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Otaua Primary School

Otaua Primary School

Otaua Primary School

Teaching Students to Grow


If you think community spirit is not alive and well then, this article will make you think again.  Otaua Primary School has recently had built an impressive greenhouse and vegetable gardens.  

The school is situated near Waiuku in South Auckland, New Zealand.  It is surrounded by beautiful dairy farms with greenhouse growers only a few Kilometres away.  Last year, Deputy Principal Megan Allen embarked on a project to build a small greenhouse and some rather large vegetable gardens.  With the help of local herb growers Jeanette Rea and Pam Maurice from Scarborough Fare, the process begun.   Megan and Jeanette have spent a lot of time and effort to coordinate this project, which is a Horticulture NZ / NZ GAP initiative. Otaua School is the NZGAP flagship garden.

Kate Ryall (left), Payton Naylor (middle) and Taliyah Honey (right) transplanting seedlings into peat pots.


Well known greenhouse builders, Apex Greenhouses, who’s head office is in Waiuku, were contacted to see if they would be interested in the project, as the photo shows they were.  Apex have built a fantastic small replica greenhouse sitting on a well-constructed platform.  

The children are learning the basic skills of growing including planting seeds, watering and fertilizing their plants.   They are also being taught bug detection and eradication, including spraying biological products to control things such as caterpillars.  Having young students identifying insect pests at such a young age will stand them in good stead for the future.   They are growing from seedlings, then transplanting herbs and lettuces, amongst other things, from the greenhouse into the two huge raised gardens that have been built not far from the classrooms, all under the expert tuition from Jeanette.  Plants have also been kindly supplied by local nursery, Seedling Systems, with a lot of the seeds supplied by South Pacific Seeds.  


 Apex built this greenhouse with a wind and leeside vent including a double door for easy access. The greenhouse is slightly under 10m2.


The students don’t just grow the vegetable plants and herbs, they also eat them.  Local chef and culinary nutritionist Gautam Narayan from the Wild Cicada Café, comes to the school each Friday. Each Friday he cooks with a small group of students and uses the produce grown in the school gardens to produce some culinary delights.  The students learn how to prepare and use the vegetables and leafy greens in different dishes

Gautam showing students how to correctly peel a carrot


This is such a great initiative. Megan and Jeanette along with Apex Greenhouses, Hort NZ, Seedling Systems and South Pacific Seeds need to be congratulated for such a fantastic initiative.  This is the perfect introduction for kids to understand the basics of growing.  I would like to thank Megan and Otaua Primary School for accepting my invitation to write this article.  It made my day to see how happy and enthusiastic the students were about their project.  And I would personally like to thank Ryan and Brookelyn for welcoming me to the school. 


Chives, Italian Parsley and Basil are just a few of the herbs currently been grown.  I suggested in early spring they could plant some tomato plants :-) 


These garden beds are both set up with an irrigation line running down the middle of the bed.  This bed has lettuce, snow peas on the edge, fennel at the end, spring onions and celery in the middle)


In this bed are silver beet, spinach, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, beetroot, radishes, carrots, and parsnip.


Megan Allen (left) and Jeanette Rea (Right) with the students of Otaua Primary School in charge of the greenhouse recently installed.



Post your comments below or go onto the Grower2Grower face book site to post your comments.


Article Written by Stefan Vogrincic, Consultant Grower2Grower

Katrina O'Connor (NZGAP)

This is such amazing work, congratulations Otaua School, Jeannette Rea and Pam Maurice. What an incredible harvest you have available for the kids to cook with. The glass house and raised garden bed are looking so tidy - perfect for fostering a learning environment on all things to do with growing healthy veges. Well done. Katrina