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Friday, 24 March 2017

Flowers Forever

Te Atatu Bible Chapel on a Tuesday evening once a month is abuzz with activity. It's the meeting of the Te Atatu Floral and Garden Circle. Ladies bring flowers to share and to swap. There are arrangements, produce, floral aids, speakers, floral magazines and yummy snacks. You can bring your tools to be sharpened by the tool sharpening man. (He's the hired hubby, the other husbands act as chauffeurs)

I'm really thinking of joining and was blessed to win chocolates, buy cheap plants - passionfruit seedlings and a clivia, swapped bromeliads, and hear all about exciting group outings to gardens and floral festivals far away.

But the best thing is learning about flowers.

There's all different kinds
Roses, dahlia, dombeya (a kind of hibiscus), plumbago, goldenrod, naked ladies, hydrangea, mandevilla, camellia, they are all held up for us to see, with tips on how to grow them, and how to get  the best out of them.

Could I be a flower girl? Jane kindly gave me a lift as she lives just down the road in Swanson so I don't even have to drive there. The guest speaker informed us all about compost and bokashi buckets. I've learned bokashi buckets are quite expensive at $70 a bucket and that compost requires 30% greens and 70% browns. So I was right after all to invest in a paper shredder to put in more carbon brown material - after all paper is just dead trees. But each time I have to remember to make layers.
We were also given a discount on worm farms if we signed up our email address. So, apart from the miracle paid gardening job (I have now made enough in cash to pay for my own gardening boots)  I may be able to hire some worm workers after all with minimum outlay. I just hope they like their new boss.

Each months there's competitions for best blooms, singles and doubles, junior and senior arrangements and at the end winners add their points up to receive garden vouchers. So if you are into competitions, garden clubs are the thing! Many of the ladies arrange flowers for hospice, and other charities. Next months challenge is 'green and classy'. I'm thinking maybe I could arrange wisps of  maidenhair fern and spider plant swords, with trailing elegant passionfruit tendrils.

The only thing is, with all this activity going on how am I going to fit it in with the rest of my busy gardening schedule?

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Glorious Gardens from Below

I was on my hands and knees today at my new gardening job, for Second Nature who do brilliant gardens. As a new recruit I'm very humbled to be able to garden for them. And to be paid doing it. Hope they don't mind. I now have all sorts of ideas on what to do with star jasmine, magnolia, citrus, creeping jenny, jacaranda,  gardenia, dahlia, impatiens, vireya rhododendrons, mondo grass and ajuga.  I mean nobody has a copyright on plant combinations do they?

After a refreshing morning's work I have come back to rambling garden diary to reflect on what I learned last Saturday - we went on a site visit to a zero energy house that utilised passive solar design.

Permaculture Principle 9. Small and slow solutions The bigger they are the harder they fall

In houses, rather than install an expensive heat pump HRV system, or busting your badly designed house down and building a brand new house, you could..just live in a tent and have a solar shower. No, just kidding, maybe you could install a shower dome so all that steam thats making your house go mouldy just stays inside the shower. Or have some vents, like a cooling tower (instead of a chimney). Instead of having an ionic oxygeniser machine thingy that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere you some windows and maybe have a few house plants. Perhaps.

It doesn't have to be rocket science complicated. You don't have to come up with a brand new persil automatic washing system. And then a wastewater treatment at the other end to get rid of phosphates now your clothes are super white. You could use soap nuts! And maybe accept that your clothes won't glow in the dark.

We were told about barefoot architects. Instead of having a huge master plan you could your house as you go. Not get into debt. Not even have a mortgage! Oh but the banks won't allow it thats how they make their money you see. So if anyone knows how to build a house by just not buying anything let me know I'm all for it. Treehouse, mud brick house, igloo..

The small and slow solutions picture has a picture of a snail. What I'd really like is to just live in my car, since that way, I won't have to fight traffic anymore at the end of the working day I can just go to my car which is my house without driving to far.  Brilliant? Small and slow solution? I don't know what that means for permaculture though. It kind of doesn't work if you have to work for someone else. Sigh. Will have to think about this principle a bit more. After I've reported on visiting the Te Atatu Floral and Garden Circle. It's the only one I know that gives prizes out for picking flowers. But that's the next post.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Glorious Gardens From Above

I am watching the above named documentary produced by the BBC and presented by Christine Walkden. She flies over these British gardens in a hot air balloon. So far I've had a birds eye view of gardens in Cornwall, Essex and Mid-Wales. You get to see grand gardens in their context, amongst the surrounding landscape and climate of the region they are a part of.

Which brings me to permaculture design principle 8: Integrate rather than Segregate
Many hands make light work

Many of these gardens have head gardeners and a team of volunteers who help out. Christine talks to these volunteers who remember playing in such gardens as a child and then return as adults to look after them. In terms of permaculture, often these volunteers are animals! Pigs fertilise the soil, dig up weeds, rabbits, of course, eat excess herbage, sheep graze, chickens scratch, bees pollinate, worms do earthworks, and cats, well, they get stuck up garage roofs. Ok not cats. Perhaps they keep the mice and bird population down. Can't have too many birds after all, they will eat all the fruit.

Integrate rather than segregate. Plant perennials with fruit trees. Plant flowers with vegetables. They will help each other grow. No plant is an island..

It's a dull day and the rain is now refreshing the garden. My clovers green manure crop is starting to sprout. Perhaps my chamomile and thyme won't die after all, they will regenerate and I'll have my herbal carpet.

I planted two Black Beauty passionfruits by the garage in hopes that THIS time they will grow. Right plant, right place right? According to Beth Chatto, yes. They will get plenty of sunshine with room to grow now I've sheep manured the bed. They can climb on top of the garage, and perhaps next time Mummy Cat goes up there looking for people she can harvest some passionfruits at the same time. She had the right idea though, get the birds eye view of my glorious garden from the garage, pretty clever for a cat. Pity she couldn't figure out how to get down.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Clouds with silver linings contain rain

Mummy Cat was on the garage roof today. I am not sure how she got up there perhaps by climbing the peach tree, which, this year did not give us any fruit. The birds ate 'em! All I found round the perimeter were seeds pecked clean. I gathered up these seeds, about a dozen of them and sowed them around the property. Who knows, some may sprout.

Dad took out the ladder and got Mummy Cat down, I think maybe she was thinking of Mum who has flown away to North America, trying to find out were she's gone. Or maybe she had heard me reading Mog and the Granny. Anyway, with cats, they can climb trees but they cannot climb down.

The clouds did not part and gathered in, starting to rain, which was a blessing as I had sprinkled sheep pellets the day before as fertiliser. Unable to find any sheep, I got them from a bag at Kings Plant Barn. I had gone past the other day and saw signs saying 25% off all plants! I then proceeded to tell everyone. But alas, when I got there the sale signs had been taken down and everything was back to full price. D'oh!

I've sown dutch iris bulbs, moonflowers, crimson clover, morning glory, lupins, and red broad beans. For green manure. As well as butter beans. Hopefully some will sprout with the rain, as half my chamomiles have shrivelled up with the thyme.

I gave Permaculture classmate Verena a tour of my garden after we went to the workshop together. Again it was a full on day broken by a site visit to Auckland's oldest community garden - Kelmarna Gardens in Grey Lynn. After the site visit we all designed permaculture master plans for the site. My group planned for a couple with one child. It included a fruit stand, shelterbelt trees with pigs and mushrooms, fruit trees with ducks and pollinators planted on contour, deciduous trees with chickens, bees, worm farm, compost heap, playground, subtropical plants like bananas and passionfruits, a tank water system, veges, herbs and crops on the sunny slopes, and a riparian native plant zone with nikaus and flax.

We concluded that this couple must have lots of time to invest in this site since they only have one child to look after and they would have people from the neighbourhood picking their own fruit. Also it wouldn't all be done at once. It's so easy to have it all on paper. I could be a designer!

My next thing is to do this for my own property, the Woodside garden, Myra's place, Verena's place, the Universal Drive island strip,  Riverpark Reserve, Riverpark Park, Henderson Baptist Church, St Giles out.

Yes, why bother with those adult colouring in books when you can print out a contour map of your property and design a permaculture garden?

Wednesday, 1 March 2017


Funnily enough yesterday I got called for a job interview for a landscaping company, to be a general garden hand on a casual basis. So it seems, I may be able to employ worm workers after all!
I am still waiting on the contract but I need to get my gardening boots (my pink warehouse ones won't cut it, they need to be steel toed) and black shorts (so it doesn't show the dirt).


I have been reading Sepp Holzers 'Rebel Farmer' memoir about how he battled authorities in Austria to run his permaculture farm Kramerterhof  and it has got me thinking could I do that? Or is it better to just marry a farmer and be the wife and then go about producing children? (Who can then work on the farm). Who would want to sell, or better yet, gift their farm to me? I am hardly farm material, but then many people who were never farmers in their life have now sold their expensive city properties and bought lifestyle blocks and to return to living off the land. Even Lynda Hallinan - NZ Gardener Editor - did it. Although partly because she married a country boy who had land. Ah prospecting.

However, this won't work for me because I do not know any eligible farmers. Perhaps I can do a feasibility study, but then, that's a lot of work. I have trouble even finding jobs in the city and enough bread to feed the worms than to even entertain the idea of running a  40 acre permaculture farm.

After I finished that book and the Permaculture Handbook I am putting it on the shelf to rest for a while. I am going to be braindumped with a load of information on Saturday and am only up to Permaculture Principle 7: Design from Patterns to Detail
Can't see the wood from the trees

This has got me thinking of our Trees for Babies orchard at Woodside. I am going to make it part of my design project to grow more in this area. We had a meeting on Monday for Woodside and I've applied for funding to have more timber for our raised beds. I'm also looking at carpet for mulch. Especially our old carpet. I wonder if Mum will notice if it goes? Martha has already fertilised it.

Myra's garden had a going over and now nasturtiums are growing where the kikuyu was. So that's a relief. I only needed to pull out a few stray rhizomes. I'm not sure I really understand Myra's situation as she finds it incredibly hard to let go of things. I got in trouble for clipping dead leaves off one of her plants. Which I'm sure will grow back that's why I did it. Oh well. I have no idea what she will do with all the scrap in her yard since the conman bilked her out of it.  Louise and I do not have the resources or manpower to clear it for it looks a sight for sore eyes at the moment. The only bright spot in that corner is a pink geranium growing out of the scrap pile.

Sunday, 26 February 2017


I have been watching Country Calendar Goes Green, a DVD of organic episodes. Every Saturday evening since TV began Channel One has been showing Country Calendar. City slickers/suburbanites like me watch in awe as farmers talk about stock levels, 4 AM milkings, pasture, drenching and dreaded drought over acres of land 100 times more than I  can ever dream of owning.

But I thought maybe I can learn something from the farmers. So I have been taking notes.   In these episodes a small handful of farmers farm the organic way and talk about the challenges and triumphs of going organic. A few even say they farm biodynamically, which the presenter tells us is 'organics plus'.

Conventional farming is basically reliant on chemicals - fertiliser, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides.
However biodynamic organic farming, seen as 'fringe' for many, is not only the absence of these harmful synthetic poisons, but involves quite labour intensive practices like - following moon cycles, spraying with preparations of cow horns and manure, homeopathic remedies, letting weeds grow for animals to graze, burning harmful weeds and spreading ashes, diversifying, mulching, and marketing.

I'm not sure if biodynamics is just a fancy fertility cult worshippers are prepared to pay a higher price for and and farmers are jumping on the bandwagon, but maybe there is something in Rudolph Steiner's mysticism. I once tried to read a book of Steiner's philosophies but could make neither head nor tail of it. Something about anthroposophy and earth energies and potentising.

Surely permaculture is not this way out wacky. Because on the surface it seems like the two are similar. If we end up doing downward dogs exercises and corpsing and putting decapitated Buddha heads in our gardens because it balances the Feng Shui then maybe I might think twice about completing the APW.

Which is this Saturday! I am thinking of Permaculture Principle number 6. Produce No Waste
A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

And with that I am taking Karyn's free fish guts to this evening's  Woodside garden meeting where she will show me what to do with them.  Did you know a box of worms cost $45? Organic gardening can be pricy for the masses. I was thinking that's why Prince Charles can afford to do it but the rest of us underling subjects can't. I tried putting in a request for a worm share on Neighbourly and again, nobody had any worms to share. So my old toilet basin is still sitting empty waiting for worm workers for the day I miraculously find a job to pay for their wages.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The circle of life

I have been thinking lately of the circle of life. Before rushing out and singing to Elton John's soundtrack to Lion King in the depths of cartoon Africa something of wildlife and nature happens right here in our backyards.

Permaculture Principle 5: Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
Let nature take its course

As it's nearing autumn and many herbs are going to seed, many fruits are ripening to harvest. I have found I don't really need to buy chive plants as Woodside chives had already gone to seed all I had to do was chop the seed heads off and scatter them to my garden border. The borage was also going to seed so I just snipped them too to put in my border, along with calendula. Thanks nature!

Dad has filled the compost bin with more grass clippings from the lawn so I put a few clippings on my pumpkin/melon/corn bed. I hope I haven't inadvertently returned weed seeds to the soil. Generally I bin the invasive ones that may go to seed but some of them I just uproot and leave on the ground as mulch. Karyn's also showing me how to make fish fertiliser from fish guts.

Carbon Sequestration is another thing I'm learning which basically means a fancy name for putting charcoal/ashes on the soil to improve mineral uptake. Greenies have called it 'biochar' but to me it just looks like charcoal. This is going to help with creating and mantaining soils by adding these natural amendments. I can also burning weeds and use the ashes.

My natural pollination and pest control is basically bees, bunnies, cats and chickens. Atmospheric regulation and local climate means although I have no way of controlling the weather I do pray God who made everything, will blow wind and send rain when it's needed. I am working on purifying water..haven't yet come up with a foolproof rain harvesting plan other than setting some glass jars out to catch the rain, and my production of raw materials so far has been an abundant harvest of mugwort. Everything is looking biologically productive and diverse - it would be anathema for me to even consider gardening for money. If I do that, all I would be growing would be one type of crop after the other for the market and that's no fun.

We take these services for granted because they are provided free of charge by nature - NZ biodiversity strategy

Speaking of being free of charge Myra's horror story was aired on TV3 Newshub the other night about this conman landscape gardener who charged her a $2500 deposit, failed to show up for six months and then hacked her plum tree.  Which is why me and Louise are gardening her place for love, because the silly man who just got out of prison (obviously, he didn't learn anything, like how to be honest) promised to refund her money but she only got half back. And he's been cheating 16 other people to the tune of $40,000. Crikey!