It is a New Zealand tradition to share any surplus produce from home gardens with family, friends and neighbours on an informal basis.
The new subdivisions created in the State Housing programme in the 1950s provided each home with a generous sized section so that each family would not only have enough room for children to play in the back yard but so that families could achieve a measure of food self sufficiency as there would be ample space for vegetable gardens, fruit trees and even chickens.
These days, most sections are smaller; although with careful planning, even a small section can produce quite a lot of food.
There are still many people, however, are lucky enough to live in homes that have large sections. A lot of these sections have large areas of lawn which is valuable from an environmental point of view as it provides an area for rain to soak into and helps reduce the risk of local flooding after heavy downpours. On the other hand, the upkeep of large lawns can be time consuming if you have to mow it yourself and expensive if you don’t have time to mow it – or cannot mow it yourself – due to poor health or injuries.
Moreover, people who are working long hours or who have health issues may not be able to establish or maintain vegetable gardens on their section, even if they would like to do this.
How Garden Share Schemes Can Help
In a Garden Share Scheme, someone who has a large section including areas of lawn that are not needed for other purposes (such as play areas for children) could invite a family member, friend, neighbour, church member etc who has gardening skills but no garden of their own, or only a small one, to share the garden with them.
By mutual agreement, a certain amount of the section is dedicated to establishing food producing gardens and a plan for how they will be managed and their produce shared is worked out. (It may be helpful to make a list of any costs in basic supplies that may be needed for establishing gardens – such as perhaps seeds, seedlings, any infrastructure that may be necessary or desirable such as raised beds, a worm farm etc. and decide how these will be shared.*)
Garden Share Schemes provide the opportunity to make use of land in suburban neighbourhoods to provide locally grown fresh food. They also provide an opportunity to strengthen relationships between family, friends and neighbours. For people who need work, Garden Share arrangements may also become a source of income if they can produce sufficient food to have enough to sell. (See: Growing Employment Opportunities on this site).
Faith Communities and Garden Share Schemes
Churches or other faith communities in areas where there is significant unemployment and/or elderly people struggling to make ends meet on fixed incomes may want to facilitate Garden Share Schemes as a way of helping their congregation gain access to good quality food, reducing social isolation of elderly and improving the ability of people who are currently without paid work to provide nutritious food for themselves and their families.
Schools and Garden Share Schemes
Schools which have community service programmes may also want to consider facilitating a Garden Share Scheme for the benefit of students and other members of the school community who could benefit from fresh food and have garden space that they would like to share.
A Garden Share Scheme could also provide school students who are studying horticulture with practical experience, and if people in the community were able to make sufficient land available, a Garden Share Scheme might be a valuable part of a school’s Education for Enterprise (E4E) programme – such as by establishing a relationship with businesses that grow and/or sell fresh produce, for example. (See http://education-for-enterprise.tki.org.nz/ for information about how E4E schemes can be successful in schools. The story at this link is to a about how the adoption of E4E at Runanga School led to the development of school gardens and a successful student-run cafe as well as other projects. http://education-for-enterprise.tki.org.nz/E4E-in-action/Snapshots/Runanga-School#Run)
* NB: For people who are living in areas where water is metered and water is charged for separately from (and in addition to) rates bills, a discussion about how to minimise water consumption may be a necessary part of establishing a success Garden Share partnership. (Ways to conserve water while still producing food are discussed on the Water Use and Conservation page of this site.) Likewise, people dependent on rain water tanks for their home water supply need to ensure that garden water use is carefully controlled over dry months – and that limitations of the water supply are understood when a Garden Share partnership is established.