Jenny Kaye Potaka feeds her family from 25 sq metres of vege garden just 10 minutes walk from the Beehive.
Her tiny, grassed backyard also contains play space for her three children, including climbing frames and a sandpit, and some sheltering trees on the southern boundary. From her three small vege
plots Jenny Kaye harvests fresh, organic produce all year round. Her 'bill of fare' this year includes lettuce, beans, mesclun, silverbeet, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, strawberries, zucchini, French sorrel, horseradish, Cape gooseberries, celery, spring onions, rhubarb and various herbs.
Good structures, careful organisation and lots of organic matter are the key to year-round production. One small square plot, 75 cm x 75 cm, contains a three metre bamboo stake bean tepee, covered in vigorous bean vines. Herbs, lettuce and a self-sown kumara plant cover the ground at its base. In a
larger 2.5m x 2.5m plot, bricks mark out smaller squares to separate growing spaces for tomatoes (also on bamboo stake tepees), silverbeet, lettuce, herbs and a lemon tree. Along the edges lobelia, lavender and marigolds provide colour and repel bugs. Along the western side of the garden runs a brick boundary wall about 1.5 metres high. A 75cm wide brick-edged raised bed hugs the wall. In winter Jenny Kaye ran a sheet of clear plastic from the top of the wall to the edge of the bed, and grew celery, parsley, spring
onions and lettuce beneath its shelter. She then started off the summer veges (tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, peppers) under the plastic, and removed it when the tomatoes and cucumbers were ready to start climbing up the bamboo stakes crisscrossed along the wall as supports. They share the bed
with a few feathery, flowery cosmos plants, and the strawberries.
In a tiny strip in front of the raised bed she grew a mesclun mix. Some of the lettuce and cabbage plants from the mix have been allowed to mature and go to seed, in the hope that they will self-sow, although thus far the weather (and soil) have been so dry nothing has happened. This strip bed was
made by digging a long trench and burying kitchen scraps in it - a 'cheat's' way of composting which has much to recommend it. As a result some volunteer plants grew in the bed - she has left the Cape gooseberries and composted the rest. The compost is made in a large green plastic composting bin. Jenny Kaye says it makes a coarse but adequate compost. She enriches it with the exclusive local manure - zoodoo from the zoo in Newtown. A big and prolific pear tree shades the compost bin, and at this time of year Jenny Kaye is busy making pear chutney and the family favourite, pear and ginger jam.
Where did she learn her gardening skills? Her parents and grandparents were all good gardeners. Her mother's parents had a one acre garden, and kept bees, hens and a cow as well as growing fruit, vegetables and flowers. At age ten Jenny Kaye was learning how to prune roses there. In the 1980s she
studied permaculture, and has a Diploma in Permaculture Design and Education. She put this to good use in the 1990s in Auckland, teaching permaculture courses and working as a permaculture design consultant. Her ability to coax large amounts of food from small and unpromising spaces
shows that she knows how to walk the talk - and make it look good, feel good and taste good.