233: Colin Walker on Gardening with Ecology at its Heart.
Focusing on a larger picture to understand how to effectively grow a good garden.
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Colin grew up in a rural community near Auckland, New Zealand, and learned the basics of growing by helping his grandfather maintain a small flower market garden. After some course changes, he helped to establish the Permaculture Institute of New Zealand. In the 1980s and 90s, he spent time in the US, Australia, Ireland and England. Returning home, he learned about the principles of ecology-centered design from Dennis Scott, an innovative designer, landscape architect, and resource management consultant.
Colin’s focus then turned to the conservation of traditional/heirloom food plants in New Zealand. He spent 16 years supporting local and national seed preservation initiatives by practical “growing out” hundreds of seed lines, managing research projects, running internship programmes, and taking on advisory and advocacy roles for this issue with independent & government organizations.
In 2010, he returned to Northland to create a long-term home for him, his wife, and five sons. With six years of research and experimentation completed, investigating from an ecology perspective the essential elements needed (and how to practically work with them!) to guarantee that the food we grow is actually nutrient-rich, Colin’s ready to share results!
In This Podcast:
Part one of two with Colin Walker, a long-time gardener and educator from New Zealand, who helps explain a gardening concept that brings the world into focus while looking at the garden bed. The decades of experience and know-how are evident in this conversation about how an ecology-centered viewpoint is so important to successful gardening.
Listen in and learn about:
- How his love of gardening as a young child
- Being a flower child of the 60s
- Helping primary schools set up gardens
- His first introduction into permaculture
- Learning from Bill Mollison
- Some of the key things he learned from the Father of Permaculture
- The struggle of getting people to understand permaculture
- How his focus is on gardening and with ecology is the central part
- How language can have different meanings and affect communication
- Colin’s challenge to Greg to define ‘ecology’
- Colin’s definition of ‘ecology’
- Why an ecology-centered viewpoint is important to gardening
- Why it is essential when advising another on their gardening to forget about your garden for a while
- Try to find an old traditional gardener and learning from them
- The journey of the gardener
- The challenge of the instant solution
- Why simply going ‘organic’ is not always the answer
- Some of his research on nutrition and food
- Why commercial farming has challenges with “organic” growing and why the assumption that the food is nutritious is not always accurate
As well as:
- His failure – Just recently he lost his focus on his garden and lost a crop of tomatoes to rats
- His success – It is not something he has achieved yet as he is still working for it every day
- His drive – There is always something new to learn tomorrow, always wanting to learn, sharing the link to the continuity of gardening with young people
- His advice – Just Garden – Do it!
Colin’s Book recommendations:
Practical Organic Gardening by Ben Easy
How to reach Colin:
Producer’s Note: Check out our other Information packed interview with Colin on
Keys to Growing Nutrient-Rich Food