A Wanganui-based organic soil expert has launched Growing Your Own Kai, a resource booklet designed to help Maori grow their own food.

Work on the booklet, written by Lisa Talbot and illustrated by Cecelia Kumeroa, began in October but was completed by Christmas.

Te Atawhai o te Ao, the Castlecliff-based Independent Maori Institute for Environment & Health, had commissioned the booklet as one of a series of three resource booklets for Maori on growing and gardening in an organic fashion. Another booklet planned for the middle of the year will focus on community gardens and growing commercially.

Environment and health researcher Dr Paul Reynolds said the book was an "awesome" resource for Maori.


"And, of course, it's about one of our favourite things ... kai."

There was a big resurgence in Maori organic gardening, he said.

"People have been travelling to different regions looking at gardens and sharing seeds and plants ... it's been amazing. Maori people wanting to grow their own healthy kai, their own uncontaminated kai ... it couldn't be better."

Ms Talbot told more than 40 people gathered for the launch she had visited many gardens and asked hundreds of questions.

But organic gardens and soil really were her passion, she said.

"I only have a small urban garden but that doesn't stop me from growing all our vegetables."

She was just a young mother of 18 when she first got into gardening, she said.

The make-up of the soil and organic soil fascinated her, and she had since studied with many experts both in New Zealand and in Australia.

"It's a way of life for me and it's my love, it really is."

Local gardens feature in the book and there are chapters devoted to making a worm farm, planting by the moon, companion planting and composting as well as specific Maori plants including kumara, kamokamo and taewa.