Author: cscgtadmin

How does everything work here? – Part 1: Participation

One of the most common questions we get from people visiting the site for the first time is – “How does everything work here?”

In this blog series, we’ll provide short post on each and every aspect of our operations and hopefully get you to understanding how things work at CSCG on a daily basis.


When people contact us via email or phone, or more usually via dropping by,  we find out what it is that they want to do and match that with the tasks we need to be working on. Ideally people will be happy to slot in with whatever task needs doing at the time.

Some people want a small taste of the type of work done on a community gardens or are only available for a short time, others are looking to find a suitable social group to engage with, others just like the outdoor work and /or the feeling of group cooperation towards a common goal.

Volunteer days are currently Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday 11am – 3pm. This means the sheds are open  and tools available. Unless you are a very experienced gardener – we would prefer you  garden with us initially and get a sense of what tasks are available and likewise we get a sense of your skill level.

Popular days are Thursday and Saturday when we put on a worker’s lunch. Tuesday and Wednesday people bring their own lunch. We discuss the work to be done on the hoof and allocate according to skill level and preference.

With the exception of a couple of small plots planted by pre-schools , the work is done collectively. It is not common for people to garden directly for plants and produce but the option is there. The staff and key volunteers decide what and how much volunteers can have.

We also provide training. You can request to learn something specific and someone may be available to spend some time with you on this if it fits in with our daily work of nursery work, compost and crop production.

We enjoy getting physically, mentally and socially involved with this project and strongly believe in the value of retaining essential horticultural and self sufficiency skills for the benefit of future generations.

The future indeed may be very dirty, with work that involves getting hands dirty being valued rather than vilified. Dr Susan Krumdiek, an engineering expert in Alternative Energy, Canterbury University) stated in a seminar I once went to, that in the future, sustainable communities will have specialist community food producers who also manage community waste. As we seek to minimise our carbon footprint and become less car-dependent, vital decentralised fresh food producing hubs will form.

We Won a Bronze & Silver at Horticultural Society Awards!

front view of christchurch south community garden


Thanks to the hard work of staff and volunteers we gained a bronze award for the Beckenham gardens in October(Horticultural Society Spring Gardens Competition) and recently a Silver award for the main site(Summer gardens competition – February 2017).

This was the first time since 2009 we have been able to take a breath and enter the main site.

Well done to all involved and many thanks to our supporters!

It is just as important to beautiful our garden and the community as well as produce crops from it. Crops growing well are beautiful in any case, as is the feeling of cooperation among the workders here for the benefit of the community.

Feel free to stop by anytime. Hopefully we can keep the standards up for a few more months at least.

Crop Rotation. What’s it all about?

Christine Blance, Trust Manager at the Gardens, explains.

We generally use a simple Top Crop > Bottom Crop > Legume Crop Rotation Cycle with a 4th Cycle of Green Crop used here and there. Green Crops such as Lupin, Barley, Mustard etc,,are used to improve soil nutrient levels and structure as well as protect against soil borne pests and diseases.

crop rotation


Top Crops here include leafy greens, brassicas and cops harvested above the ground, Bottom Crops are root crops ( carrots, parsnips, turnips, onions etc.,..) and Legumes are beans and peas .

The purpose of crop rotation is to conserve soil fertility – especially for intensive growing and to protect against pests and disease. It also reduces costs of inputs and is worthwhile to understand in order to keep alive our knowledge of traditional methods of maintaining soil fertility.

The process involves a continuous rotation of the crops raised on any given piece of land. The system we use at the gardens is illustrated in the diagram.

As usual there are all sorts of exceptions.

  • Light top crop feeders such as lettuce, rocket etc., could go in after heavy top crop feeders such as brassicas.
  • I often put in two quick lettuce crops one after the other in the summer – I just add a light dusting of blood & bone as a habit to all top crop plantings.
  • Only one liming/year in the winter when there are more vacant beds available.

Key nutrients we are seeking to replenish are N, P & K – but also trace elements – Mb, Mg, S, Boron etc..

Obviously we can’t use some methods of crop rotation such as burning ( for potash) but can add untreated wood ash as a soil conditioner directly to the ground or into the compost system.

 Animal manure is in my view essential at some stage of the cycle. Plants don’t easily get what they need from composted plant material alone.

Christine has been using this system at the Strickland St site since it was set up in 1999, so it works.  For more information and variations try the Royal Horticultural Society’s website