Hi! My special season’s greetings to you and the people who are special to you and best wishes to you all for a happy and peaceful New Year.
I’m celebrating that the Pohutukawa trees I planted earlier this year are in bloom in time for Christmas. The drifts of white in the collage are the carrot weed flowers (wild carrot) which proliferate in the paddocks at this time of the year. The cattle love the flower heads and the pukeko gouge and gorge on the roots.
The grandkids and their school-mates sang a neat New Zealand Christmas carol at their end-of-year playcentre and school prize-giving ceremonies - A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree http://folksong.org.nz/nzchristmas/pukeko.html which is sung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Enjoy our Kiwi down-under spirit.
Tagged Christmas, Conservation, Family, Gaia's Garden, Gardening, Gardens, Horticulture, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Block, Natural Gardening, New Zealand, Rural Environment, Trees
We hosted a very special garden luncheon party today. Pea-picker-’tato inpsector two-and-a-half-year old’s sibling turned one in style with the help of their five cousins and some little friends from Play Centre.
A boy can get a bit wobbly on his legs and needs his granddad’s support at moments like this. Daddy kept saying, “blow”. Thank goodness big brother and my cousin knew what to do and showed me how to blow the candle out. I’ll know what to do next time.
So what did we do for this kid’s party? Keep it simple. It’s early summer here, so we have outdoor activities to wear off the kids’ high energy on the grassy area under the tree and lawn round the house. Water play is so cool. While the under-threes splashed in the inflatable pool, the bigger kids dived and dolphined in the deeper pool. The slippery slide wetted with a sprinkler attached to the garden hose was great fun as was the mini trampoline and balloons. Chairs beyond the splash range were for the adults. Finger foods were served in a small courtyard.
Some years ago, I planted these native plants to act as a windbreak to protect our fruit trees from the prevailing westerlies. The big bonus is that our New Zealand native birds love the food source. The native flax and cabbage trees nectars particularly excite the tuis and waxeyes (some people call these birds Silvereye) at this time of the year. The birds were coy about posing for the camera – so another time. Mind you, there was a deterrent. Mayhem - the Ginger cat, so wanted to be in the photo. He just doesn’t understand that the birds don’t want to be his friends. I love watching the tiny waxeyes – they look so cute after they’ve dipped their heads into the flax flowers and emerge covered with orange pollen.
My potato plants have made rapid progress and I’m still applying mulch rather than earthing up. The spring temperatures are warming up considerable and the other vegies are growing well.
Tagged Conservation, Food Growing, Fruit Trees, Gardening, Gardens, Mulch, New Zealand, Permaculture, Sustainable Living, Trees, Vegetables
My back tells me I’ve shovelled too much compost.
For the last three days, I’ve laboured, clearing garden beds and getting plants into the soil as well as preparing for later sowings of other vegies . I’m encouraged by the sight of all those wriggly worms, large and small, burrowing and digging for all their worth. I’ve delegated them the task of doing the serious work.
The old strawberry bed has had an overdue tidy-up and the runners now have nice sunny raised beds to grow in. Visions of lots of juicy red strawberries in time for Xmas, and jam-making ….. Still on my To Do List is a make-over of my Italian herbs in the pots.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts I can’t imagine not growing potatoes. I planted Swift as the Xmas new potato. This season, I’m trying Kowiniwini and Maori potatoes as additions to my small collection of heritage seeds. According to the information I got from the nursery about Kowiniwini is that it’s a good all rounder and keeper, crops well, is purple with white eyes. The Maori is round and large, with no inset eyes,has white flesh and a purple skin. I’ve been trying to get hold of King Edward seed potatoes. My Dad grew these when I was a kid. I’ll also plant Red Rascal later on.
I love to traipse around garden centres to see what’s new, read the labels and so on. Yesterday, I happened on a delightful floribunda rose Betty Boop. It struck a chord because of my mother’s given name and because I recalled her telling us once about similar sounding childhood nickname she was called by her brothers. I searched the history of this rose and found Betty Boop to have been a delightful Paramount pictures cartoon character in the 1930s – the time of Mum’s girlhood in England. I’ll buy this rose for Mum – she needs cheer in her life because of her declining health, and she does love her roses.
Posted in Composting, Family, Fresh Food, Gardening, Heritage Vegtables, Lifestyle, Maori Potatoes, Potatoes, Raised Garden Beds, Reflections, Roses, Soil, Vegetables, Worms
Tagged Food Growing, Gardening, Gardens, Heirloom Seeds, Lifestyle Block, Natural Gardening, New Zealand interest, Organic vegetable growing, Permaculture, Potatoes, Roses, Rural Environment, Rural living, Sustainable Living, Vegetables
Hibernation is over – I can’t ignore the buzzing in my garden anymore. The plum trees are smothered with blossom and bees each determined to get its quota of pollen. It’s a wonderful sight and this spring I’m looking with fresh eyes. Recently I was able to locate The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter for my mother whose health is declining. It is a book she’d read long ago in her youth and one she wanted to read again. A soldier wounded during WWI looks outwards as he finds inner strength and peacefulness after he undertakes to care for the Bee Master’s bees. As the garden is fruitful because of the bees so life becomes meaningful. I shouldn’t be surprised that spring is well and truly arrived here. The harbinger daffodils have finished, but the calendula, broad beans, borage and lavender also planted as companion plants under my fruit trees are showing off their colours and too are exciting the bees. The buds on the apple, quince and peach trees are bursting - quite the visual feast. Which reminds me - I must get busy with camera.
“Planting an orchard is potentially one of the best investments you could ever make. It’s an investment in your health (keeping in mind that our current western shop diets contain only 3 of the 8 polysaccharides essential for a strong immune system and that they’re actually only present in tree ripened fruit!) and the health of your family, … it’s an investment in your mental, emotional and spiritual health, it’s an investment in the health and future of the planet.” Kay Baxter, 2002
Tagged Benefical Insects, Companion Planting, Fruit Trees, Gaia's Garden, Gardening, Gardens, Heirloom Fruit Trees, Lifestyle Block, Organic vegetable growing, Permaculture, Rural Environment
Today, we took delivery of bare-rooted heirloom apple trees. The nursery owner uses grafting wood sourced from organically grown or wild trees from old orchards. We asked for the trees to be grafted onto Northern Spy rootstock because it grows well on our clay soils. The aim is to enjoy different apples across the seasons and also to play our part in preserving the older varieties.
According to the info sheet, Vaile Early is reliable and fruits in January. I grew Egremont Russett in a previous garden. I love this apple – its golden brown skin and distinctive flavour. Always had good crops, so I have high hopes for my new tree. Priscilla is new to me but it comes recommended as a good mid-saeason variety, as being disease resistant and a good keeper. Two late season varieties new to me are Liberty – an American variety I understand to have been produced by Cornell University orchards about 1978 – which is described as disease resistant in our region and which stores well. Merlin’s Golden Late is described as a local seedling cross between Granny Smith and Golden Delicious.
I visited the Koanga Institute last week and as usual, I was inspired by the maturity of the development of their permacultural design of a multi-storied garden. Koanga has built up a rich ecosystem and variety of vegetables, fruits and flowers by sowing and saving heritage seeds and plants. I can’t help but reflect how my gardening techniques and views have changed since I first planted silverbeet and lettuce seedlings in a small, carefully tended weed-free plot. I wanted more fresh food for my children and so over time, I’ve learned to garden without digging and of the importance of creating natural diversity.
“An ecological garden has many layers, from a low herb layer through shrubs and small trees to the large overstory. Each layer can contain ornamental species, varieties for food and other human uses, wildlife plants, and flora for building soil and maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Together the layers provide diverse habitat, many products, and plenty of visual interest.” (T. Hemenway. (2000). Gaia’s Garden: a guide to home-scale permaculture. p. 26).
Organically grown vegetable seeds were the reason for my visit. I like growing different varieties and so buy heirloom seeds with the view to saving my own seeds from plants grown in my garden. For winter crops this year, I’ve sown: Winter Lettuce (wavy fingers for picking through winter), Nutty Celery Apium graveolens (nutty taste, disease resistant, can pick by the stalk through winter), Purple Sprouting Broccoli Brassica oleracea, Salad Pea Pisum sativum (low growing, tasty shellout peas and edible tendrils), White Belgium Carrot (large, sweet taste, fast growing, good in a warm climate), Manglebeet Beta vulgaris (sweet, mild taste, large orange root vegetable).
The trees bought at the garden centre sale on Saturday are now planted.
Pohutukawa – planted group of three trees as a living connection gift. Crimson flowers at christmas-time. Bees enjoy the nectar. Fast growth rate.
Pukatea – planted two trees in the swamp. Evergreen foliage. Slow growth rate.
Puriri – planted two trees for posterity. Evergreen, pink flowers most of the year. Berries are a food source for the birds. Medium growth rate.
Kahikatea – planted a row four trees for posterity. Evergreen and berries are a food source for the birds. Slow growth rate.
On another note, I’m really enjoying the sight of the other trees – especially those gracing our driveway in their colourful autumn foliage.
Friend Trish and I finally got to the local garden centre’s sale yesterday. Most of the fruit trees had been well picked over but there were other bargains still to be had. I had my wish list drawn from the Northland Regional Council publication Trees for the Land: Growing Trees in Northland for Protection, Production and Pleasure (pp. 30-31) A guide to planting native trees. My best buys included four Kahikatea Dacrycarpus Darydioides trees at $5 each were normally priced at $29.95. Perfect for the swampy paddock I’m planting up. The garden centre owner said people weren’t interested in buying tall, slow growing, native forest trees. I won’t see these trees in their maturity at about fifty metres – I’m planting for posterity. Kahikatea may grow about six metres in ten years. Next best buy was two Pukatea Laurelia Novae – Zelandiae at $10 each (half price). Another slow growing tree that is best planted in a wet situation. Pukatea also grow about six metres in ten years.
In a previous post, I included a Rockyou slideshow showing trees planted in the swampy area. Today as we dug the planting holes, the clay was heavy and ’gluggy’ and water welled up as we hit an underground rivulet. The Pukatea should lap up their new watery location. Digging holes for the Kahikatea was another story. We dug through the swampy clay loam and then hit the hard-pan clay layer beneath. We used the pick-axe to break it up. Worth the effort as the Kahikatea will be happy in the moist soil.
Digging in the swamp was easy compared to the digging we’ll do tomorrow on an exposed sunny hillside which has poor soil, rock-hard clay. Why the effort? Pohutukawa Metrosideros Excelsa ‘Lighthouse‘. I bought this tree as a living gift to celebrate the birth of 4-month grandson (sibling to two-year old pea-picker). I’ll also plant Puriri Vitex lucens (bargain price $7.50) as a solitary specimen tree and because the flowers and fruits attract native birds - the wood pigeon (kereru) and tui. Lots of compost will be added to give these young trees good drainage and a good start before next summer.
The sale was a good start towards meeting my pledge to the UN Plant a Billion Trees Campaign. Trish bought lots of sale-priced trees and shrubs – she’s planting a sanctuary to complement the earthbrick home they’re building on their two-acre lifestyle block.
Tagged Conservation, Ecology, Gardening, Gardens, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Block, New Zealand, Permaculture, Rural Environment, Sustainable Living, Trees
It’s the long Easter weekend and we’re spending the time at home. The weather’s fine but the temperatures are cooler – especially at night and a light ground fog greets us early these mornings. There’s lots of catch-up work to do and preparations for growing crops in the cooler months.
The tree that fell across the stream – the last of the flood debris, has been cleared. Himself and our neighbour ‘played’ with the chainsaw and the tractor. Much to his chagrin, two year-old grandson wasn’t allowed to help and had to spectate from a distance. Adults get to have all the fun even to dressing up and wearing red ear muffs and leather gloves!
Gardening convert son’s efforts are paying dividends. His recently planted gardens are producing lots of fresh green vegies. He prepared a new bed yesterday and raised it with wheelbarrow loads of rotted wood chippings and compost. Same son sowed rows of broccoli and carrot seeds. He’s annoyed about the white butterfly / caterpillar damage to his cauliflower seedlings.
The local garden centre phoned to let me know that three of the pohutukawa trees I’d ordered have arrived. It’s quite good timing as the ground is moist enough to dig planting holes. In a previous blog, I wrote about planning to plant trees as living connections as special living gifts that celebrate life events. Older son phoned last night to tell me there’s a 50% sale on fruit trees and that he’d managed to buy several fruit trees including an Egremont Russet apple, Omega plum, Snow White nectarine and two heritage fruit trees – a Clergeau pear and an apricot. I’ll get my friend to come along and bring their ute – sounds like there might be some bargains to be had.
Tagged Food Growing, Fruit Trees, Gardening, Gardens, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Block, Organic vegetable growing, Permaculture, Polyhouse, Sustainable Living, Trees, Vegetables