Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Opua School would like to thank the team at Tui and the sponsors for giving New Zealand schools this AMAZING opportunity by running the TUI GARDEN COMPETITION.

The value of the hands on experience for the children and the enthusiastic spin off it has, not only outside the classroom but also inside the classroom, is priceless. I am sure every participating teacher/school has experienced this too. 

We would like to acknowledge also the wonderful support we have had from our Board of Trustees, Principal, staff and our amazing community.

Merry Christmas from Room 4 and Opua School.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Garden Report.....Jane

This year I have learnt a lot about gardening, especially about the way plants grow up differently in hot houses - they shoot up! Also plants get very dry in hot houses so they need watering lots. I have learnt all about compost, worm juice, and everything it takes to grow strong, healthy plants - sunshine, water, good soil, care and protection from diseases and insects.

I learnt so much about gardening I started a garden at home.


We have over 40 different edible plants at our school:
Sugar Cane - Bananas - Raspberries - Black Berries - Apples - Peaches - Feijoas - Mandarines - Oranges - Strawberries - Paw Paws - Beet Root - Silverbeet - Beans - Peas - Corn - Lettuce - Courgettes - Tomatoes - Carrots - Potatoes - 10 different herbs - Salad Sprouts - Watermelon - Rock melon - Egg plant - cucumber - Sunflowers - Lavender - pansey - calendula - Snap Dragons - Spinach - Spring Onions  Cabbage - Nasturtium - Broccolli

aaaaand I think that's all - I may have missed one or two... Here are some pics of our edibles-

 TOMATOES - They weren't on the list!
 peas, beans, sunflowers, Liam, lettuces, mandarins, feijoas....
Raspberries, Oranges, Sprout Man

WAter savinG

We have 3 compost bins for our garden. We use our lunch scraps, chook poo, paper, grass clippings and tree prunings to make our compost. Mr Ututaonga also has a chipper and we use the 'chippings' for mulch. Putting mulch amount the plants is beneficial in many ways. it traps the heat, keeping the roots warm and toasty. It stops the water evaporating saving the gardeners from watering too often and saving on the water bill but most importantly it keeps the roots moist.

We also have worm farms - the worms digest the scraps and other organic matter and they produce worm juice which makes our plants grow like magic and we use the worm castings as well of course.

community involvement

Our school sells egg sandwiches with paresly and lettuce from our garden and chooks. Our local commercial garden have donated herbs to plant in/on our herb wall. We trade parsely and lettuces with a local restaurant in exchange for food scraps. 13 of our pupils learnt so much that they went home and planted their own gardens from seeds. We also sell our free range eggs to our community and we have sold many vegetable plants also.

We have planted the roadside verge with sunflowers, pohutokawas and beans. These are to attract the bees and native birds.

We also have many visitors who come to look at our wonderful gardens and fantastic school. We often give them guided tours and because we are so proud of our achievements the visitors walk away very impressed!


Chantelle Routley Diepeveen - Room 4

Lately we have been working on our Sprout Man. He is made of recycled onion bags with our compost in it and a pot plant. We have put salad sprouts in the compost so that the Sprout Man will grow little herbs that we can use in our salads and sandwiches. We have made a cape out of some old material and we mixed flour and compost together. We put the goop on the material and sprinkled seeds all over it. We will water the cape until the sprouts pop through then we will put it in out Sprout Man!

Room 4 have made a herb wall and I am going to tell you how. First some boys cut the tops off some plastic drink bottles (which we have been saving in the recycling) then we filled them with dirt. Then we tied about 8 bottles to the chicken coop fence on top of each other. After that we got a bottle with a lid and filled it with sand first then water. The lid had a hole in it, the reason we put the sand in first is because it will stop the water going straight through and drowning the plants below. Last we cut a square in each bottle and planted a herb or salad plant in them.

All of Room 4 were put into 4 groups to make sea sculptures out of rubbish we found on the beach such as plastic bags, plastic bottles, tin cans and fishing nets. We made a jelly fish out of plastic bags and a broken chair, a whale skeleton out of a net, wire and the top of a chair. We also made a diver out of a buoy for a head, bottles for arms and legs, 2 plastic gloves, bottle caps - ALL stuff we found on our beach clean-ups! My group made a fabulous starfish from old nets and fizzy bottles.

I love it that Opua School has the garden and we also have bees and chickens. Each creature produces something. Bees - Honey, Chickens - Eggs. We make egg sandwiches once a week to sell to help pay for chook feed and when we get honey we make honey sandwiches for free for the kids here at school.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What I have Learnt...Shane

Shane Vincent - Room 4
  • Worms produce worm juice and it has to be the right strength before it gets put on the garden otherwise the plants will be harmed and the leaves will fall off
  • worm poo is called CASTINGS.
  • I learnt a lot about hydroponics - First we got some bottles and drilled some holes in them and cut some holes for the seedlings. These plants live off the nutrients from the worm juice. Worm juice seems to be better than sheep pellets for our hydroponic system
  • Watercress is edible!
  • Hot houses makes plants grow better
  • Herbs grow very well inside a plastic bottle.
  • I have really enjoyed coming to school to do the gardening roster

What I have Learnt...Ohara

Ohara Benseman - Room 4

  • I have learnt that there are lots of different garden mixes available in the shops and they are good for all different things.
  • Worm juice is very good for the plants
  • When a plant dies all the nutrients break down into compost
  • All plants need light to grow
  • Organic compost is good for the veges and worm juice is good for the hydroponics.
  • Or sprout man grows very fast and seeds will grow through a wide weave
  • The garden vege mix is the best for veges only
  • Plants grow faster in the hot house and the hot-house needs to be a constant temperature.
  • I learnt so much that I went home and made a self raising garden and I planted a lot of strawberries.     (15 out of 25 pupils from Room 4 created their own gardens because of all they have learnt!!)

sprout man!

We have a new addition to our garden. He is Sprout Man!
Mr and Mrs Young helped the children make this wonderful creation. We used onion bags, material a pot planter, and sacks filled with dirt, compost and potting mix. Mr Young helped form the 'human shape' and then he was liberally sprinkled with salad sprouts, cress etc.

What I have Learnt ...Riley

Riley McMurtry - Room 4

What I have learnt in the 2012 Tui Garden Competition

  • If you plant plants in winter and put them in a hot-house they will be ready for summer.
  • Potting mix is very good for punnets
  • I never knew that even a drop of worm juice touches a plant's leaf it will burn the leaf
  • We have found that worm juice works better in the hydroponic system than water and sheep-poo.
  • When the sun shines the hot-house stores the heat, but only enough to make the seedlings comfy. Too hot and they would DIE

What I have Learnt...Ting

Ting Kwok, Room 4
What I have learnt is a mouthful to say about gardening!

  • Worm juice and poo (castings) can help a garden grow because of all the nutrients in it.
  • All plants need the right amount of sun and water - otherwise they will die.
  • We can recycle and or dispose of lots of things to prevent them causing harm to wild life - such as plastic bottles, bottle caps/lids, tyres, rope, plastic bags, polystyrene, fishing line and fishing nets.
  • I also learnt that a hot house is useful to baby plants (seedlings) because it is just the right temperature for themso they won't die of heat or be drowned.
  • We all agreed that the Tui Seed Raising Mix is better than potting mix.
  • We have a wall of hydroponic lettuces. We pour diluted worm castings into the plastic bottles and they seem to be thriving. We have learnt that the worm juice is very powerful and if it comes into contact with the leaves it can burn them!
  • Last year I knew nothing about soil NOW I know that there are different types of soils and different types can do funny things to plants, like change their colour. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

hydroponic experiment

Bloopers FUNNY!

October 13

Here are a few pics to show the gardens after the two week holidays. As you can see the warmer weather is working a treat!

The beans and sunflowers have really shot up! Sadly they won't be any where near ready to harvest by the time the competition ends (in a couple of weeks!) but we hope that you can all see that our garden is going to provide lots of fresh, healthy food for our kids.

The Peru-Peru spuds have really taken off!
Looks like the keen gardeners will be planting lots of peas, lettuce and herbs when they get back to school on Monday!

September 28

Our herb wall is doing marvellously well! It is evident that the bottles hold the warmth which has enabled these herbs to get a really good root system going! A number of local families donated different herb seedlings and we even planted spring onions in there as well. It will be a living salad - great for healthy sammies.

During the end of last term our fabulous teacher aide Julie offered to help a few of our pupils enter in the Parmco competition where they chose to cook a different dish each week for three weeks. The first dish was a plate of scrumptious Thai Fish Cakes with a light salad and and a tangy dressing.

The second week was an ever-so-delicious Marrakesh Chicken on Cous-Cous.

And the final week was a Perfect Pav!

In each of these dishes was an item or items from our garden, herbs mainly, and they used our                          chicken's eggs for the pavlova. 

September 14

The weather is finally starting to warm up here! You may remember our great little hot-house we built out of recycled fizzy drink bottles last year. Our strawberries and tomatoes loved it so we are doing the same this year. Here is Meghshyam with our strawberries from last year and the space in behind for our tomato seedlings.

The children have also been busy utilising the wonderful, nutrient rich worm tea and the castings. The tea is watered down so the vegetables don't get burned by the potent brew. The use of worm tea and castings is so beneficial for our plants, they are so strong and green, perfect for healthy veg in a couple of months time.

Mrs Young has been busy all year overseeing the hatching and rearing of chickens/hens. We have a group of dedicated girls who love looking after the chickens in the mornings. They make sure their cage is clean and tidy, ensuring they have clean water and clearing the eggs. We have hatched 4 broods this year so far and we have some layers, some 'teenagers' and a batch of newly hatched chickens. The children are so very lucky to have this opportunity! We had a beautiful rooster that we could't bear to part with but as we have neighbours we thought it best to find a loving home for him, one of the wee girls who looks after the chickens talked her mum and dad into letting him come home with her! YAY for him.

We recently had a phone call from a school further south who had heard about our chicken rearing programme and were wanting to buy some from us to go in their new Hen House they had just built. We were very excited to hear that another school is going to be showing their children what great pets/food providers/garbage disposals chickens can be! We happily supplied them with some chickens. Also each week we make and sell egg sandwiches to our pupils. The only cost is the bread and spread. We harvest parsley and boil up the most beautiful tasting eggs! YUM!

Having chickens, worm farms, a recycling programme and a garden really cuts down on waste! The children know how to separate the food scraps - some for the chickens, some for the green-cone and some for the worm farms. When we have new chickens in the brood box we take out the soiled paper liner and place it in the worm farm. The chook poo is taken out and dug into the soil. The green cone uses solar generated heat to break down its waste and feeds the soil directly around it (making for the biggest, juiciest strawberries around!!

Our Green-house has been a phenomenal success! The growth rate of the seedlings is mind boggling and they are all strong and healthy! We had planted heaps of sunflowers, too many for our wee school so the boys decided (with Mrs Young's permission of course) to plant some plants out round the community. By the Opua Car ferry they planted flower and vege seedlings and down the road from the school along the bank they have planted some sunflowers and beans. It feels nice to share with the community.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Companion Planting

The seedlings are looking so healthy, they are a credit to the kids.

It is time to plant our first batch and we have decided to companion plant again this year. The children learnt about it last year and are keen to try again. We have corn and sunflowers interspersed peas and beans. the beans and peas will climb up the stalks of the corn and sunflowers. If the climbers grow faster than the stalks then we will have to get some stakes in but we are hoping that it will all work out.

Another bonus of doing it this way is that each plant will flower at different times, giving our lovely bees plenty to do and eat throughout the summer months. We have also planted beetroot and tomatoes - we are really looking forward to summer!!!

Brand New Bottle Garden

We are always on the look out for new and interesting ways to recycle and utilize our tiny bit of land.

In the past we have made sculptures of a whale and jellyfish and last year we made a hot-house from bamboo and softdrink bottles which is still going strong. Mrs Young was inspired this time by a video on YouTube and here is the result-

Mrs Young took a couple of pupils to the local dump, sorry, Transfer Station, and collected some softdrink bottles. After washing them out the pupils cut the bottoms out of the bottles and then put potting mix & compost in them.

Mrs Young and Ohara (inside the chook house) then stacked and tied them to the chook house wall. There are 5 columns and it is 8 rows high. Each bottle fits into the one under it and because there are no lids the water flows from the top water feeder right down to the bottom.

Once the bottles are secured and the top layer is completed Mrs Young started cutting flaps in them and carefully placed seedlings in the new planter.

We have planted parsley and spring onions in it so far and we are going to plant other hers and lettuces -
A Salad on a Wall!! If all goes well this will be covered with lush, edible greenery in a few short weeks.

Gargantuan Greenhouse Growth

The new greenhouse has been absolutely worth its weight in gold. 
We have had so much rain over the past few weeks it's a miracle that we haven't developed webbed feet!

On August the 6th we posted that we had planted our first lot of seeds and put them in the greenhouse. The children helped Denny with a DIY irrigation system which keeps the humidity just right for optimum growth and BOY has it worked a treat. 

The children visit the greenhouse everyday and water when necessary. In two short week we have seedlings that would make any plant-shop proud, WE sure are! The beans are so big and strong with a fantastic root system.

We asked the children what they think might have contributed to this wondrous growth 
*Heat - warmer inside the greenhouse than outside
*Moisture - the mist the irrigation system gives off is keeping the plants moist. We also notice condensation on the walls of the greenhouse which shows that there is a nice amount of heat in there.
*Potting Mix - The quality of the potting mix is very important and it seems that the TUI potting mix is full of the right nutrients for our seedlings.
*Care - We look after the seedlings everyday and make sure they are warm and wet, they are very spoilt.

The kids have been acclimatising the seedlings this week. In the morning they get placed outside to get used to the temperature difference and then put back in for the night. They will be ready to plant  mid week.

We LOVE our Bees!

National Bee Week - August 20-24.
Our bees have survived a wet winter and they are enjoying the longer, sunnier days (in between downpours!)

 We have had to feed them a sugary solution throughout winter to keep them healthy and happy and we are all looking forward to the first spring flowers. We are quite an organic school and we do not use sprays so the flowers should be ok for our bees. We already have several of our fruit trees coming into blossom and they are loving the lavender!
We always have to be keeping an eye on the hive for the dreaded varroa mite, Denny the Caretaker and local bee man Johnny Boots have been checking and showing the children what to watch out for. if the hive became infected, we would have to destroy the hive :-(.

The National Beekeepers’ Association is helping battle the varroa mite but they want New Zealanders to help combat the threat to bees from pesticides and a lack of food.

"Without bees, two thirds of our everyday food would disappear, our gardens would be without many of their plants and flowers, and our major agri-export industries - worth around $5 billion - would be in severe trouble," a statement from NBA says.
* If you see a swarm of bees contact a beekeeper (visit
* Avoid using sprays and coated seeds containing neonicotinoids
* If you must spray, avoid products which contain acetamprid, imidacloprid, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam
* Avoid spraying chemicals in your garden while plants are flowering.
Source: The National Beekeepers' Association of New Zealand.

“New Zealanders also need to plant bee friendly trees and plants like fruit trees and old-fashioned or heirloom flowers and herbs. We also need to protect swarms, not kill them. If you see a swarm of bees in a tree or on your house contact a local beekeeper to come and get them.”

For more information about how to help bees go to

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rain, Rain GO AWAY

We are entering yet another wet week up here in the "Winterless North" and the temperature is not too tropical either! In between downpours the children have been managing to get out in the gardens to do some mulching but primarily we have been focussing on getting our seeds planted. Last week the children planted a heap of Koanga Heritage seedlings and they are nice and snuggly in our new greenhouse.

 Today they planted McGregor's Giant Sunflower seeds and they are happy in the Recycled Bottle Hothouse.

 Earlier last week in a break in the weather Anita and Sofia planted some flowers for our bees which happens to fit in with our garden plan (see below). Our local Bee Keeping Association kindly donated some Bee-Friendly plants to Opua School and we knew the perfect place for them! The chickens were very interested in what the girl's were up to and were trying to get the grubs and worms while they were digging!

Today it was Jeremy and Reuben's turn to get into the garden. They did a great job spreading out the                      TUI VEGETABLE MIX 
The garden has had two weeks of rest after the mustard seed and Lucerne was dug in and then the whole area was mulched so it is a perfect time to incorporate the vege mix. 
They also had a great (and messy) time getting more seeds into little pots. It is an idea that we sell spare seedlings to community members at our local markets, watch this space!