A Short History of the Lincoln Community Gardens.

As published in the Lincoln & Districts Historical Society Newsletter in October 2022.

In 2007, Lincoln Envirotown Trust (LET), in consultation with the community, developed a Lincoln Community Sustainability Plan for the town. This plan included a proposal to establish a local community garden, which would join a growing network of suburbs and towns throughout New Zealand that have thriving community gardens.

Thanks to the generosity of the Canterbury District Health Board, the Lincoln Envirotown Community Gardens were established in 2008 in the grounds of Lincoln Maternity Hospital on James Street. The then Chairperson of LET, Dr Sue Jarvis, led the efforts to get things started. Sue reported at the time that the support of locals for the initiative was overwhelming, and one local businessman took time out to negotiate the site at the Maternity Hospital.

The first coordinator Cello Robertson was appointed in August 2008, and the layout of the Community Garden commenced at the front of the property. A small team of people assisted Cello with this big task, including Bill McClure, Karen Hann, Sam Glassey, Chelsea McDonald and Nicola Stewart.

The original Community Gardens site at Lincoln Maternity Hospital

The provision of the sturdy macrocarpa frames for the raised beds were sponsored by Lincoln Hammer Hardware; Piko Wholefoods; Lincoln Eye Optometrist; Lincoln Baptist Church; Lincoln Rotary Club; Lincoln and Districts Community Care; Bill and Josee McClure; Heritage Funeral Services.

Goldpine also gave us tremendous help, including supplying and positioning the raised beds, providing the materials for erecting the shade sail, and donating garden furniture.

For the establishment project we also valued the support received from Macrocarpa Supplies, Selwyn District Council, World Wildlife Fund, Fulton Hogan, PGG Wrightson, Mitre 10 Mega Hornby, Trees for Canterbury, Neale Elder and the Canterbury Community Trust (now the Rata Foundation). With installing the raised beds the establishment of the Community Gardens was completed.

A “Grand Opening Gala” was held on Sunday 24th August 2008 to launch the Community Gardens. The late Professor Steve Wratten was the guest speaker, and a scarecrow competition was held (sponsored by CRT Real Estate, and won by Casey Meredith). Selwyn Mayor Kelvin Coe officially opened the Community Gardens, and the Lincoln High School Jazz Band provided musical entertainment. In conjunction with these festivities, the International Year of the Potato was celebrated, with potato experts from Morton Smith-Dawe on hand to provide information and advice. Hillyers Bakery provided the food and Coffee Culture provided the ground coffee. The event was a great success, with about 120 people attending.

Cello moved on in September 2009 and was replaced by Paul Rutherford, who served as coordinator until May 2010. On 5th May 2010, to celebrate International Midwives Day, the midwives at Lincoln Maternity Hospital donated two fruit trees to be planted in the Community Gardens.

Imagine the disappointment that, having started a garden that was becoming fully productive, you were suddenly told that the site was needed for another use. This was the situation we faced in mid-2010 when the Community Gardens had to be moved to the rear of the hospital property to make way for a new community dental clinic. Transferring the raised beds to the rear of the property, and re-establishing paths and irrigation system, was a major exercise which went well. It was carried out by a contractor to the CDHB, with the participation of Terry Windle and Bill McClure. BECA designed the landscape plan for the new site. On successfully completing the move there was a re-opening of the Community Gardens at its new site, on 30th October. TV personality Te Radar was the guest speaker, and a barbecue was provided.

Jess Faris succeeded Paul from May 2010 until the end of that year, then I (Ruth Wood) became the coordinator from the start of 2011. I was very pleased to inherit two keen and capable volunteers in Bill McClure and the late Terry Windle. Their experience and practical support gave me confidence in my new job, and I am indebted to them. Terry’s huge contribution to the success of the Community Gardens is recognised in a memorial plaque on one of our garden seats.

Many community gardens around New Zealand serve as meeting places for the locals, as well as providing spaces for them to grow vegetables and fruit. In many instances these communities have a significant number of residents with limited means, or who are lonely and desire social interactions. While these social needs are less evident in the Lincoln community, we soon realised that our people were keen to acquire, or improve, their gardening skills. So, since 2011 we have placed a strong focus on education, through our regular workshops which are conducted every 1-2 months throughout the year. Here is the list of the topics we have provided:

  • “Apple and pear tree maintenance and production” – Keith Dickson
  • “Maintaining Stone Fruit Trees” – Warwick Mottram
  • “Don’t Treat Your Soil Like Dirt” – Roger McLenaghan, Lincoln University
  • “Encouraging Backyard Biodiversity” – Mike Bowie, Lincoln University
  • “Veges 101 – the Basics of Vegetable Production” – Errol Wood and Graham Burge
  • “Basic Bonsai Techniques” – Tony Bywater
  • “Composting” and “Glasshouse Techniques” – Terry Windle
  • “Starting and Maintaining a Worm Farm – Sharon Breakwell, Wastebusters Trust; Lesley Ottey, Eco Educate
  • “Growing Berry Fruit” – Fiona Waghorn
  • “Bees – Angels of the Environment” – Barry Donovan, Landcare Research
  • “Spring in Action – preparing for the new season” – Rachel Vogan
  • “Pollinators in Our Gardens” – Brad Howlett, Plant and Food Research
  • “Establishing a Native Garden” – Sue Jarvis and Fiona Waghorn
  • “Earthworms – Our Underground Army” – Trish Fraser, Plant and Food Research
  • “How to Propagate Bulbs” – Jill Reader, Lincoln University
  • “Looking After Your Roses” – Liz Willis, BHU Lincoln University
  • “Establishing and Maintaining a Great Lawn” – Roger Morgan, Readylawn

Some of these workshops have been run annually, for a number of years. For example, Keith Dickson presented his apple production demonstration every year from 2013 until 2021. I am grateful that Keith and our other presenters have shared their expertise so willingly and well.

Since the Lincoln Envirotown Community Gardens opened back in 2008, we have hosted thousands of people – tour groups, overseas visitors, garden clubs, school classes, Lincoln University students, Cubs and Brownies, Members of Parliament, District Councillors, and of course the participants at our workshops.

Folk have come from as far away as Geraldine and Rangiora to attend the workshops, and one workshop (on apple tree maintenance) attracted 70 people! Families visiting the Maternity Hospital, and the mothers, have found the Community Gardens to be a place of tranquillity and refreshment.

We have established a close relationship with Lincoln Kidsfirst Kindergarten, and it is great to see the enthusiasm in the little folk when planting and harvesting the vegetables in their plot.

A busy day in the Community Gardens for the volunteers and the kindergarten kids

We are particularly grateful for the annual donations of pea straw by the Ellesmere Lions, and the generous, regular gifting of plants and other gardening items by Lincoln Hammer Hardware, over a number of years. Our numerous volunteers over the past 14 years, and I, can look back with pride in our achievements. The Maternity Hospital has closed but the health authorities have told us that we can continue to be based in the hospital grounds for the foreseeable future. It is great news to have this certainty, going forward.

The Lincoln Community Gardens are kindly supported by the Lotteries Community Fund.


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