Central city garden chock full of veges, fruit trees

Rory Harding grabs a snack from akiwifruit vine in his orchard in George St. Photo: Ella Stokes
Rory Harding grabs a snack from akiwifruit vine in his orchard in George St. Photo: Ella Stokes

In the heart of Dunedin’s central city student housing area, the last thing you might expect is an orchard, but one keen gardener has turned his dream into reality.

When Rory Harding moved into a house owned by his family in George St 10 years ago, the backyard was a basic lawn with a vegetable patch down the back.

He had plans to create a garden of his own and started with anapple tree.

‘‘I thought even if I got one apple it would be cool.’’

The property is around 500sq m and now 300sq m of it is covered in all sorts of edible plants — from green vegetables and lemons to feijoas and tamarillos.

His orchard contains plenty of kiwifruit, which he said did not tend to grow anywhere south of Nelson.

Before he started his garden he ‘‘studied on and off and did a few odd jobs’’, Mr Harding said.

But the vision of turning his backyard into an orchard sparked his passion and he now works as a market gardener.

Mr Harding said all of his orchard was organic.

‘‘ Originally, I made a lot of compost as fertiliser but now I tend to use the chop-and-drop technique . . . where you let clippings and leaves work their way back into the ground.’’

All of what he grew, he and his flatmates ate, preserved or gave away.

He sourced plants from nurseries and also grew some seedlings himself.

Although Dunedin tended to be cold, many edible plants still grew and over the past three years he had harvested around 150kg of feijoas, he said.

‘‘ Dunedin is good, although we have cold winters. Unlike other countries, the winters aren’t too cold and the summers aren’t too hot.’’

Mr Harding said he would encourage people to grow edible plants.

‘‘ Most people want some sort of beautiful garden . . .With edible plants, there are so many ways to have the best of both worlds.’’

Even though he grew a large amount of fruit and vegetables, he still was not self-sufficient and his advice to others was not to be too optimistic.

‘‘ I try to grow things that are hard to buy . . .I don’t count my work in the garden as labour, so what I can grow frees up money to spend on other things.’’

He hosted workshops and groups at his orchard to teach them how to grow edible plants, some of which were run as fundraisers and others which were free.

In the future he planned to experiment to see what else he could grow.

★ To find out more about his workshops go to www.georgestreetorchard.com.

ELLA.STOKES@thestar.co.nz 

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