Harvest and seed collecting time!

Time to log your impact!

January 12th, 2022

Summer is such a wonderful time to have things growing in pots and garden. So productive in all the best ways. Brassica flower and set seed for the coming years, along with many others, attracting and supporting bio-diversity. If you've spent much time around flowering things, you'll have noticed the bumble bees, honey bees and native pollinators, alongside an abundance of bird life supported by the wealth of insect life. It's a time for harvest, or watching (and watering) daily to see whether things have ripened and whether you might need to race the birds to get those super ripe raspberries or strawberries before they take the lot. It can require some inventive applications of netting or bird aversion tactics, alongside a lot of learning around pests and problems that threaten our crops.

To me, gardening is a wellness activity. Having watched the Netflix film "Don't Look Up" too many times over the Christmas period, at first finding it horrifyingly funny, and then all subsequent times bursting into tears repeatedly, gardening gives me hope. It allows me to feel like I am acting in a way that supports our natural systems, reminds me how long it takes a fruit to ripen and that nature is priceless, often providing the solution to every problem that is presented if we just take the time to observe it and consider it.

line chart showing New Zealand emissions of 6.94 tonnes per person against Congo emissions of 0.03 tonnes per person


This month's featured video is part of our Aotearoa Grower series and lets Lema from Ranui Community Gardens share her story of displacement from her land as a refugee in New Zealand. Lema is one of the most hopeful, grateful, incredible women we've ever met and it is a privilege to share her story.

Her story highlights for us the reality of consumerism and profit over people and planet which continues to push our emissions and planetary boundaries to their limits.

In New Zealand, the price of a lettuce has doubled in a year (over $5 a lettuce in January 2022) and in China, the price of fresh produce rose in December 2021 by 30% after massive droughts.

Climate change, global weather weirding is here and so growing more locally produced food makes sense to secure food supplies, something perhaps we're all more aware of after queuing in supermarkets during lockdowns.

It's not lost on us that the people displaced by our current systems are the ones that have profound, important wisdom to share which could be vital in our collective action and fast track to more sustainable ways of thinking and living about our resource consumption.

According to OurWorldInData, in New Zealand, our per capita emissions sit at 6.94 tonnes per person as of 2020. In Congo, they dropped to a startling 0.03 tonnes per person. We're extremely grateful to Lema for reminding us of our freedoms, opportunities and support systems here in New Zealand and our ability to work together to make sure we all have enough while being kind to our planet and people from other places. We've learnt so much from Lema's experience.

We'd love you to start logging what you're growing so that we can show our collective impact in growing and show the world what's possible. Trading or gifting seeds you've collected on the marketplace allows us to reward you bio-diversity credits because seeds represent the lifecycle of plants. It's time to get harvesting and seed collecting.

Aotearoa Grower

For some the garden is a happy place, for others a form of activism

December 12th, 2021

As Summer makes itself known and we get more opportunity to notice and get into the garden, I'm reminded of last year and putting a call out on a well known Permaculture Facebook Group asking for people who grow, willing to share their stories, and show us their gardens. We were blown away by the aroha and response and ever since, have been trying to do what we filmed justice.

At a time when New Zealand is in the news for being top of class for all the wrong reasons, it's inspiring to be able to show the literal grassroots movement there is in your community already growing and taking action to create local resilience. Maybe their kamokamo hasn't crept it's way to your garden through or over the fence yet, but it's exactly that we're trying to inspire and show the impact of through PlantMe.io. Neighbourhood garden blitzes where available green space extends the mahi of people like Tai in our video below. We're everywhere - those of us that spot a spare piece of land doing nothing with great light.

pie chart showing New Zealand and Australia's per capita emissions which are 4th highest in the world, underneath the United States


This video short Aotearoa Grower, is all about such an inspiring wahine from Napier, Tai. She welcomed us with such manaakitanga and aroha and I'm really looking forward to going back and seeing how she's grown her maara even more. She inspires her community through acting and giving, because she has enough from her garden to share, and is now helping others to setup gardens, all while she studies for her degree in Social Work, runs the house, looks after two growing boys and starts new ventures.

We're looking for more people like Tai. Those that are up for growing, trading, gifting and supporting others in their community to get growing, connect with where their food comes from and fall in love with gardening. We want to reward you for that. Make sure you're logging what you're growing in our Plant Diary, so we can calculate your emissions and reward your impact of getting growing If that sounds like a bit of you, we'd love to hear from you at [email protected]

New Zealand is getting into the garden

We talked to TVNZ about how PlantMe can help make growing easy

November 3rd, 2021

PlantMe.io on the Breakfast Show, TVNZ


Founder and CEO of PlantMe.io, Fliss Roberts, talks to TVNZ's Breakfast Show about why the time is now to get growing, plant for abundance and how to eat for free, without relying on supermarkets.

NZ Start-up Empowers Kiwis To Grow-their-own Vegetables

With Seed Delivery Service And World-first Digital Tools

October 28th, 2021

Kiwis keen to get their green fingers moving, save money and be more self-sufficient can start their own gardening journey thanks to an innovative seed delivery service and digital growing guide complete with a world-first rewards system.

“The idea is to encourage more people to get growing at home as meaningful climate action while also improving nutrition, health and wellness and your bank balance,” says PlantMe founder and CEO Fliss Roberts.

Source An article in the Herald about PlantMe

“We’re building crypto rewards that will be a world-first in rewarding individuals for their climate action and bio-diversity restoration, and now we are inviting Kiwis to sign up to the platform and be citizen scientists to help us prove what’s possible and generate the data.”

Wellington-based Fliss first had the idea for PlantMe at the end of 2018 to help individuals, families and the wider community start localising food and to make a collective impact on our bio-diversity and emissions.

Source A Press release in Scoop about PlantMe

With an MBA in Sustainability, Fliss, who heads up Greenback, a female led green-tech start-up supporting collective climate action, got to work on building the PlantMe.io app. With the help of volunteer software developers, many fresh out of university and keen to apply their newly-learned skills to a business with a purpose, Fliss was able to launch PlantMe in 2019.

PlantMe is inviting more Kiwis to sign up to have seeds delivered to their homes on a monthly, or quarterly, basis so they can grow their own fruit and vegetables with confidence. Subscribers are then supported on their gardening journey by digital growing guides, and seed choice is made depending on the recipient’s location to ensure optimal growth can be achieved.

“PlantMe.io makes it so easy to get growing now. In addition to having everything delivered to the door, we’ve got a land-share feature, which is popular for those who have extra space and want to share or rent it with gardeners who might not have their own plot.”

The number of Kiwis building vegetable gardens and taking the leap to grow their own veggies rose quickly during the 2020 lockdown, and recent lockdowns have seen the trend continue. In New Zealand and Australian, sales of vegetable seeds left many seed suppliers overwhelmed with orders 10 times higher than usual during the 2020 Level 4 lockdown in 2020.

A Californian study shows that backyard gardens can reduce State emissions by 7.8%, which is a meaningful statistic when according to the UNEP we must reduce emissions by 7.6% every year for the next decade to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Gardening has also been shown to have huge positive impact on mental and physical health, something we’re all perhaps aware of after periods of ongoing lockdown.

PlantMe is committed to helping make the planet a more sustainable one, so that future generations can enjoy and prosper and live without climate anxiety. PlantMe has just added new features showing each subscriber’s climate impact and dollar savings when they log plants, progress and record harvests with pictures.


Fliss is also focused on supporting sharing economies. Her app encourages its users to look at other ways to share their love for gardening beyond growing their own. From sharing seeds and lovingly raised plants to primo worm castings, or even sharing or renting out a veggie plot, New Zealanders are being encouraged to think differently about the way they grow.

“Having access to affordable, fresh nutrition is becoming so important in our changing climate and has become even more important during the pandemic,” says Fliss.

“One in five New Zealanders often don’t know where their next meal will come from, but it doesn’t need to be that way. We have the ability to feed ourselves and our whānau with minimal effort. Nature is really good at growing, we just need to set her up for success. We want to inspire more people across Aotearoa, and the world, to get growing because once you taste the difference and realise how easy and fun it is, you’ll never look back!”

You can read more in an article Stuff.co.nz wrote about PlantMe too here!

Source An article in Stuff.co.nz

Bio-char

Soil conditioner and climate change silver bullet?

October 11th, 2021

Currently being investigated as a mighty mitigator, locking carbon in soils for hundreds, or even thousands of years, bio-char is the product of pyrolysing wood...e.g. burning it without oxygen. As a result, the water molecules evaporate, and you're left with something akin to charcoal, but retaining its original shape and providing the perfect host environment for micro-organisms to flourish.

Biochar

Holding 3 times its weight in water, it's a highly beneficial soil conditioner that can also be soaked and primed with worm wee or animal manure/urine to super charge the growing potential.

We have no shortage of available source material, here in Aotearoa. Our forestry sector waste can be seen on any car journey travelling down the North Island, often left to rot after pine forests have been harvested. Often on steep inclines and not worth the effort of dealing with, this "slag" can find itself causing carnage in heavy weather events, blocking waterways or finding itself washed out to sea, and back onto the beach.

Lots of driftwood on a beach

Source Stuff.co.nz

There are so many useful applications for bio-char, but one of its key benefits is that it sequesters roughly three times its weight in carbon for hundreds to thousands of years. Rather than leaving it to rot, we could be utilising this resource. The benefits for growing plants include increased productivity (more veg, fruits and nuts without really trying). It reduces leeching of nutrients from soil. It could also potentially be used to make use of animal effluent, acting as a long term soil storage unit, slowly releasing nutrients into the soil for plants to use and limiting the stench and emissions from stock effluent plants (we've all driven past one).

A great resource for further reading can be found at the Biochar Network New Zealand.

BioChar Network of New Zealand website - the benefits are far and wide-reaching. Previously, it's been quite hard to get a hold of New Zealand made bio-char, with expensive offerings shipped from China... until now. The local industry is growing, regional networks starting to grow and those with the space and interest for a backyard bio-char kiln are getting into it.

We visited Phil Stevens, founder of the Slow Farm in Ashburton, who gave us the tour of his bio-char production site and showed us the benefits to soil activity he'd noticed in one season's application. Phil built his own kiln and is involved in research being conducted on open field sites looking at sequestration capacity while also trying to build the network of bio-char providers throughout New Zealand, enabling local sales of locally produced biochar - maximising emissions reductions capacity from all the angles.


If you're looking for a way to improve your soil, aerate it, encourage microbial action, grow more productive plants, biochar could be your answer. Phil's one of our seller's on PlantMe.io and is a great resource to talk to if you have access to forestry or arborist waste and are interested in growing the biochar network. (We know he helps people setup kilns too!)

The power of the perennial tree crop

Feeding communities of the future

September 3rd, 2021

Winter and early Spring are a great time to get those trees in the ground, giving them a good chance to settle roots and prepare for the dry Summer months. As climatic shifts and global weirding looks set to threaten our food security, biodiversity and social cohesion, are community orchards and more planting of fruit and nut trees the answer?

Apples on a tree

The dominant crops we plant are annual - planted, harvested and replanted every year. Perennials come back every year with similar yield and higher rates of carbon sequestration. Staple foods from trees include fruits like bananas and breadfruit, oil rich avocado, and nuts like macadamia and hazelnut. These trees can be a part of forest farms, multi-level agroforestry or intercropping systems.

They can also reverse erosion, runoff and create higher infiltration rates for rainwater. You can grow them on steep slopes and in a variety of soils while they also require lower inputs of fuel, fertiliser and pesticides. If you create a diverse orchard, the system can often become self managing, creating fantastic habitats for wildlife and generally encouraging greater bio-diversity than parks and gardens.

Which is why urban, community orchards could be such a nifty solution to feeding and supporting people in city environments. Planting orchards in urban areas increases tree coverage, the benefits of which include more shade coverage and cooling effects as summer temperatures increase. Increased rainwater uptake and a carbon sequestration rate of 3.34 tonnes per hectare, every year, for decades, perennials produce 2.4 times more food than annuals grown in the same area. They cost 40% less to produce than annuals (trees just kinda grow and fruit with very little input required). There is always abundance and enough to go around when you have mature perennial tree crops producing.

We visited Mel, one of the founders of Wellington's first urban community orchard, now mature, busting with life, insects, fruits and people and positioned in a busy walkway next to a school in Brooklyn. The project started by guerilla planting available space, asking for permission from Council while proving the case. All of the trees had stories attached to them. There was still fruit on the trees because the community knew to fill only their pockets, not their bags, so to leave some for others to enjoy. Kids picked fruit for their lunchbox on the way to school. It felt like a wonderful place to go and bump into people, learn about what likes to grow in that area and find inspiration from the place and purpose. We take you for a look around the orchard in our short documentary, Growers of Aotearoa, with a sneak peak below.


Perennial staple tree crops can weather and thrive under environmental conditions that annuals cannot. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, one in five people experience regular food insecurity, eg. not knowing where their next meal is coming from. Imagine creating a future where there is so much food and abundance being created through using our available space to support bio-diversity and connection with each other. In the warming world, can we afford not to plant fruit and nut trees everywhere? Ask for forgiveness, not for permission, start growing and logging what you're planting at PlantMe.io. If you need advice on how to grow your plants, check out the Growing Guide. We'll be following up with more info soon on how you can easily create new trees and plants for free, and actively participate in restoring bio-diversity and improving local access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.

A homegrown solution to the climate crisis

Why you should know about how to grow vegetables and herbs

June 5th, 2021

Leafy greens provide us with some really vital micro-nutrients and are so important in the transition to increasing the plant based content of your diet and good health. Winter is a perfect time to grow them and Summer, the perfect time to collect their seeds, ready for the next planting season.

Kale, as an example, is considered one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, high in Vitamin K, A and C and also anti-oxidants that help maintain great eyesight amongst other things. Other greens are just as beneficial. Many can be grown year round and easily turned into stunning, nutritious and tasty meals. You're basically eating for free, with minimal effort.

Kale vegetable

Maybe what you didn’t know, is that according to recent NZ based research, the case for growing your own has additional benefits to your long term health, and that of your friends, family and global neighbours.

The benefits of some real, meaningful climate action when you figure the figures out.

According to Otago University, leafy greens (so your kales, silverbeets, mesclun, lettuce, spinach, microgreens, cabbage etc) have just over 3kgCO2e/kg (or 3kg of carbon emissions for every kilogram of greens)..which means per weight of leafy greens, grown at home, nutritionally better for you, fresh from your garden, you save 3 times their weight in emissions!

Graphic showing carbon emissions relating to food and vegetables in New Zealand

Source The Mouthful

Doesn’t sound like much? Our family of four ate 1kg (easily) of homegrown leafy greens this week. There’s enough amongst our 4 cavolo nero plants, 4 collard green plants, mesclun, kale and herb pots to harvest lots more than this. Every week.

It is reasonable to assume that every New Zealander (every global citizen?) has the space for the pots to be able to grow at least some of their own leafy greens. If 5 million New Zealanders ate this way, year round,

we’d collectively save 260,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

Sure, that’s a long way from zero-ing our current 84 million tonnes of emissions per year but it’s also a long way from insignificant. It shows that if we all do a little, the impacts can be far greater than we might expect.

Through this one, relatively small action of growing your own vegetables, a lot of things are happening:

Now here’s the really interesting bit. In a 2017 study in Santa Barbara, researchers modelled the potential for carbon sequestration in a vegetable garden, compared to other options for your outside space like lawns.


So genuinely, along with all the other benefits we’ve already mentioned, we can also propose it may be possible to save our planet’s eco-systems simply by home-growing more veg. Are you ready to get growing yet? Try out our planting diary to add your plants and keep track of what you're growing, including your harvests, to measure your impact and make growing easy.

Seed collection and sharing

Why you should know about the importance of heritage and open pollinated seeds

February 16th, 2021

In the UK, pictures emerged just before Christmas, as the result of a new Covid strain and unexpected lockdown, of trucks filled with supplies parked on motorways. They were unable to reach their final destination and UK citizens became instantly aware of food security issues in a country dependent on overseas food exports.

Line of food trucks

This week, Auckland entered Level 3 lockdown, with the remainder of New Zealand in Level 2 and an uncertain future as we head towards Autumn and Winter when the bugs and viruses love to thrive. Wherever you’re from, whatever your background, food is something which links all of us as human beings, and animals and plant life. This common connector is a need for every living thing. When it is threatened, our survival instincts have to kick in - it’s evolution. It’s why we’ve survived for this long. And it’s why many countries are experiencing a boom in demand for seeds and seedlings, in recognition of our animal instincts to adapt and survive. To have the capacity to grow some of our own food, improve food security and sovereignty alongside the ability to avoid reliance on supermarket shopping.


In Aotearoa, in our first lockdown in Winter 2020, sales of greenhouses sky-rocketed, as our people realised their capacity to avoid lengthy queues at supermarkets and price gouging beyond their control. Sales of seeds went gang-busters with suppliers unable to cope with demand. The same is true of many other countries around the world. Our survival instincts have kicked in, gardening was recognised as one of the top activities for lockdown and greenhouses are the must have item to ensure year round growing and limit the need to visit the supermarket.

The similarities between the actions needed to address climate change and our Covid survival instincts are enormous. Seed collection, citizen growing and therefore seasonality, low food miles and sustainable cities have to be part of our solution to becoming more resilient. Growing our own food is how we have survived the last few hundred thousand years. It’s how we get through the next few. Personal responsibility for the greater good and collaboration with each other to create abundance. Because if the systems break that provide everything we want, we now all know the most important things we need for our survival. We started Greenback with the understanding that there are ways to take climate action which are triple-wins. They don’t require big business subsidies or governments to implement. For people (making healthy, nutritious food more accessible with health and well-being benefits to add), planet (eliminating emissions, sequestering carbon, climate proofing our landscapes and increasing bio-diversity) and pocket (to everyone collaborating in their action and future generations, through limiting the $700 trillion cost of climate change).

Seeds, the embryos of plants and trees, and their supply are globally largely controlled by only a few corporations. After mergers, 4 dominant companies control over 60% of seed markets.

Seed company ownership

Our indigenous cultures, marginalised and colonised, know how important it is not only to preserve seed but also to select the best plants which have adapted to the unique local environment. Their close connection with the lands, plants, water, animals, sky is all about observation and preservation for survival. The wealth of different kinds of corns, uniquely adapted for some of the harshest climates in the world are just one example of the importance of diversity as we enter a climatically uncertain period of human history. Indeed the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance state "Seeds are a vibrant and vital foundation for food sovereignty, and are the basis for a sustainable, healthy agriculture. We understand that seeds are our precious collective inheritance and it is our responsibility to care for the seeds as part of our responsibility to feed and nourish ourselves and future generations." There is untold and unrecorded bio-diversity remaining. Grandma’s lemon tree, Great Grandpa’s pumpkins. Perhaps even more so in Aotearoa where we are GMO free and in gardens, pots and communities there is huge potential resource of open pollinated, heritage seeds that have evolved with us over the last few hundred years to perform beautifully in our climate. Although there are a few seed suppliers here, much our seed comes from hybridised varieties bought on the international market from the big suppliers.

PlantMe.io was designed, in part, to record, track and share real-time information on which species of plants do well where, while also making it really easy to trade, buy or sell a wider range of heritage and open pollinated plants and seeds.

It's seed collecting season right now here in New Zealand. Sign up today to receive our newsletter on what's happening and how to get involved with improving our food security, food sovereignty and grow together! Kia ora!