Food garden within the city

The George St garden is crammed with fruit and vegetables. Photos by Gillian Vine.
The George St garden is crammed with fruit and vegetables. Photos by Gillian Vine.
Wasabi (foreground) and miner's lettuce.
Wasabi (foreground) and miner's lettuce.
Cape gooseberries still fruiting in October.
Cape gooseberries still fruiting in October.
As well as edible fruit, the chokeberry  (Aronia melanocarpa) has showy autumn foliage.
As well as edible fruit, the chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) has showy autumn foliage.
An attractive two-toned chicory, Red Treviso.
An attractive two-toned chicory, Red Treviso.
The flowers of the tic (or tick) bean, a small form of the broad bean.
The flowers of the tic (or tick) bean, a small form of the broad bean.

They call it the George St orchard. Gillian Vine meets the creators of a garden with a difference.

Gardening writers are not usually investigative reporters but a colleague saw Rory Harding's blog and suggesting checking his George St orchard.

The ''investigation'' led to a visit to a fascinating garden a few blocks from the University of Otago's main campus.

The George St section is devoted to a stunning array of vegetables and fruit.

Kate Anderson and Rory are well-qualified gardeners, ''absolutely organic'', as Rory puts it.

He divides his time between Jason Ross' Sutherland Nursery and Taste Nature's High St shop and Waitati garden, while Kate maintains the garden - currently being extended - at Maori Hill cafe No 7 Balmac.

Her grandfather is ''a keen potato cropper but I don't see the need to fill up the ground [here] with potatoes'', Kate says.

Instead, they have concentrated on greens, in which they are now self-sufficient, with parsley, kale, leaf chicory, miner's lettuce (Claytonia) in evidence in spring.

Kate also makes use of chickweed, an increasingly popular green, and nettles, and plans to try carrots and radishes under the fruit trees.

An unusual broad bean with lavender flowers is, Rory says, the tic (or tick) bean (Vicia faba var. minor).

He got seed from Robin Guyton, of Riverton, who is involved in a Southland seed-saving project.

The beans are small and round, and tightly packed into the pods.

Runner beans are also popular with the couple.

They gallop up strings on a wall in the back garden and any not eaten fresh are used dried.

At the end of each season, the plants are left in the ground to come away again in spring when the ground warms up.

''In an urban setting, walls are amazing and not used enough,'' Kate says.

In narrow areas, they can reduce draughts and generate heat, she says, which helps keep houses warm.

In the George St orchard, there are two block walls, one of which has - as well as the runner beans - kiwiberries and kiwifruit, while the other has grapes.

''We had an awesome grape harvest,'' Rory says.

The most productive is an unnamed variety, which he thinks may be Albany Surprise, and he has added another of that variety, as well as Niagara.

As ground level, there are feijoas, Cape gooseberries, pears, apples - including Rory's favourite, Tydeman's Late Orange - a mulberry, raspberries, currants (red, black and white), gooseberries (including Pax and Sweet Red) and a gooseberry look-alike, a worcesterberry, whose fruits look like small, smooth-skinned gooseberries.

The apples are grafted on to M16 rootstock, which keeps the height down, and pears are on quince rootstock, for the same reason.

There is also a chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), a deciduous shrub from cool swamps or wet woods of eastern North America.

Chokeberries grow to about 1.5m, have vivid autumn foliage, especially in exposed locations, and small, edible fruit.

The variety and quantity being grown in such a small area is inspiring, and if this is what being an investigative reporter means, I'm all for making a career change.



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