With summer just around the corner, Hamilton Gardens’ gardener Geoff Herbert has been hard at work preparing the soil and planting seedlings. The qualified gardener is in charge of the Kitchen Garden and Sustainable Garden, a site of envy for most home vegetable gardeners.
The quarter-acre Kitchen Garden contains six raised square beds, each about 13 metres across, filled with seasonal produce. Walking paths segment the area, and further garden beds border the garden, with high walls along each side.
In October, neat green rows of leek, kale and broad beans were growing next to large artichoke plants, resplendent with heavy globes. Beetroot, celeriac, lettuce, celery and peas grew next to bright yellow and orange marigolds. The gardens along the walls contain perennials such as rhubarb, currants, strawberries, quince, citrus and plum trees.
Herbert’s been busy digging organic fertilisers through the soil beds which, come summer, will be home to a variety of produce including tomatoes, eggplants, lettuces, chillies, broccoli, basil, leek and kohlrabi among other things, all lovingly nurtured from seed in the Kitchen Gardens’ glasshouse. There are numerous varieties of potatoes going in too, including Jersey Benne, Purple Heart, Nadine, Cliff Kidney, Rua, Swift, Karaka and Red King.
The garden’s design is based on eighteenth and nineteenth century European kitchen gardens commonly associated with large estates.
Thanks to the hard work of the gardening team, the Kitchen Garden produces a bounty of organic fruit and vegetables throughout the year. Much of it goes to local food charity Kaivolution, which distributes it to other organisations that feed those in need. Certain crops are harvested and appear on the menu of the Hamilton Gardens Cafe. Other produce is turned into preserves, sauces and dressings and sold in the Hamilton Gardens shop, helping to reinvest in future garden development.
On a busy weekend in summer, Hamilton Gardens is visited by up to 8000 people. People taking fruit and vegetables is an ongoing challenge for the gardeners. They’ve caught people with bags of corn and prams full of pumpkins, which can be frustrating and demoralising after all the hard work put into growing it.
“People helping themselves does ruin it for the next person,” says Herbert. “Kaivolution takes 80 per cent of our produce, so people stealing from the gardens are also taking away from needy people in our community.”