Plant sale legend steps down

If you’ve ever seen Tina Pope in gardening action at Paekākāriki School, you quickly get a sense of how her enthusiasm and efficiency propelled the Paekākāriki Plant Sale to be such a success.

Tina, happy to finally have time for her own garden. Photo: Mishy Vieira

Hands deep in soil, pushing a wheelbarrow, or passionately explaining to volunteers how best to pot a seedling – she’s a whirlwind of productivity.

After 7-8 years managing the growing and selling of thousands of plants each year through the gardening group Potty Potters, Tina says she was ready to hand over the reins.

“It is a whole team effort and I’m just one of a big team. My kids left the school last year, so I knew it was time to go. I’ve been handing it over for a year, writing down the processes to make visible the invisible work I do.”  

“It’s all in good hands but Potty Potters do always need helpers with the plants and there are lots of small jobs like labelling that can happen outside of the Friday morning potting group,” she says.

Over the years, the two annual plant sales increased in scale and last year the Potty Potters made around $24,000 in sales before costs. 

Funding pays for the school’s gardening curriculum through teacher aides, soil, and seeds. Money also goes towards the garden’s infrastructure such as weed mats, worm farms and things like landscaping or the free soup initiative for tamariki.

“Maths, science, art, writing and Te Ao Māori all get taught in the school garden, plus the kids learn the values and principles of growing your own food. We won the Kāpiti Youth Education Award last year,” Tina says.

Another local gardening guru, Hannah Zwartz, started the initial garden programme with volunteers and they wanted to enlarge the initiative without needing to rely on parents.

“I was on the train with Geoff Osgood from the Holiday Park and by the time we got to Wellington we’d decided to start Potty Potters to grow plants and use the plant sale fundraiser to pay someone to run the gardening curriculum,” Tina says. 

Potty Potters make about 200 plants a week, they record sales to see what’s most popular and each year they got bigger and better by doing things such as building hothouses for tomatoes or buying hotbeds to raise their seeds. 

“The plant sale is a great brand and it’s built its reputation as people come from all over. We don’t buy plastic, we recycle it all, and we also pass plants to other groups like the local Playcentre, Māoriland in Ōtaki and Common Unity in the Hutt.”

“It is quite pressured, but I did like the systems stuff and the growing and growing. I enjoyed the getting together of people to do planting. It is beautiful that bit and I’ll miss the people. We’ve put a lot of work into it and it really is a lovely space,” she says.

Now Tina’s relinquished her school garden role, she is happy to finally have time for her own garden.

“I would usually miss out on the best plants from the sale and get the dregs – but I’m not this year!” she says smiling.  

If you are interested in helping with any of the plant sale jobs such as watering, potting or labelling please get in touch with Sarah via [email protected] or 021 969 645.

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