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Thursday, 22 June 2017

40 Hours Gardening

I clocked up my first week on the job full time gardening. I love it! Am getting around different gardens not only out west, but on the Shore too. My favourite so far is the fernery at Waitakere Gardens, a nice enclosed area to have a bit of peace and quiet amongst the ferns. It seemed like nobody had been there in a while because I pulled out a big privet, the fountain wasn't working, and ladder fern and bracken had over taken the path, but once the garden club had got stuck in, and shown it some love, it has revived. We even found a little kiwi.

Back home not much to report except I'm trialling oats on my winter greens to keep snails at bay, I may need to get some bran. Tuesday was Te Atatu Floral and Garden Circle, and they were having their 53rd birthday, an amazing floral demonstration using winter foliage was created right in front of our eyes, it was like Masterchef except with flowers. Good news, it might be will be able to go to the NZ Flower and Garden show held at the Trust Stadium in late November this year for free, if we volunteer to look after a stall for West Auckland garden clubs.

Brent Mags from MBGP or My Backyard Garden Project, is organising some raised beds and compost bins for over 100 families in West Auckland. I just need to mark out a place where it's going to go. I hope mum won't mind - after all we could grow more garlic, garlic chives, onion and coriander. Surely she won't object to food on the table.

Tomorrow I cannot get away from the garden because I'm doing the St Giles church garden corner, which, given the plants I have, will have Ginger lily, aeonium, belladona lily, and lambs ears. I hope that is not a completely awful combination but it will be better than what was there before, which was an entirely uninspiring mat of black mondo grass. Graeme, the church elder has bought a whole lot of pebbles for the garden, it's been weeded and matted, all I have to do it plant. I am going to ask Les to help, before I take him to MOTAT as he kind of talked me into it, even though Dad won't be there and I won't be paid till the following Tuesday. I hope he won't mind the change of plan.

My gardening trainer and Team Leader Clint has got me onto meat pies. I had three this week and two sausage rolls. I will have to watch out. They are so good!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Back to work

'Work' as in working not at home and being paid for it. I've always worked, thats what happens when you are born working class there's no real escape from it, I suppose. I have thought I could possibly pass for middle class but there's something about the middle class that I just never got, like owning your own house. Part owning a house does not count apparently - in Auckland at least.  And I can't be upper class because I won't inherit, I've become resigned to it, so I am back to work but thankfully not the 'system'. I've filled out yet another IRD tax form and enrolled in another Kiwisaver.

For those who don't know the 'system' is, its a type of government when the richer people get the poorer people to work for them while they tell them what to do. We always used to talk about the 'system' in the library when things were breaking down. It was always the system's fault, because if we tried to fix it ourselves we got blamed as it wasn't our job to fix things, because we weren't the boss.

However, it seems like I am a special case because, I can't really be bossed around. I have learned this the hard way. I resist all attempts for others to do so, because, if they really knew how to do things properly they would actually do the work themselves, so my logic goes. Nobody has a right to tell others what to do when they won't or refuse to do it themselves. So that is why I don't make a particularly good librarian, because of government interference, but I make a great gardener.

So I am only a tiny bit apprehensive of 400 residents of Waitakere Gardens telling me what to do, and hope they let me get on with it, because the way I see it, they've given me a gift of my own patch and paying me to garden, dressing and keeping it permanently. If I can't garden the backyard where I live..well I might just move into the Waitakere Gardens in 13 years time when I turn 50. I think that might even be a possibility, although the job doesn't appear to come with a grace and favour shed.

Mary Lennox from the classic Frances Hodgsen Burnett children's book 'The Secret Garden' asked, "might I have a bit of earth?"  Nobody was looking after it, so she went and cared for it and by caring for it made it her own. I loved that book as a child, even though I had no idea what a moor was and how could a house have a child in it that nobody even knew about? I could not imagine a house so big you could get lost in it because I lived in a shotgun house where you walked in the front door and could walk straight out to the back.  As for a walled could you lock a garden? It wasn't until I got into the creation of gardens that I realised a garden cannot just be a lawn and some trees. A yard is not a garden.  I just think people need somewhere to belong and to thrive and I can think of no better way than to garden and if you don't have one - quit your day job and start one. You won't regret it.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Odd jobs

It's been a busy week and I haven't yet started my full-time job.
There's still things to do in my garden. But I can say I accomplished a few things like learning more tips from Ben Cheah at the pruning workshop. I grilled him on what fruit trees would grow on clay and he said he didn't bother - he just grew his fruit trees in the biggest planter bags he could find.

But he did say citrus did especially well in Auckland's climate. As well as feijoas, but everyone has feijoas.  We are still eating ours.  What happens when you cross an orange with a pomelo? You get a strange hybrid citrus called a grapefruit. Ben said they tried to get the thick rind of the pomelo with the sweet juiciness of an orange but instead got the thin rind of an orange and the bitterness of a pomelo. It was like crossing Einstein and Marilyn Monroe but getting Einstein's looks and Monroe's brains. Instead of the other way round. So I'm not sure about planting a grapefruit..but am interested in maybe a lime and two blueberry bushes. In the biggest planter bags I can find.

Mt Asher Magnolia now has grape hyacinth at her feet. I moved three clumps and mulched with shredded notebook paper, and also added giant cyclamen that had nearly died at church. I'm hoping for a revival. So it's looking a bit literary at the moment before I head up to Palmers and see if I can buy some of that fancy manuka and seaweed mulch.  It's just I don't know if Magnolia will thrive on shredded memories alone. Don't try piecing them together, writers have to process a lot before anything gets published. Most of our jumbled thoughts make good mulch.

Olga has put forth the idea that we have a remembrance chair in the garden so we can sit and remember our loved ones who have passed on. I just need a plank of wood to make one as I have two palm stumps for the base but nowhere to put it yet. Mine would be more like a seat or bench, I have considered making one for church but even the church elders thought it would be stolen just like the poppies were, so have given up the idea of putting it there. I do think its odd how the faithful are no longer buried in the churchyard and we have parking lots instead. I find cemeteries can be wonderful places to sit and reflect and have hope that one day, just like a seed put in the ground, new life will sprout again.

My Quiet Garden movement is still under wraps but I am sure one day it will happen. Just have faith!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Strange Gardens

I have just finished reading a book about Plunket founder Truby King - apparently among other things he was a manic gardener as well and bought hundreds of rhododendrons for his Wellington property - that didn't do well because Wellington is way too windy.

It was called 'In a strange garden'. But I do think the biographer didn't really do him justice because there's not much evidence it was at all strange. Truby King (1858-1938) trained as a doctor and became the superintendent of the now defunct Seacliff mental asylum. Back in those days, those who did not have sound minds were admitted to these hospitals or retreats far away from town to rest and recover. They didn't administer things like anti-psychotics or lithium or tranquilisers in those days, what Truby did was get these people to garden and fish.

I have encountered in my life many mentally ill people and having experienced it I can tell you gardening is the best thing for a troubled mind, with fresh air and fresh food it will do you a world of good. King went further because he could see it was like having an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff for these broken and damaged people. So with his powers of observation and oratory skills of persuasion, he made a convincing case for the proper care and feeding of babies, prevention being better than cure - so that they would grow healthy and strong and be able to resist, among other things the 'Evils of Cram'.

What is the 'Evils of Cram?'. Well basically it's too much studying. lol.
His theory was (and he and his wife never had biological children either) that too much studying and book learning and memorising useless information you are deprived of fresh air and exercise, and most of it is rubbish anyway that you only need to know to pass an exam. Hear hear.

And then that makes you unattractively bookish and unfit to be a mother. Hmm. I don't know about that, but I think if you always have your nose in a textbook maybe men don't make passes at women who wear glasses. However much that wasn't true in my case..but it did mean I probably attracted all the weirdos. Which is why I am an old maid.

Sigh. Also, I do recall I wasn't breastfed but I was Plunketed. One of my earliest memories was being weighed in at the Plunket offices. I think Truby King could have continued on with his work in the Plunket by showing these mothers how to garden as well, to teach their children and then, maybe I wouldn't have ended up insane from too much study.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Pruning workshop this Sunday!

Bring milk bottles with handles, yourself and friends who want to learn pruning!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Sand, silt, clay...or mud?

The gardening books all talk about sand, silt, loam and clay soils but never say anything about mud.
Is 'clay' just a fancy name for dried mud...? Because I have mud.

I don't think much grows in mud. I'm trying yacon, but I think I might have to dig them out again and put them in pots with potting mix and wait until spring. By then the mud shall have turned into..pudding.

Herb lady Karyn tells me there's marvellous benefits to clay, like curing cancer... and I've suggested since we have a bathtub down at Woodside garden we could open a luxury garden mud baths, it will be the next trendy thing to do. Forget spas and saunas. We have mud! Soak your aches and cares and dashed hopes of a permaculture fruit tree garden  away in  a  relaxing mud bath and you will feel brand new.

You will also look like the mud monster but that's ok. All those beneficial minerals are soaking into your skin. When it dries and hardens to clay we can chip you out.

I have come up with a few plants that may grow in mud -

Cabbage trees
Bog sage
Creeping Buttercup

Now rice looks promising. Where can I find some seeds? I don't think the grains from our rice bucket will grow - you can't just chuck a whole sack of Uncle Toby's into the ground and expect a crop. I once tried that with a sack of sunflower seeds I had bought from the pet shop. Well they were the smallest and shortest sunflowers I ever grew.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

No more fruit trees

Surprise, mum came with me to look at Kings Plant Barn today and we looked at all the plants. Then she said I couldn't buy any. Actually she said, I couldn't buy any until I had my own place.

Fat chance of that.

Basically she said I was not allowed to plant anything  because as you might have noticed I do NOT have my own place -she claims it doesn't belong to me, then  where exactly does she imagine that this place of my own is?
So if I want my own fruit I will have to walk to the Woodside Garden to pick anything.

Unless, I have them in pots, but they are hundreds of dollars if you buy citrus in a pot, and they don't do as well because my brother tried that and we never got any fruit at all.

I said I am not driving miles to Ngatea just to pick my own blueberries. What a nightmare. I remember going there one time and there were hoards of Asians (including us, well, mum and her family) doing the same thing. It would have been cheaper to buy them frozen already bagged from the shop.

Yesterday she bought a pineapple, bananas, and persimmon. I said, we could grow our own bananas. Why should we import them from Ecuador where they've been gassed and fumigated? The pineapple will not be fresh, nor the persimmon. She laid them on top of the feijoas which I had picked from our tree that we already have.  Actually she moved the basket outside which means I have to go outside in the dark and cold if I want any feijoas.

Then she said, plants are cheaper at the flea market. (They also have fleas). But I don't know why she said this because, I am still not allowed to plant any trees, even if they come from the flea market.

So all that means is going to Kings was a waste of time and I failed in my Arbour day mission.

Look at my backyard. Do you think there is absolutely no room for any more fruit trees here?

I am watching Downton Abbey. In that story, the girls have no inheritance it's only boys that get the land. I don't know what they really do all day, but the eldest says she has no life and wastes it taking tea and talking about frocks, until she gets married to someone she doesn't like. If I were her I would have given all my clothes to charity and said stuff this upper class life, I'm going to get a job as Head Gardener and plant up the place, it's looking pretty boring and then all the servants don't have to be stuck inside all day serving us toffs.