Palmerston North ECE completes edible Kai Garden

Te Aroha Noa Early Childhood Centre in Highbury, Palmerston North recently completed a new edible garden as one of ten winners in this year’s Keep New Zealand Beautiful Kai Garden Competition.

The competition gives schools and ECEs from across the country the opportunity to create a small kai or rongoā garden to help their students develop a greater understanding of the natural world and to gain hands-on experience gardening for their school.

The Te Aroha Noa ECE ‘Manawa Tamariki Garden’ was designed as an enhancement to an existing garden located near the playground, and is available for community use.

The garden incorporates unique features including a garden tunnel, tall enough for adults to walk through and the young children to cycle through, also allowing vegetables to grow upwards. A garden bench seat and native plants were prioritised and make for a welcoming space. The garden has been designed to be relatively low maintenance, making it easier for Kaiako (teachers) to maintain while keeping the focus on edible plants for tamariki.

The vegetable garden was planted with beans, snow peas, beetroot, watercress, tomatoes, potatoes and marigolds. Native plants supplement fruit trees and sunflowers, and bees now regularly visit the garden.

Rachael Dodds, teacher at Te Aroha Noa ECE, says the garden now fits well with the school’s focus on contributing, and kaitiakitanga — guardianship of the environment. “Now the vegetable garden is growing it provides lots of learning opportunities about how to care and respect living things. We talk about what colour and size the fruit and vegetables are when they are ready to be picked and eaten, and what is safe to eat.One of the main projects was topping up all garden areas with compost and weed mat and mulch. A large load of compost and mulch, provided at a discounted rate by Palmerston North City Council and delivered by truck, provided great excitement for the tamariki. Ponga logs have been used for garden edging with some sprouting, providing a further talking point for the the young learners.

The ECE has also installed a rainwater tank, made from donated and salvaged items, to conserve the precious resource. “Our tamariki have been shown how the system works and are excited to come and fill their buckets to water the plants,” says Rachael. A display wall inside the ECE kept the young learners, parents and teachers alike informed of progress.

We are able to link all our garden project to our strong focus on Te Ao Māori, emphasising the importance of relationships between nature and people.

With “lots of support and interest from our tamariki, Kaiako, and community we have achieved what we wanted and more” for the garden, concludes Rachael.

More info about our Kai Garden Competition can be found here.

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