susie Longdell visits Great Barrier Island and finds some enterprising gardeners.

Reproduced with permission - Subject to copyright in its entirety.

One of late spring’s special treats is the chance to see other people’s gardens. When those gardens are on an offshore island, 90 km from Auckland, and tucked away in places the summer tourists never see, it’s even more of a delight.

It’s a chance to see another way of life and how people garden when faced with many of the same challenges as other New Zealand gardeners, but also some that are significantly different.

One of the biggest differences when gardening – and living – on Great Barrier Island is the cost of resources. Goods have to be "imported” by boat or air and besides the greater inconvenience, there’s the increased costs that result.

You don’t just pop down to the nearest gardening outlet and grab a bag or two of cheap compost. Even if it was that easy, some islanders don’t have cars – and some properties don’t have vehicle access anyway.

Another difference is the proximity of the bush, which is heavily protected by planning laws that strongly favour its expanding footprint. The effects are many. For example, many islanders must cope with the long shadows tall bush casts on small cleared areas.

Also, the extensive native flora,  coupled with the absence of many mainland animal pests, including possums, goats, hedgehogs, stoats and weasels, means bird life abounds. And living with wood pigeons and kaka has its price. They like to feast on their favourite fruit, foliage and buds, both native and exotic. Kaka, in particular, can clean out some homegrown crops, even citrus fruits.

This is a real drawback when you live on an island where you can readily grow both temperate and sub-tropical crops and where freight costs add to the cost of bought fruit and veggies. It is especially frustrating when bad weather can stop ferry deliveries for two weeks at a time. Backyard veggie growing is thus an integral part of island gardening, taken for granted as part of the way of life. So is self-sufficiency.

Most islanders – and their gardens – must manage with rainwater collected in tanks. There’s no council water supply for the about 1000 full-time and many more summer holiday residents. Islanders must also produce their own power (usually from solar panels and diesel generators).

When it comes to gardening, self-sufficiency also rules. Residents mainly use natural resources at hand, such as seaweed, rushes (for mulch) and local rocks to create their own special, sustainable garden places.

Grace's Garden

Jenny's Garden

Gendie's Garden
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