The no-dig way

Nestled on the outskirts of Kerikeri is Arohanui Early Learning Centre where tamariki and kaiako are undertaking a no-dig approach - creating a compost garden, as part of their Enviroschools journey.

With plenty of space on site to establish a garden, the preparation method, known as ‘sheet mulching’, was viewed as a great opportunity by the teaching team to involve tamariki, their whānau and the community.

Arohanui kaiako, Fiona Thomson, prepared the area by covering the ground with large thick pieces of cardboard, but needed lots of puka leaves to be collected and placed over the cardboard. This is where help from the tamariki was needed, and they were very keen to get involved with this mahi!

They were soon filling up child-size wheelbarrows with puka leaves, wheeling them back to the sheet mulching area and spreading them over the cardboard.

On top of the leaves they added lots of other organic materials such as straw and garden waste and then... horse poo! Some tamariki found this fascinating, while others weren’t so sure!

More nutritious ingredients went into the no-dig compost garden, including potash, seaweed, coffee grounds, sawdust and some Arohanui compost. It was then left to mature and decompose, feeding Papatuanuku.

Tamariki with puka leaves in child-sized wheelbarrows.

Tamariki from Arohanui ECE bringing over puka leaves for the sheet-mulching.

Arohanui, and neighbouring Harinui centre, have both been supported on their Enviroschools journeys by Facilitator Judy Crooks. Judy recently added to the garden by providing banana palms from her own garden to the centres, giving tamariki another opportunity to be involved with planting and ongoing watering and care of plants.

Fiona says the centres already have plans for another no-dig garden this year.

“The tamariki, whānau and kaiako will be embarking on another learning project, this time around rongoā, the traditional Māori healing system involving the use of native plant-based remedies. So, our next no-dig garden will a bed for native shrubs, plants and trees that have medicinal properties.”

Sustainable gardening - more fondly known as ‘He kai mo nga tangata’ / ‘Food for the people’. is a major part of the Enviroschools programme offered at both Arohanui and Harinui Early Learning Centres.