Horticulture Courses from NorthTec
by Sue Daly & Caity Endt

A group of ten local women Ďstart with the soilí and discover the mysteries of permaculture, compost and plant propagation.

From May to September this year NorthTec (Northland Polytech) provided a 20 week Level 2 Introductory Certificate Course in Horticulture to a group of 12 local ladies at Medlandís Haven, the Church House at Medlands Beach.

The course revolved around the creation of a new community garden (under the auspices of the Aotea Family Support Group) on the grounds of St Johnís Community Church, relocated from the original site over the road at Rangimarie. The course was composed of a variety of NZQA units, including Principles of Organic Horticulture, Introduction to Permaculture, Plant Propagation, Compost making etc, each worth so many credits towards the Certificate. The course was so popular Caity started a second course in Medlands inPhoto: Okiwi Passion July, (due to end in early December). (And this time a couple of brave lads joined the ladies!!)

Caity Endt (on the right), the Course
Co-ordinator, guides participants including
Hilde Hoven (left), in making a batch of compost.

It was generally agreed among the first group that this was a fantastic way to get through the winter, and that the things we learned impacted profoundly on our lives. We had always gardened, but gained skills and knowledge to provide better quality food all year round., and to do it with greater environmental awareness. The Permaculture unit got us focussing on our grey water systems and making better use of passive energy on our land. The constant theme of ďstart with the soilĒ and what we learned about it was enlightening. We are now all avid composters, out collecting manure, leaves, seaweed, cardboard, plastic drums (for manure tea), bamboo and anything organic for recycling and for free/trade/swap that can be made use of somewhere in our gardens.

Most of us hadnít been to school in decades so it was a bit challenging in places, but Caity made it possible for us to pass by providing lots of resources and by being constantly available and energetic. Our households have taken a few steps toward better food, better environmental habits and towards sustainability. And we had so much fun along the way.

NorthTecís rural education courses are a good asset in any community on so many levels. The great thing is that their education programmes have been decentralised, bringing the courses to the students in remote areas. The students are also equipped with tools and texts to facilitate their participation.

At the Open Day on November 8, NorthTecís Horticulture Programme Leader, John Finlayson, presented an extensive array of further courses available here and they are all fees free. Not only is there the level 2 Certificate in Horticulture, (based on NZQA Unit Standards) but there is the possibility of studying part time towards the level 4 National Certificate.

For those who want a less intensive programme, there is also the Sustainable Rural Development Certificate (SRD) at Level 2, 3 or 4 developed by NorthTec; each Certificate Course is made up of 4 modules. It runs for 20 weeks as well. Some of our favourites include: Introduction to Beekeeping; Erecting a Small Rural Building; Small Concreting Tasks; Native Plant Propagation; Using a Reedbed for Water Treatment. They are all very hands on.

For people wanting a good introductory gardening course there are some excellent modules to choose from; Basic Garden Composting; Pests Diseases and Disorders in the Home garden; Seed to Table Vegetable production; Introduction to Permaculture; Raised Bed Gardening.

There are also several units in the SRD (L3) with a conservation focus: Riparian (Wetland) Planting; Revegetation with Native NZ Plants; Sustainable Water Management; Pest Control for SRD.

For all courses a minimum of 8 students is required for the course to go ahead.

For further course information and any enquiries, call Caity Endt on 4290 137. A proposed Course Timetable/Outline for 2009 will be published in the Barrier Bulletin and School Newsletters at a later date.