Adrian Roche,
Kelmarna Gardens

Countless varieties of the best organic fruit and veg, grazing livestock, beehives, chooks, worm farms and a Welsh pony all living peacefully in the heart of Ponsonby… Yes you read that correctly. Just a few doors down from Almighty’s Auckland office the amazing city farm and community garden that is Kelmarna Gardens awaits! We caught up with our neighbour and Kelmarna garden manager, Adrian Roche, to take a tour of the glorious food forest.

Kelmarna’s more than just a pretty face. For 35 years the Kelmarna Community Garden Trust has dedicated itself to promoting sustainable living, protecting the environment and improving the health of the community. From 1992 - 2015 a mental health provider sub-leased Kelmarna as a supportive sanctuary for gardening therapy and a place for clients to grow their own food. Kelmarna offers organic gardening, composting, beekeeping and foraging workshops to the public, programmes for schools and pre-schools and seasonal events. The urban wonderland is also a great place to hang, learn and shop for fresh organic produce grown the way mother nature intended.

Avocado city

Please describe the Kelmarna Gardens community garden and city farm.
Kelmarna is an urban oasis, a working paradise. Well off the road, north facing, gently sloped, organically loved for the last 35 years. It is a major asset for the community. We have over 50 individual garden beds, some of which are “owned” by individuals and some are communal beds. We aim for no weeds in our garden beds but this is aspirational rather than fully realised. We have many volunteers coming in from young children to retirees who work on this beautiful garden.

How is the produce used?
We sit down and eat a cooked lunch with vegetables from the garden Monday to Friday. People who have their own plots take their produce home and we sell a lot of it to people who come in.

12 Hukanui Crescent, Ponsonby, Auckland

Adrian getting stuck in

How can people get involved with Kelmarna?
People can visit the gardens any time and just hang out. We love that. To garden they need to come and meet me anytime between 8.30 and 4.30 Monday to Friday or join in on one of our monthly working bees. They can sign up to be on our newsletter database, or from $5 to $100 a month they can become a Friend of Kelmarna to help support us.

Kelmarna is an urban oasis, a working paradise.

What is your role at Kelmarna Gardens? When did you get on board?
I am the garden manager employed on short term contracts by the Kelmarna Gardens Trust, since Feb 2015. I was employed by Framework Trust as a mental health programme facilitator for 10 years prior to that. And before that I came to the gardens as a volunteer in 1996 when I was first learning about gardening.

What do you love most about gardening?
Being outside, observing nature, searching / finding connection to the earth, producing a yield and eating it.

Purple kale and coloured silverbeet seedlings

What’s your favourite vegetable to grow / eat?
Potatoes – easy, fast, store well, great to eat, lots of calories.

Grocery shopping

What is your favourite Almighty juice?
My favourite juice is the beetroot blackcurrant and ginger – I have a deep affection for beetroot!

People can visit the gardens any time and just hang out. We love that.

Almighty gardening tip?
Plant your spuds at the very start of spring, mound them up with lots of compost and mulch get them out by xmas and plant sweet corn seedlings immediately. A nice double crop.

Onion weeds 101: Careful not to distribute seeds when pulling out the roots!

Banana flower

Being outside, observing nature, searching / finding connection to the earth, producing a yield and eating it.

Healthy hens

Happy bees

Keen to become a friend of Kelmarna? Check out their website to see how you can help Kelmarna help the community by supporting this fantastic initiative.