Growing Great Gardens at Russley Playcentre

Growing Great Gardens at Russley Playcentre

Gardens can be places of work and play, of collaboration and inspiration.

At Russley Playcentre their garden fulfils all of these functions, providing a place where tamariki can both have fun and learn together.

Centre Coordinator, Ainslee Stewart, begins “we’ve always had some keen gardeners on session, both tamariki and whanau. But when we were gifted some planter boxes and seedlings, we were all inspired to take up gardening.”

The children are encouraged to care for the plants, taking responsibility for watering them with the hose and bottles. “The tamariki delight in looking after the gardens, harvesting and learning how to prepare and cook the vegetables,” Ainslee says. “Of course, tasting them is the highlight!” Recently they’ve been able to harvest a few things, like celery and parsley, to eat on session. “Some of us enjoyed the celery, but not many liked the parsley,” Ainslee laughs. “We harvested some bok choy a few weeks ago, and the broccoli will be ready in the next week or so,” she continues.

Like many of us, Russley Playcentre has been enthusiastically collecting New World ‘Little Gardens’, the seedlings the supermarket chain has recently been promoting. The tamariki at Russley took this opportunity to further develop their gardening skills, planting their seeds together on session.

Each child selected a plant to grow. Gathered around a low table, the children then added water to the compacted soil disks and watched them swell with moisture. “We all enjoyed watching the dirt disc expand and turn into soil,” Ainslee says. The adults on session discussed what was happening, talking about absorption and the things that plants need to grown.

Following that, three quarters of the moist soil was transferred to the container, the seeds added, and the remainder of the soil placed on top. The children then put their names on their ‘Little Garden’ plants and put them in a warm, sunny spot at Playcentre. “The popular choices were tomato, red onion, kale, courgette, sunflower, and watermelon,” Ainslee notes.

Russley has also taken their botanical learning offsite. “Last week we went to one of our parent’s homes to see their bees,” Ainslee says. “We learnt how flowers are important in our gardens and how bees make honey. We got to taste the honey too. They loved that!”

For the community at Russley Playcentre, gardening provides a further opportunity to grow together.  “We love Russley Playcentre, it is like a second family,” Ainslee smiles. “We are a very multi cultural centre, with wonderful and supportive parents and grandparents on session. We all share ideas, parenting ups & downs, and form wonderful friendships.”

Ainslee’s hopes for the Russley Playcentre garden are simple. “Today we planted sunflowers. We will continue to learn about gardening, plant some more seedlings, and look after them so we can harvest and eat them!”

Gardening with tamariki on session provides myriad learning opportunities. What gardening projects are you intending to do at your centre? If you’d like to know more about Russley Playcentre, and their thriving garden, you can email them on

Posted: Wednesday 29 November 2017