From tiny seeds… The origins of The Great Library Seed Swap

So what’s the deal with all this seed swapping that’s propagating across our libraries? Well, it’s been growing quietly for a while, and I was there when it all began…

It all started just after the February 2011 earthquake, as so many other interesting projects did. When my usual library (the Central Library) was closed, I was reassigned along with my colleagues – first to emergency response related duties, and then to help out at other suburban libraries as they reopened and experienced increased patronage.

So, I found myself on a bus to Lyttelton! On my first day my new colleague Lizzie greeted me with “So you’re the person who gets all the new garden books on hold before me!” From that welcome followed many hours of gardening talk; through aftershocks, closures, and long Friday afternoon desk shifts (often involving customers in the discussion).

A bit before spring of 2011 Lizzie uttered the fateful words “Hey, we could do a seed swap!” and The Great Lyttelton Library Seed Swap was born. It has been brightening up our early spring days at Lyttelton ever since. Our swap has includes seeds and seedlings (and even baby fruit and native trees on occasion) and we have the Lyttelton Community Gardens on board too.

I left the libraries for four years, but couldn’t stay away and was delighted to discover on my return that not only had The Great Lyttelton Library Seed Swap thrived, but it had put out runners to Akaroa and Hornby Libraries – and this year, with the help and enthusiasm of Remy at Spreydon Library, it’s popping up at Spreydon and South libraries too! Check out the times and dates for your nearest seed swap now.

Jo
Lyttelton Library

Gardening in the best possible taste

Cover of Grow for flavourNothing makes my day like a “hold available” notification from CCL for a crisp new garden book, and this week I got my hands on a real gem. Grow for Flavour by James Wong (of Grow Your Own Drugs fame – not nearly as dodgy as it sounds) is a fresh ray of light in a forest of glossy gardening books that look pretty, but can sometimes be a bit guilty of repeating much the same information.

Don’t get me wrong, Grow for Flavour is very a attractive volume indeed (who can resist an author who photographs his Star Wars figurines in his garden shots?), but it’s not just a pretty publication. It’s full of interesting facts and innovative ideas for getting the best flavours out of your home produce.

Wong argues that much of our gardening ‘wisdom’ is based on (British) Victorian gardening practice – essentially the time when yield was beginning to be prized over flavour, a sad trend that’s come to its lacklustre fruition in our supermarkets today. This book is a strike back in defense of taste. It’s full of simple ways to boost flavour in all sort of fruit and vege crops – and the thing I love best is that all of its tips are firmly rooted in science. (You see what I did there?)

Yep, Wong is a scientist as well as a herbalist and a gardener, which means that his observations, remedies and treatments all have solid scientific research behind them – a nice change in this subject area, where solutions are so often presented without a lick of evidence stronger than “Well my great Aunt Hilda swears by it!”

It’s one of those books I think my partner secretly hates. Inevitably, when I get hold of a volume like this, his quiet evening will be peppered with interruptions along the lines of “Hey, did you know I hate coriander because I have the OR6A2 gene that makes it taste like soap and bleach?” or “Can I turn the laundry bin into a fungus farm?” It’s not uncommon for these exclamations to turn completely nonsensical, like “Aspirin and molasses on tomatoes? Genius!” (Well, it made sense to me…)

We’re well into planting season now, so grab a copy today. You too can be making inscrutable garden related exclamations in no time…

Down in the Vege Patch

Right about now the seedlings from your Supermarket mini gardens and garden centres are basking their leaves in the delicious spring sunshine. Leafy and bursting to stretch their legs, so let’s roll up our sleeves.

mini garden seedlings

Whether you are an experienced gardener or have had your interest piqued recently by the spring buzz, anyone and everyone can enjoy the satisfaction of a homegrown feast.

What better way to save money and guarantee a supply of nutrient rich food for you and your family, then by growing it yourself! Crops in pots, in the ground, with all day sun, or partial shade – it is amazing what you can grow in any situation.

I am into my third summer as a small garden novice and I am pleased to say, my results have bloomed by knowing a small number of essential tips and tricks.

As with any endeavour for me, my first stop was a good browse on the net. We are all familiar with hypnotizing rabbit hole that this can become. There seems to be a growing (excuse the pun) number of blogs with tips, ideas, inspiration and advise. Inspiration and ideas are a key part of why we enjoy getting into our little patch of soil, however unchecked advice or misinformation can lead to frustrations and a long walk up the proverbial garden path.

Much like falling back to my trusty watering can and hoe, I find myself tapping into tried, tested and published sources that allow me to pick the brains of the experts. If you can imagine it, our libraries have a gardening book, magazine, or journal that will provide everything you could possibly want to know. This year I want to try organic pest control and fertilizers, how about you?

Now let’s get those seedlings into the ground.

Suggested reads

For more inspiration and garden paths of discovery, go to our Gardening page or check out these beauties –
Cover of Edible landscaping Cover of Creative vegetable gardening Cover of Organic gardening Cover of The urban kitchen gardener Grown your own vegetables in pots Cover of Garden inspirations Cover of new small garden

 

Podcast – Food in the city with FESTA

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from New Zealand’s only specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

This episode discusses urban food initiatives in Christchurch and issues such as –

  • Environmental and social sustainability of urban food projects
  • What defines ‘foraging’
  • Connections between ecological and political systems and health
  • The growth in urban food practices
  • Food justice
  • Urban food activities during FESTA

The panel for this show includes host Sally Carlton, Peter Langlands from Wild Capture – wild foods and foraging – NZ, Bailey Peryman from Cultivate Christchurch, and Chloe Waretini from Ōtākaro Orchard and Food Resilience Network discussing urban food activities and the overarching concept of food justice.

Transcript of the audio file

Find out more with our resources

Cover of A forager's treasury Cover of Find it, eat it Cover of A field guide to the native edible plants of New Zealand Cover of The permaculture city Cover of Rurbanite Cover of Julia's guide to edible weeds and wild green smoothiesCover of Dandelion hunter Cover of Radical gardening: Politics, idealism & rebellion in the garden

More about Speak up – Kōrerotia

The show is also available on the following platforms:

Growing your own… caterpillars??!

When we bought a cheap tunnel house this year it wasn’t to grow green super worms with patterns but the best laid plans of this naive gardener…  I digress, first I went a bit mad and grew capsicums, aubergines, basil, cucumbers and flowers to attract bees, all from seed. By the time the raised beds were assembled and filled it was getting on a bit and the tomatoes had to be bought as plants.

Cover of Green Urban LivingThe basil and the toms took off. The basil plants were the size of small shrubs. I bought the pine nuts, stocked up the olive oil and parmesan and then never quite got round to pesto conversion. Got busy and ignored the tunnel house for about a week.

Imagine my horror when I next poked my head in: the basil was black and all but extinct, the tomatoes had been shredded and the peppers and aubergines looked like they too were on the menu.

But of what? Huge green caterpillars… with patterns. “Skin crawling” tomato eating hook  caterpillars, I think. I won’t give you the gory details of their dispatch, but I should have consulted some more gardening books on tunnel house growing first obviously. Lesson learned the hard way. Next year the aubergine plants go outside once sizable and putting out flowers and can get pollinated out there. No leaving the door open for all pregnant passersby.

If I had just consulted Green Urban Living by Janet Luke first I would have cut some phony white butterflies out of ice cream tub plastic and stuck them all over the garden and tunnel house. The expectant mums are territorial apparently, and would have naffed off somewhere else. Just one of the many clever tips for the urban gardener from this resourceful book. Growing food, keeping chickens, worm farming (not caterpillar) and beekeeping is  just some of knowledge passed on by one who has been there and is still wearing the t-shirt.

The mini orchard is coming along with the addition soon of a peach or nectarine, but not without consultation to the chapter on top fruit to grow in an urban garden and I hope next summer’s weather warrants the step by step instructions on the installation of a water barrel. This book is invaluable and I have borrowed it many times.

cover of Winter Harvest HandbookCurrently it’s  The Winter Harvest Handbook that I have out on loan. This promises “Year round vegetable production using Deep Organic techniques and unheated greenhouses”. I have high hopes of growing something other than future generations of the unmentionables, in an unheated tunnel house through our coldest months.

Do you grow your own? Want to but think you haven’t enough space? Another option is  Straw Bale Gardening. I’m considering having one on the go. Meantime more ‘do’ is needed and less talk, so it’s on with my wellies…

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