We established our nursery in 2009 in response to a request from the organic store we were supplying with our home grown vegetables (Cornucopia in Hastings). Our selection of plants initially comprised many annual vegetable varieties but soon became guided more by our permaculture principles. We now grow over 200 varieties of perennial vegetable seedlings, edible and medicinal herbs, companion plants, shrubs and trees. We focus on perennials and self-sowing annuals which are multi-functional, hardy, and contribute to a diverse and resilient garden or farm which provides fertility and pest control, and which can provide a forage system of food, medicine, fuel, dyes, craft and construction material for you and future generations, as well as a place of beauty and biodiversity.
How do we grow our plants?
In 2010 we became certified organic with Organic Farm New Zealand (OFNZ) (certification number OFNZ1360). This means we use certified organic inputs such as potting mix and liquid seaweed fertiliser. Our potting mix does not contain peat, the mining of which has severe environmental consequences, or pelletised slow release fertilisers, many of which are coated with plastic resins. It does contain nutrients from natural sources such as gypsum, seaweed and fish fertiliser, as well as trichoderma, which is a naturally occurring beneficial fungus found in New Zealand soils. Trichoderma is used as a bio-fertiliser due to its ability to form close symbiotic root associations, aiding plants to obtain nutrients and water, thereby improving growth. Furthermore some strains of trichoderma can also control soil-borne pathogens, sometimes more effectively than chemicals.
We do not ‘force feed’ our plants with nitrogen fertilisers so that they look super lush and green. You may have noticed that when you buy plants like this from other nurseries and take them home and plant them, they suddenly look a bit sad. That’s because you’re not feeding them the fast food diet they’ve been used to! We prefer to take it slow and steady with our plants, and you’ll find that when you plant them out they will wriggle down their roots and say ‘ahhh, thank you, how lovely!’ and continue their growing without further ado.
We do not use any fungicides or herbicides in the nursery, which means weeds have to be dealt with by hand – this is labour intensive and time consuming, although there are a few, such as chickweed and shepherd’s purse, which we can put in our salads! We keep chickens at the edge of the nursery so any other weeds head over the fence to feed them.
In the rare event of pests or diseases we have several courses of action available – observe and wait – often things self-correct as in nature; isolate the plants; or spray with an approved product. There are still some approved products which we refuse to use as they can still be toxic to bees or other wildlife. However, our plants are generally very healthy – we know because we see it and we hear it from our customers all the time.
Where possible we source both organic and local seeds, and many are sourced from our own gardens. We do not sell any plants grown from treated or hybrid seed.
Our tunnelhouses are not artificially lit or heated. We prefer to work with the natural temperatures and cycles of the seasons. Seeds are germinated using excess warmth from the house (which is on solar power and heated with a wood stove). This avoids unnecessary fossil fuel use and also means the plants are hardier.
Last but not least we grow our plants with aroha, tender loving care. Plants with heart and soul is what you’ll get from us:)
Other Sustainable Features
In 2019 after much trial and error we managed to move from plastic to home compostable punnets for our microgreens, which we are thrilled about. This means the chefs who use them can put them straight in the compost bin when finished, along with other kitchen scraps. We reluctantly still use plastic pots and trays for other plants but we wash and reuse them as many times as possible and we are always happy to take them back from customers as long as they were from us originally. On request we can also sometimes remove the pots before freighting so we can reuse them here, and send the plants wrapped in paper.
Old or surplus plant material and potting mix is used to create new garden beds on the farm or to make compost to go back on gardens or trees. The water for irrigating the nursery is used consciously and is pumped using solar power generated on site. We even have compost toilets for anyone working in the nursery! Finally, we try to support local businesses wherever possible. Our potting mix is made locally in Hastings by our very own next door neighbour!