News and Events

Nursery Opening for Workshops on Fridays

We will be operating the Community Nursery on Fridays a bit differently from 1 June 2020.

Instead of volunteer mornings we will be going to workshops where you will need to pre-book. This change has been brought upon both by Covid distancing requirements and the season (we are going into winter and nursery activities decrease).

All workshops will be 10am – noon and the schedule at present will be as follows

Friday 5 June 2020 – Native Plant Cuttings Workshop - Linda

Friday 12 June 2020 – Native Plant Cuttings Workshop - Linda

Friday 19 June 2020 – Vegetable Gardening in Southland – Bronwyn and Erika

Friday 26 June 2020 – Vegetable Gardening in Southland – Bronwyn and Erica

Friday 3 July 2020 – Principles of Permaculture and Forest Gardens – Geoff

Friday 10 July 2020 – Setting up a Community Nursery - Chris

The workshops will be by booking only (email Enable JavaScript to view protected content.) – first come first served (sorry, no just turning up!) and depending on responses, the topics and dates could change. I am also planning fruit pruning workshops etc but if you have something you’d like us to run let me know. I will keep you updated via the website news and events as well as emails but my post lockdown promise to myself is spending more time outside and less time on the computer so apologies in advance if I drop the ball on this one. I don’t have emails coming to my phone so please don’t expect an immediate response to short notice emails.

I am also open to individual volunteers coming to help out on a day other than Friday, let me know if you are interested in that, but again it will need to be notified to me in advance.


Nursery still closed for volunteers but opening soon!

We are missing you guys, but we are still closed on Fridays!! However, under Covid-19 directions the Nursery will be open on Friday mornings soon, but running a bit differently for volunteers for the foreseeable future.

We thought the best way for us to continue at the moment (with social distancing, gathering numbers, time restrictions, hygiene, and tracing rules, not to mention the non-shared morning teas!) would be for a pre-booking system for Fridays.

Realistically we can only have 4 people in the sheds potting up and as the potting requirement is lessening as we go into winter we aim to run a series of workshops on Fridays for 6 people interspersed with “work days” with specific tasks assigned – these tasks will be weather dependent so will probably be put on the website News and Events on Mondays for the following Friday (and trust the weather forecast is good enough for planning tasks) and you will need to register your interest for the Friday by email. Unfortunately, you can’t just turn up on a Friday anymore.

The type of workshops will include plant propagation – seeds and cuttings, beginners guide to vegetable gardening in Southland, permaculture for beginners, foraging or using garden produce, pruning of fruit trees and bushes etc as well as the usual nursery tasks such as weeding, potting up, moving native plants around and tidying the nursery.

Other workshops could be how to make sourdough, kefir, kombucha, yoghurt (without actually making them!) or any other things you can think of that people may be interested in – they’d be 2 hour sessions 10am-noon.

Any other ideas welcome and if you’d be interested in particular workshops let me know in advance and that will help with our planning.

There could also be other opportunities to help as individuals on other days, but that will need to be pre-booked too.

If you want to wear a mask or gloves please bring your own, we will have hand sanitiser and hand washing facilities on – site.

Keep safe and any questions please ask.


Seed cleaning

A few people have been asking how to prepare seed for sowing and it’s an operation that mainly goes on behind closed doors. There are a few steps that lead to the sowing and the link to our seed page doesn’t go into too much detail

So, I thought I’d explain the detail in relation to a specific species – patē or seven finger (Shefflera digitata). Patē is a common tree species often found under the canopy of native forest in Otatara and Southland, or on the edges of forest. The technique for cleaning the seed is the same for all the fruit covered seeds like Coprosma, cabbage tree etc and it helps to separate the often tiny seeds inside the fruity cover. That fruity cover (often bright colours) is to attract birds to eat the seeds, which are then distributed (with their own fertiliser) throughout the forest and beyond. It’s the natural way for such seeds to get distributed far and wide. Loss of birds means lessening of the ability of plants to distribute their seeds, so birds and plants need each-other. Photographs below show the cleaning process.

After collecting the ripe patē seeds (generally the seeds turn from hard and green to fleshy, soft and coloured – in the case of patē white and purple) they are removed from the stalks. Then the seeds are ground in a sieve under running water. If you squash a single fruit (like patē or cabbage tree) you often find it contains many more than one seed (a Coprosma fruit always contains two white seeds).

After separating the tiny seeds run water into the seeds, let them settle to the bottom and pour off the water, the seeds stay at the bottom and the fruity residue floats off. Then tip the seeds onto kitchen towel and leave to dry and separate. Rub them off the paper towel into a container and sow onto the surface of seed tray containing potting or seed raising mix and cover with more mix or pea gravel (link previous article). You will see that from just one stalk of pate fruit we get hundreds of seeds (and hopefully seedlings) and hopefully many seedlings and eventually plants.

While I have been sowing seeds, Linda has been starting the cuttings. Like seed preparation it is a time-consuming process. The cuttings in the photos took over 4 hours to prepare, but it is a good skill to have – a quick guide at the following link

Happy propagating!


Native Seed Sowing 2020

Seed sowing is usually a communal Friday morning activity, but needs must!! Since Christmas we have been busy collecting native seed around the property (and that has been a Friday morning volunteer activity until lockdown) – firstly the grasses – e.g toetoe (Astroderia richardii), red tussock (Chionochloa rubra) and Carex (Carex secta). Our diligent volunteers collected lots of those species before lockdown and helped clean the seeds (ie pulled or shook the seeds off stalks into bags). Then the fleshy fruited plants like wineberry (Aristotelia serrata) (which even we failed to get this year) and Coprosma’s (eg Coprosma propinqua, Coprosma lucida) and now the capsule seeds like the tiny koromiko (Hebe salicifolia), manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) and the sticky seeded kohuhu (Pittosporum tenuifolium) and lemonwood (Pittosporum eugenioides). Those are just a few of the species we have been collecting. Now its time to sow the seeds – so I have started doing that this week – photos below. For the plants we want a lot of in the nursery, we sow into larger trays, sprinkle onto the surface of potting mix and cover with a layer of pea gravel (or more potting mix).

For a lot more detail of what, when and how to collect and sow seeds go to the following link

Once you have sowed your seed we recommend you make some shadecloth covers (to keep cats off!) and leave them outside for winter so that they get rained on (we dont recommend putting into tunnelhouses as they then need to be watered every few days over winter). A future article will cover the structures we recommend for setting up your own community nursery (they dont need to be complicated or expensive).

Here at the Community Nursery we are specialising in those natives that grow naturally in Southland. There are a few interlopers we don’t want in Southland like Coprosma robusta, Hoheria sexstylosa or Pseudopanax laetum as they can displace our local Southland flora. Please don’t collect just any seed even if it’s a native. I know it sounds pedantic to some but its like looking after sparrows instead of kereru and if we want kereru to prosper, we need to look after them (the sparrows can look after themselves!).

To see photos and descriptions of any of the plant species, the best place to go is to the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network (NZPCN) website and search for the species (that’s where the scientific name comes in handy, as many plants have a number of common names, but you can still look up common names too).

We are happy to discuss and assist with any plant queries so feel free to email.

Bronwyn will be doing a number of Facebook stories around children’s activities while in lockdown.

Chris and Brian

Seed Saving and Not Wasting Anything!

Four weeks into lockdown and I am missing the “Community” aspect of the Community Nursery! – Bronwyn’s daily visits, the sharing, the camaraderie, the shared food, the ideas, the friendship, the school groups and workshops, but so many people are in far worse positions, so we feel very lucky.

The Nursery is ticking along and my next job will be sowing the seeds (collected and cleaned). Like many people we are also getting done many jobs around the property that have been long overdue! Usually, at this time of year we have our Apple Pressing Community event – Malcolm brings his cider press and we all make delicious apple juice! This year it is just us and the birds eating our apples and I think the birds are winning! Not really, they get their share but I am very busy picking, cooking, freezing apples. It feels like a time not to waste anything. The garden is prolific in its produce and nothing goes to waste and that goes for vegetable plants that are going to seed. Normally I would be tidying them but now they all seem like a valuable resource. Also, before lockdown Linda and I ordered a lot of vegetable seeds from Kings Seeds – it just seemed like a sensible thing to do (I think it was Rays idea). So we have lots of vegetable seeds to sow now and in spring – watch this space it may be a new line for the Nursery! We are a very optimistic group us gardeners and at these times the garden is an inspirational place. For the recent Otatara Pigeon Post Newsletter I found some drawings by Gwen Challoner done in 2008 of a large lawn and accompanying ride-on lawnmower and then a biodiverse garden full of diversity – produce, chickens, places for people and nature – my hope is that when some form of new normality comes people will value their garden spaces much more and create their own havens for themselves and for nature.

Everyone is cooking!! Hopefully you will have tried out some of the recipes from our first Community Nursery Cookbook. To reconnect with Nursery friends we are going to do another Community Nursery Cookbook – “Lockdown Edition” – so send me your recipes, photos and tips for surviving the lockdown – I know Maggie’s been foraging in Clyde, Eleanor has sent me her sourdough starter recipe, Sally has baked for me (and eaten) her lemon and poppyseed muffins, Ive been doing my zucchini fritters and cooking up my own blackboy peaches, Lesleys Kumikumi’s were amazing and I am sure Bronwyn and Abby have been cooking up a storm!

The bear in my hut window is for someone who’s on the frontline. Our thanks to them and everyone-else working so hard to keep us all safe.

We have a way to go, but stay safe, and be kind.

Chris and Brian