I was walking around the garden a few weeks ago and thought the veg garden has probably not looked this good in a while. Is that due to planting with the moon or just good luck? The morning light was soft and lovely, so thought I’d take a few pics and fill you guys in on something I never get sick of talking about. The garden is always different. Every year, every month, every day. There is always something different to excite me. I had decided to stick to the moon gardening guide but it is damn annoying and I have to be firm on myself, on the other hand, plants are doing well and relatively pest or disease free, so maybe its the way to go.
Raising seedlings is probably the most annoying part. I pop them in at the right time and they are up and healthy in a few days. Then I have to wait THREE weeks sometimes, before its the right time to plant out or on. If I miss that timing for any reason, its ages before the next time and the seedlings are all leggy and hungry. Part of me thinks to just plant any old time but I am trying to stick to the calendar, so need to do some more research on that.
Compost is easy, free and incredible, and the mainstay of a healthy garden. Damen made me these compost frames when he started university. I’m guessing that was about 1998 so they are now about twenty years old. Gilbert set up the jig after I described what I wanted, and they have been one of the best things in my garden. While I can make compost anywhere with these, I have only ever had them here. I put them here so accessed between the main front garden, the hen house, orchard and the veg garden. Perfect.
COMPOST BIN-Interlocking boards mean I can make compost anywhere
The boards work between the three bins. So looking at it now, I have just turned the middle bin into the third bin. This is about six months old and completely decomposed from weeds and paper, hedge trimmings and kitchen waste, into a rich humus ready to go onto the garden. The first bin was then turned into the middle bin. This is about three months old and most of it was broken down but still some more decomposing to be done. I am now clearing areas and busily filling the first bin. The boards will be getting higher and higher on the first bin as I build that up, pinching boards from the middle bin as it decomposes.
THE WORMERY- Set up in an old bath it has been running for about twenty years
This is the wormery and was set up in an old bath about twenty years ago too. Gilbert has popped it up on legs at the front to fit into the slope of the land so it will drain into a bucket below. I layered in scoria on the bottom, so the plug hole wouldn’t block. Then a layer of peat, so as to replicate the warm base worms would be used to. We tip in food scraps along the length and re cover. They eat almost anything, but we are careful to not put in too much citrus, onion and garlic outer leaves, because I think that’s hard for them to process.
I also don’t put in cooked food, bread or meat scraps of any sort, as that will attract dogs and rats. I use card board also as a top to exclude light but still lets rainfall soak through. They eat this also, then an old piece of carpet on top. Once a year in spring I gather up as many worms as I can, after feeding them at one end only for a week and then empty the nutrient dense vermicast onto the garden beds. Then placing the worms back in, they are ready for another year. The worm tea drains out of the plug hole into a bowl and about once a month I use a 10% to water ratio to fertilise. Real simple.
I usually use the worm tea as its available, rather than stock piling, after reading its only viable for short periods. Studies have been done and while they don’t fully understand how it works, it definitely keeps plants disease resistant and I have found this in my garden. I don’t need a scientific paper to tell me it works, but nice to know it wasn’t in my imagination. The big drum next to that is what I place stinky seaweed, comfrey leaves or similar to rot down over six to eight weeks, then strain off as a fertiliser for the garden, and next to that is my potting table. This was rescued from a work shop and I love its sturdiness.
GLASS HOUSE & CORIANDER BED
The bed under the crab apple tree is the coriander bed. It used to be the kids sandpit incidentally, so about thirty years old also. We had coriander almost all year round, constantly reseeding…until Simone thought she would help me by weeding it out and thinking all the coriander looked like weeds, cleared the space for me. Gee thanks Simone. After going to seed this summer I hung the spent plants upside down in the crab apple tree and let the seeds drop. Already after the last rains the new seedlings are just starting. Maybe I can get back to that constant supply. I know some people hate coriander, but I love it!
SEEDLINGS and plants waiting for the right time to plant dammit!
The little glass house came from Mum, via Lindy. Gilbert cut me perspex sheets as the glass was broken and glass is ridiculously expensive to get cut to size. Inside the glasshouse you will see new edible flowers that I’m getting ready to plant and some new seedlings. My biggest struggle is to co-ordinate seed raising with the moon planting and having a constant supply. It would be a lot easier to just buy seedlings regularly but I’m trying to seed raise my own now to save money. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
LEFT HAND SIDE OF THE BIRDBATH
This is the view from the left of the birdbath. Strawberries are on the right in a stainless steel tub that came from work and they are covered with old bread baskets I rescued from the back of a supermarket years ago when we used to deliver milk. These work perfectly and I wish I could find more. They have big enough mesh so that the plants have heaps of light and rain, but small enough to not let the birds in. You’ll see an old bath been turned into a seat under the crab apple tree and two more old baths at the back that are also filled with strawberries. That’s 60 plants divided between 9 people and its about perfect with almost a punnet a day coming in. Excellent value and the bath is the perfect height for the children grazing.
The other day I heard a dainty little sing song voice and stood up to see Kahu breakfasting on strawberries and peas. She didn’t know I was watching and it was so beautiful to just stop and enjoy her humming as she dined. She must have sensed me watching and turned. I smiled and she turned back unperturbed after laughing at my comment I thought she didn’t ‘do’ breakfast.
On the left hand side of the pic is a bed of garlic, red onion and at either end sweet 100 tomatoes. Once the garlic and onions are up I can let the sweet 100’s trail along that space, and plant beetroot in the middle.
RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THE BIRDBATH
I made the shape for the herbs from old concrete fence posts from the farm in Puni where I grew up. I got those from the back of the tractor shed along with two wagon wheels from Mum before she moved out, so maybe thirty years ago. In there is lots of parsley, oregano and chives.
Behind you see broad beans finishing from winter. Never been my favourite bean but so easy to grow at a time when not much else is happening and I love the flowers in salads. This year we discovered a dip by processing the beans, garlic, olive oil and feta cheese. While the beans are a bit of a job to shell, boil and then remove from the skins, the dip is delicious. Climbing that same mesh is a cucumber and some sweet 100s self seeded in there from last year.
Left hand side of the pic you will see the kumara up the fence line and Yaccon. Yaccon is a south American tuber so grows like a potato. You can scrub the skin or peel and the kids prefer it raw. Its a cross between a pear and a kumara I would say. You can eat straight from the ground or grate into salads, or roast where the natural sugars caramelize and how I like it best. On the right hand side you’ll see our beef steak tomatoes. Big meaty slices mean just one slice per sandwich. Perfect for a big family.
CLOSE UP OF THE OTHER BEANS- Kentucky Pole
The right hand bed has silverbeet. It was constantly annihilated and I couldn’t figure out what was eating everything with no sign of caterpillars. I covered it with mesh and everything recovered, so pretty sure its birds. Damn devils. Left hand bed has Bok choi and sugar snap peas. Sugar snap are the best value ever. The children love to eat raw straight from the vine and although I love them in a stir fry or raw in a salad, I rarely get them inside. Next bed back is Kale and broccoli.
Behind that is Zuchinni, cucumber going u the mesh and lettuces hidden by the borage in there. Borage has a faint cucumber taste if you eat the flowers and it attracts hundreds of bumble bees. Alysumm is there too. You can eat the flowers but I read to plant them amongst your greens and the white butterfly, which is territorial, will think the patch is already taken. I’ve watched them hover over and fly on, so like to think its working.
In the middle of the beds are tyre piles planted with Riwai, Maori potatoes from Ricki. Not sure about the tyre system, but because I read all the time you should move to new spots each season, it makes sense to me to lift the tyres off, harvest the spuds and drop the soil into the hen run fence line for beans and start fresh with new tyres and new soil. After this harvest I will drill holes in the sides as the tyres hold water in the dip and I fear we have a mosquito breeding ground.
Here I tried something but was really pushed for time. Instead of clearing the three foot high weeds, I simply pushed them down. Layered wet newspaper on top and made a hole pushing some compost in and planting Six Grosse Lisse tomatoes in the back, basil and eggplants in the front. What happened is the plants are pretty much suspended over a pile of rotting weeds and I quickly realised it was never going to give enough nutrition to the growing plants. I opened the space up later and filled each hole with compost and seemed to have saved the tomato plants but will repot the eggplants and pop into the glass house and see if I can extend their growing season and get some fruit at least. If nothing else I learn’t to do it properly the first time!
Another six tomatoes are in this bed, ‘Beef steak’ along with a comfrey plant that turned into a comfrey patch. I was told you will never ever be able to move comfrey and I must admit when I planted it there, I was pretty sure if I wanted to move it, I would be able to. I decided people hadn’t tried hard enough to move it and anything was possible.
When I wanted to move it a few years later, I dug to Africa and couldn’t get over how deep the roots were. They also broke up easily and I damn near sieved the soil, but still didn’t get rid of it all. So now I have a comfrey patch, instead of a comfrey plant. If I had left it alone, it would have just been happy in the corner there. Not too worried as I harvest for the chooks, for the compost and to make a fertiliser tea. Just heed the warning. You will never, ever move it once you have planted it. Never.
Nasturtiums ramble through here and they are friends with tomatoes too. Red cabbage and tomatoes however are not friends according to my companion planting book and at the end where I had some cabbages finishing from winter I popped two tomatoes. A bit of an experiment to see what would happen and I can say the two tomatoes who were planted there, were half the size of the tomatoes further down the bed, so can confirm they literally hate each other…but as soon as I pulled out the cabbages, the tomatoes took off and ended up the same size.
I’ve learn’t a lot this summer. The garden looks amazing and we are starting to reap the benefits. Part two on progress another day…