Rory Sutherland Harding & Kate Anderson | Gardener & shop assistant/aspiring shoe maker
Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand, April 2012
Harvesting weeds and self-sown stuff gives me reassurance that I can survive – if I scratch up some dirt somewhere I can grow stuff. I love the sense of slowness and connectedness, it replaces the need to go fast. ‘...more words under images
We’ve been working on our garden in central Dunedin for about 4 years now. It has awesome dark crumbly loam that slipped down off the ridge some time ago – at worst it is about a spade deep and at best it is about waist deep before you hit the hard clay beneath. The garden covers the entire street front, side passage and rear garden where it’s surrounded by four high walls that create a generous microclimate. Its sunny in summer and there is no sun in winter but it gets so much heat and reflected light from being in the city.
We often garden on our own – (Kate spends about 20 minutes a day picking food each night and Rory, who mostly built the garden, spends about 5 hours a week)
Rory – I’m inspired by UK Food Forest gardener Martin Crawford and my mum. We have about 60 heritage fruit trees in our back garden, many of them on dwarf root stocks. Beneath and around them are shrubs and then perennials and annuals. Everything grows together and in compatible layers.
Kate – My granddad saved seed from potatoes for years in southland – it was a real sustenance thing. There would be rows of peas and broad beans along the fence lines – sturdy southland fare. I grew up with heritage fruit trees, low maintenance stuff that belonged in the conditions.
Our forest garden grows good pip and berry fruit as well as runner beans but citrus doesn’t do well and garlic gets white rot. There is always something to harvest and its always varied.
Rory - We have a resident hedgehog, ‘hedgy’, and we will have chooks in a year or two. Birds eat the berries and ‘scarfies’ are another pest – they hop over the fence to take a piss in the garden and break the branches of the feijoas in the process. The frontfence is there to try and keep them out.
Rory – I love just being in the garden, its structure and shapes give an indescribable feel. The beauty – its calm and satisfying. For me the best time to be out there is at about 1 in the morning, I might be a little bit drunk, hanging out and relaxing. Its quiet and ‘hedgy’ is often out and about. The garden is my only project, there’s nothing else I want to do.
Kate – Harvesting weeds and self-sown stuff gives me reassurance that I can survive – if I scratch up some dirt somewhere I can grow stuff. I love the sense of slowness and connectedness, it replaces the need to go fast.
I’m a dappled light freak so dusk is my favourite time. I love autumn – the red season – and harvest time. You can spot things, strawberries, tomatoes, apples all show up against the green. Its like a treasure hunt for crazy abundance – ‘Find the red!’
Rory – My highest gardening moment so far was when I grew a feijoa that was as long as a can of baked beans.
I’d encourage people starting out to work from patterns down to details. Form your garden around structure and large details and then work your way down to small, tiny delicate things
Kate – To get a garden started, make a list of what you like to buy lots of or like to eat. Try to be generous towards yourself about what that could be – it might include walnuts for instance. Try and put as much from the list into your garden. Remember, trees are less intensive than smaller plants. Work with nature and leave plants in – let them go to seed and see what happens.
We do lots in the garden – we have regular seed swaps and Rory’s sister lives next door so we often have dinner in the courtyard. Its fun following kids around looking for strawberries, they love spotting runner beans – so enthralled by it all. It’s awesome!