Village People - Jim Sowerby

23 March 2020

We’re chatting with residents about their favourite place, whether it’s a workshop, a sewing room or an art studio. We caught up with Jim Sowerby in Havelock North, who showed us around the impressive village vege garden.

“My wife Colleen and I have been at Summerset in the Vines for 17 years and I’ve worked in the vege garden for 13 years. There are two of us now who look after it. You can’t really work in a big group, because that way it’s harder to get things done!

“We pick the veges every Friday and sell them to the residents for 50¢. The money goes to the social club. Our best crop is broad beans; those sell like hotcakes. The baby carrots and butternuts are popular, too.

“I’ve always been interested in gardening. I loved being in the school gardening competition, and when I was at Waiouru Army Camp we had a big vege garden

“My grandfather taught me how to do a lot of things in the garden.”

"People seem to be getting away from gardening now and I don’t understand it. You only need a small patch to grow a lot of things. I do it because I hate to just sit around, and it’s really satisfying to see things you’ve planted produce a good crop.”

Jim’s top tips:

Look after the soil.
Get some good-quality compost to boost vege growth, and try crop rotation (where you don’t always plant the same thing in the same place) to minimise nutrient loss in the soil.

Choose seedlings.
For the best results further down the track, spend a little extra and buy punnets of small plants rather than seeds.

Play to your strengths.
If something just isn’t flourishing in the garden, cut your losses and move on. Rather than coaxing a failing plant into producing a bumper crop, focus on what works best for your particular climate, garden environment and soil type.

Think about cost.
Try growing plants that are costly to buy in the supermarket. It’s often cheaper just to buy certain things, but green vegetables are more expensive, so it’s worth growing your own.

Read more about life at Summerset in our quarterly magazine Summerset Scene