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Sunday, 22 October 2017

Mission accomplished...

Although there's always more as gardening are never ending. But got two things done - planted hydrangeas by the church (two), and removed the rest of the blackberry bush from Woodside so we can put the fence in. It filled a bin and two sacks. Nicole says she's got a thornless blackberry we can grow, it remains to be seen if this thornless blackberry is edible.. but we will train it so it doesn't grow into a huge tangled mess like the last one!

 I have another to - do list

1. save toilet rolls to grow seedlings
2. sow - silverbeet, feverfew and wildflowers seeds
3. source more hydrangeas, need three more to plant by the church
4. create a lavender hedge by St Giles church
5. weed St Giles church corner bed
6. learn how to grow kumara
7. feed worms - think they've chomped through most of my papers
8. mulch other church bed at Henderson
9. buy coriander to plant by plums at Woodside as they repel beetles
10. visit Oratia Native Plant nursery, to buy aspleniums/spleenwort, pink cabbage trees, kowhai, hebes and manuka
11. more swan plants for butterflies, and bog salvia for bees
12. finish my design for APW

I am looking forward to the trip to Mangawhai in a fortnight where will visit some gardens with Te Atatu  Floral Circle. I am sharing a room with a seasoned flower lady called Sheryl.

Tomorrow must restrain myself from visiting all the garden centres...and buying up all their plants. They just look so good at this time of year.

I have been reading 'Farmers of Forty Centuries' Organic Farming in China, Korea and Japan by F H King. It was first published in 1918 and is basically a narrative of a tour taken by an American agriculturalist who is rather astonished that farmers in the East have been farming their land for centuries and never lost fertility, due to organic practises and manual labour whereas in America they farm for two generations with artificial fertilisers and machinery and end up with a cancerous dustbowl. I have been inspired by the rice paddies and think with so much rain and wet in Auckland, and the fact that rice is just a grass, why can we not grow rice as a crop here? Then we could feed our growing Chinese population, and won't have to rely on imports. We could also grow bamboo, (a very renewable resource as it 'grows like Topsy'*) mulberry trees for silkworms, and tea. Why not? We could just turn this land into an extension of China. After all, that's where roses, magnolia, willow and most of our magnificent flowering ornamental shrubs we grow in our gardens originally came from.  Bring on the pandas!

* I asked one of the old folk at the retirement village who Topsy was cos all the old folk kept saying things grew like Topsy, meaning something that grows so fast that it's 2 metres tall before you know it. They didn't know who Topsy was either. It just growed.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Labour Weekend

3 days of work...It's Labour Weekend. And that means getting out into the garden. I'm sure Labour Day was deliberately put in October so that everyone has time to go work in their gardens.
Also, we have a new last!

So things are looking up. Went for a walk round my garden and could definitely go for more swan plants to bring the butterflies, I've decided. I saw birds hopping around and one using my birdbath the other day. Yates have sent me silverbeet 'Bright Lights' to grow in my garden so need to get cracking on those. I bought potting mix the other week to pot up my aloes but seem to have run out of good size pots. I must have taken all the plastic ones to Kings, who have now taken up my suggestion to have a recycling depot at their Universal Drive barn.

On Wednesday we had a garden meeting to figure out what to grow for summer crops - my choices are kumara, eggplants, capsicums and sweet corn. Also as we've got funding for a fence we are going to put that in later this month, weather permitting.

Tuesday was Floral Circle meeting where we learned about orchids. To get orchids flowering again, they need a period of cooler and darker hibernation so the tip was to park them away so they can form flowers. And feed feed feed when they do - osmocote or orchid fertilizer. I learned that they kind of grow upside down or sideways in trees so when people put them actually they are putting them the wrong way, then the roots get too damp and rot. The best thing to grow them in is bark not soil. They all have unique pollinators and they are expensive because it takes a long time for them to grow from seed.

Church garden plans still on the back burner of my mind but I have enlisted some help to plant some hydrangeas along the side wall. How I will fit everything in I don't know but God knows.
Monday I plan to head along to Ranui Community Garden to learn how to grow kumara, last time we got an abundant crop of leaves but no actual kumaras. I only have one more Permaculture workshop to go and then need to present my design...who knows maybe one day I will be a genuine practicing permaculturalist if the new govt decides to have some regulations to keep greedy speculators from buying and selling off our land!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Empowerment and Resilience

Permie workshops are coming thick and fast. Yesterday's workshop was called 'Empowerment and Resilience' and going over my notes, seems to be telling us to - be encouraged and be flexible. The world may be going one way but Permies are meant to resist the world and set up their own commune. No hold on that's hippies. Finn just basically warned us about the coming apocalypse.

The old guard may not want to change but we can't change people who don't want to change and are not willing.  So let's just do our own gardens and encourage one another where we are at. Small and slow solutions right? So what if the church wants to expand their building. Just do the edges first, value the margins. Right?

One of the problems we have right now is with the mammoth supercity. Everything was a lot easier for us Aucklanders in terms of sharing and caring when Auckland was decentralised and we had some authority over our own patch. Another issue is renters and bad landlords. We have lots of people wanting to care for the land and keep it for future generations yet the Council don't see that as important - they just see it as a moneymaker. I think basically you can make a tidy earner by just buying and selling it and dividing it into smaller and smaller portions. Everyone seems worried over their own retirement but you know what...from what I've seen at retirement villages many of the old folk aren't actually truly enjoying their retirement. They seem to sit around in groups with nothing much to do and complain about their ailments and reminisce about the good old days. Swearing at us gardeners for not instantly tidying up their gardens they have left in a mess through neglect. But maybe I've caught them on a bad day. On other days they listen to ABBA and attempt to do Zumba. Money money money...

I don't know, its hard not to judge. If, God forbid, there is a fire or some other natural disaster or the volcanoes erupt those oldies are not going to be able to get out of their apartments in time. They'll be queuing at the lift and blocking the fire entrance with their walkers.  The gates, which only work electronically, will keep them locked in. I foresee all these hazards, the buildings are leaky, and yet, living as they do, they can't see their shoebox lifestyle cannot be sustained. I had this eerie feeling that they had banished the children from their fancy six storey apartments in a way they didn't really want them around. Trying to do something simple, like having a raised bed portable kitchen garden for their cafe is JUST TOO HARD. Health and safety regulations they say, and no we can't grow our own veges or herbs and serve them at the cafe. For some bureaucratic reason that I cannot fathom.

What does it mean for a Permie. Well maybe if they sold or better yet GAVE some of their apartments or land to younger people to live and work in (who can help them out!) maybe we would not have such a crisis. The meek shall inherit the earth, the rich can have their monopoly board mortgages and crumbling hotels. Nobody can really get out of jail free unless they stop playing the game. Permies refuse to play the world's game.

Monday, 9 October 2017

The Creek

Things are blooming and booming and the garden centres are at their busiest gearing up for Labour Weekend. I could not resist having a look see after work, planning to buy some bog salvias but instead came away with a scabiosa (it's a flower). Am still dreaming about my north border and whether to double dig, or lasagna garden it. According to Beth Chatto, author of 'The Damp Garden' the best thing for clay is to add grit to it. Or soil on top. It's just a waste of time to dig clay. There's also gypsum granules. At any rate, it does call for something if only I had the favourable weather to work in.

One thing that I find missing from garden books is any mention of creeks. There's coastal planting, and bog gardening, but curiously no mention of what would be best to plant round an estuary creek. Perhaps a mixture of both? I was looking in the library and the only book I could find was a biography of writer Maurice Gee. I found out, among other things, that he was a teacher and a librarian before he gave it up to write novels full time and his stories always seemed to end up with someone drowning in the Henderson Creek. We had an oil portrait of him at the Henderson Library since he won so many book awards but it turns out he left Henderson for greener pastures in Nelson. Not much help then?

Have been thinking of creeks lately as Riverpark is surrounded by Huruhuru Creek, which is further downstream from Henderson and Oratia stream. Woodside Road backs on to one arm, Riverpark Crescent straddles the other and then the creek empties out to the Waitemata Harbour. On Saturday we tested the water - it was fine and no shopping trolleys were dumped that we could see. What this means for our soil is that we get the run off from the rain and stormwater into our creeks but conversely we also get the salt from the tide. The one plant that does well to filter all this salt and fresh is the amazing mangrove which lives in this rich alluvial mixture of mud. It's not land and it's not sea. It's mud.

I have a booklet called 'Native to the West' A guide to planting and restoring the nature of Waitakere City. This was published 1997 and updated in 2005. Waitakere City is actually no more, having been subsumed into the Greater Auckland Monopoly Board, but I think there's still a lot of green space in the middle of that board that doesn't have hotels, casinos, parking lots and motorways running round it and that's where I'm putting the free park and playground. I have identified that we live in the Waitemata Lowland Forest region and there are plants that are recommended for this ecosystem. The main task is for native plants to claim back the land from the tyranny of dog turds, mud and mown lawn weeds. And phoenix palms. After we have eradicated these interlopers and sent them back to where they came from...the natives can then have their own party swing seat. Or something. I don't know. Maybe Winston Peters can help us out here?

Friday, 6 October 2017

The Promised Land

I have just been told I could win $500 if I enter the Yates Vege Growing challenge. I would rather win plants or a bit of land, but I suppose $500 could buy lots of plants and a trailerload of soil.
The deal is to grow some veges and monitor their progress, blogging at least three times a month. I could do that, I think. But we do that anyway at Woodside. So you can read about stuff that happens here. I have requested this season we grow more kumara. However Yates does not sell kumara as they are a tuber not a seed so am not sure if growing kumara would qualify.

I have been thinking lately, I would one day like to build my own house, with my own garden but need some land first. Where can I do this? I have decided I don't want to live in a cookie cutter home that someone else has made and abandoned, and possibly selling to make a profit or 'get rid of it'. Nor do I want to live in a factory farm for humans i.e an apartment block. Would you like to buy a broken home? We've subdivided it into 400 pieces. You just have to spend the rest of your lifetime putting it all back together again. Um no thanks.

It seems Auckland is full. Even the church's own land which was taken away for Auckland Transport roadworks has disappointingly said they are going to use the remaining land for expanding the church building, which I think personally is a horrendous idea. We don't need a bigger building, we need a garden. Otherwise why not just build tower of babel parking lot there and squash more people in? Then charge rent. What, no outdoor weddings? How can His face shine upon you when you stuck inside a windowless church building? I had just realised that many churches these days do not have windows so you go into a dark bunker thing that for all anybody knows could house a nightclub, complete with flashing lights and smoke machine. That's if the wolves get their way and turn our churches into lairs and dens of iniquity.

So I have revised my garden plan. We are just going to have olive trees, hibiscus, gardenias and bird of paradise, and there is going to be NO lawn I have also abandoned the sheep idea, and decided we are going to go with the flow and have Moses in the basket or Wandering Jew (tradescantia) to grow over everything, for that lush, garden of Eden effect. Nobody can stop tradescantia. It can cross the Red Sea if it has to get to the Promised Land.  It will be a teaching plant - if anyone asks what it is, I will just say this plant is to remind the Mayor of Auckland and the council officials to let my people go --- to church.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Fertile Gardening

Yesterday's Permie workshop was informative and practical. We all visited Ranui Community Garden and Buffie showed us what we can do with soil. Ron also showed us different tools we can use. We can double dig, broadfork, or try lasagna gardening. I'm choosing lasagna gardening because digging up clay is not fun. I also want to save my back.

Ingredients for lasagna gardening - suggested layering -

food scraps
coffee fluff
coffee grounds
green clippings
chicken manure
coffee sacks
potting mix
rock dust
green manure

Make sure you layer each with green (nitrogen) and brown (carbon) and it will break down if you have worm workers mixing the layers.

We also learned about intercropping, companion plants, guilds, planting by the moon, crop rotation, pollination insectaries, green manures, seed saving and other fascinating garden stuff. We then designed for the community garden according to a specific brief.

Some gardening tips to share for those new and not so new.

* If you making garden beds, make them only so wide so you can reach with your hands from both sides. You don't want to a garden that you need to step into compacting the soil to reach plants in the middle. If making raised beds, there's no maximum depth but 35 cm at least can be deep enough for a decent crop. I've seen beds waist high at other gardens but that's for elderly who can't bend down. If you can afford a truckload of soil fine but you can fill the bottom  with firewood or other organic material or have a false bottom.
* Plant fruit trees with wide enough spacing between, say 5 metres between each tree when fully grown, so  you can plant in between. They are small when you first plant them but you can plant a fast growing nitrogen fixer in between, then cull the nitrogen fixer once the fruit trees become established.
* Nitrogen fixers are those of the legume family - peas, beans, clover, kowhai, acacia, even gorse. Their roots have nitrogen fixing nodules that are beneficial to the soil and plants around them.
* Don't plant from the same family in beds year after year, practice crop rotation to prevent build up of pests and diseases.
* Mix flowers and herbs with your veges, the flowers and herbs will attract beneficial insects and repel pest ones.
* Orient your beds to north to get the most sun, grow taller plants, trees and shelterbelts to the south.
* Top soil will naturally accumulate down a slope or bank where you will find the deepest and richest soil. It will also retain the most water and be the most optimum at the keyline - which is the point where the soil is moist but not so damp it's a bog.
* You can make your own seed raising mix, using one part compost, one part top soil and one part river sand, mix it through a sieve to get a fine tilth. It's important to mix in a bit of your own garden soil so newly sown seedlings you may transplant  can adjust to the conditions of your garden, they may get a shock if they are coddled at a warm nursery and then transplanted to a totally foreign environment with cold clay soil!

My other tip is, try and stay awake after lunch when learning at an all-day workshop because I may have missed something.

On the Dream Garden front, I have now redesigned the deck area to extend the space out to the garden. I wonder if I present this idea to my dad, whether he will accept or reject it. All it needs is the railing to come down and a side ramp with two landings to be built on the side, so it can also be wheelchair/bicycle/wheelbarrow friendly and have planting beds and seating with space for my bbq or firepit. Never know, it might happen one day, as the house just got painted. Dad paid the neighbour to do it when my brother just said he would get a round tuit last December. He never got this round tuit. While he did clip the hedges he also left a bit of a mess in one of the garden beds full of buxus clippings. If he was working for my company he would be audited and failed! Nevermind, how can you fire someone who just did it for free?

Friday, 29 September 2017

Permie Workshop #10 and Dream Gardens

I'm off to another Permaculture Workshop today. This time it's Fertile Gardening down at Ranui with Ron and Buffie. I could just walk there, but then I need to bring a lot of tools, food and other gear  so it will just be a 5 minute drive in the FunCargo. Buffie was the one who got me onto FunCargo and if I were to recommend any car to a gardener who doesn't want to drive a ute that would be it. I've transported christmas trees, freezers, shelves, plants, sacks of compost and horse manure, straw bales, firewood, sacks of weeds, tools, you name it anything that can fit. Its compact enough to drive over grass without leaving huge tire ruts but large enough to fit almost anything that you want to transport. And if you need anything bigger if it doesn't fit then maybe you are just being greedy.

We are also going to check out the Korero Cafe which is part of the Ranui Community House, having expanded since the library moved across the road. It used to be Tea Tree Cafe but there are no tea trees there so perhaps Korero is a better name for it. Buffie works there as a cafe manager and uses a lot of fresh produce from the community garden in the menu.

I have been watching 'Dream Gardens' an Australian DVD about ten different garden makeovers. I've seen about five and it's very interesting to see what different people do with the land they are fortunate enough to own, and spend bucket loads of money on. The last one I saw was about a husband who lost his wife to cancer yet she had a dream for their slopey site and he and his teenage children decide to put in a garden as a memorial. It ends up costing half a million dollars. It looks pretty spectacular with stone steps, a water feature, a firepit and a wifi enabled garden room.

Another one is where a couple lose their home to a bushfire so they go and buy a neighbouring property, which already has a cottage style garden, to me looks fine just needs TLC, but instead they rip it out and put a lawn in. They also spend hundreds of thousands getting rid of a power pole because it destroys their view of the surrounding countryside.

Some of the dream gardens are not what I would call gardens just outdoor spaces with plants as decoration, where people aren't so interested in gardens but the view beyond to the sea or the space around a swimming pool. These end up costing twice as much as people budget for. It seems the MORE money spent on the garden the less people want to actually garden it.

My favourite so far is the kitchen garden installed  out in the bare outback for a mum recovering from an illness so her son and his dad volunteers to make her this garden which they designed themselves with raised beds and a water feature fountain where they can sit watering cans and a shadehouse. The end result is a fantastic garden in which the mum already starts growing plants even before it's finished so she can have fresh veges and herbs. This one is the least expensive garden of the lot!

In other news I now have a garden arch which was delivered yesterday, Mum saw it and then immediately complained I was not to put it up until I 'get my own house'. I just said it wasn't for her. I'm going to give it to the church  as I have now fixed up my hardenbergia arch with a few cast off broom handles and cable ties. How do you just 'get your own house' anyway. I am not going to 'get my own house'. Not this side of heaven. What's wrong with the one we are already living in?