Booklet sows the seed for budding propagators

Otago South River Care project co-ordinator Rebecca Begg reads the booklet Start Your Own Farm...
Otago South River Care project co-ordinator Rebecca Begg reads the booklet Start Your Own Farm Nursery, which was recently released by the farmer-led group. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE
A booklet on how to establish a nursery is now available for farmers planning a restoration or riparian planting project.

Otago South River Care project co-ordinator Rebecca Begg, of Balclutha, said the booklet Start Your Own Farm Nursery was produced in response to farmers’ feedback about native plants being expensive to buy.

Otago South River Care engages communities to protect and enhance water quality through seven catchment groups in its area — Waiwera-Kaihiku, Owaka-Tahakopa, Tuapeka-Waitahuna, Puerua-Waitapeka, Lake-Tuakitoto, Clutha Lowlands and Tokomariro.

In response to the feedback on pricey plants, Otago South River Care held propagation workshops by horticulturist Jo Wakelin.

"They went bananas."

More than 50 people had completed the workshop in the past two years.

Plants propagated in the first workshops had been put in the ground, she said.

Rising costs for farmers and lower commodity prices had made on-farm nurseries more appealing, she said.

"Given the financial situation for farmers, especially sheep and beefies at the moment, they are getting on board with growing their own."

People could encounter issues growing their own plants so the booklet aimed to help avoid those by addressing frequently asked questions, she said.

People found some native plants easier to grow than others and the species changed between growers.

"Some people are amazing at sedges, and others can do kōwhai, just by looking at them — everybody has their specialty."

The booklet suggests making a start with sowing one tray of seeds from an easier species such as harakeke or carex secta.

"Growing your own is quite easy and you can find seeds on your farm.

Seeds found on farms were good to grow because they had already adapted to the area.

"That’s a good place to start."

Topics in the booklet includes nursery design including requirements for shade, weed-matting and irrigation.

More than 20 images to demonstrate how a nursery works were included in the 10-page booklet.

"We want people to know it is easy and to give it a go."

Anyone seeking advice on starting a nursery could contact Otago South River Care including how to access plant guards.

More propagation workshops would be held in autumn next year, she said.

She thanked the Ministry for Primary Industries for funding Otago South River Care, through the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures, which allowed for the production of the booklet.

An electronic version of the booklet was available for free at