Growing food and healthy soil is what drives Jane Lenting in her urban garden. Using sustainable principles like crop rotation, double digging, mulching and composting, Jane is pretty self-sufficient in vegetables year round.
41B Weld St
In 2013, once the house was built, Jane and husband Victor set about transforming a blank canvas into a growing haven. Local designer Hamish Moorhead drew up an initial hard landscaping plan to surround the house. This was constructed by Infinite Landscapes, leaving Jane and Victor to design the planting.
Despite the challenges of wind, drought and an infestation of twitch grass in Jane and Victor’s bare Martinborough plot, they set about creating a garden focused on native plants and edibles.
Of the native plantings, Jane propagated about half from eco-sourced Wairarapa seed, with the rest coming as small plants from Norfolk Nursery. The only plants already on the section when the house was built were two large and probably original flax bushes and they were pulled apart by a digger before being re-planted as a “flax mountain” on spare fill which is at the back of the property.
The vegies are Jane’s domain, and Victor looks after creating new structures and general maintenance.
Jane visited the Koanga Institute in Wairoa in 2018 to learn how to grow food year round and save seeds. She was inspired to put her learning into action, completely changing how the vegetables beds were prepared and planted. Beds are double dug once only, and then in subsequent years they are prepared in the autumn with a layer of manure, own compost and straw, which is then covered with black plastic. In the spring the beds are uncovered and ready for planting. At this stage they are alive with worms and beetles.
A separate system of 12 month beds is used for winter vegetables.
Jane uses a four way crop rotation based on a heavy feeder crop (e.g. salad greens), then a light feeder crop (e.g. beetroot), followed by a carbon crop (e.g. flaxseed) and finally followed by a different carbon crop (e.g. corn).
Although early in the growing season, you’ll be able to see beds in various stages of their rotation cycles on tour weekend.
There is also a fruit tree area underplanted with lucerne. The lucerne helps break up the compacted clay loam and stones which was the starting point for soil in much of the garden. It is also drought proof, attracts bees and a useful mulch when cut.
For perennial crops, expect to see berries (grapes, raspberries, strawberries, boysenberries), asparagus, and passionfruit.
The two 25,000 litre water tanks allow plenty of storage, but even in the height of summer the soil retains some moisture due to the high organic matter content in the soil combined with heavy mulching. This means less watering is needed than in the years before this growing system was adopted.
Jane is President of the South Wairarapa Biodiversity Group and also runs Predator Free Martinborough. There will be information available on these community groups during tour weekend.
There is a lot to learn in this garden about growing healthy soil and edibles. Pūkaha is grateful to Jane and Victor for opening their garden to the public for the first time on tour weekend to support conservation.