In the Garden – a learning experience


Dearest Sultana,

Until two years ago we didn’t have a permanent home and the homes we stayed in didn’t inspire a lot of gardening. And to be honest, it wasn’t something I had a lot of interest in.

When we moved into our current home, just over two years ago, suddenly a gardening light bulb went on in my head. I was drawn to gardening magazines, my new favourite hang out became the garden shop, I wanted to grow vegetables myself, to inspire my girls to eat their veggies. I pored over seed catalogues and got my hands on the most beautiful and informative garden growing books my library could offer. I was inspired.

I learned about companion plants, what organic fertilisers to use, what natural insect repellent was naturally available.

I really got down to business too. We bought some mandarin and feijoa trees and planted these. I managed to convince my husband to build me a little veggie patch. I planted my veggies in my patch (from seed) there were beans, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, chicory. I was so hopeful.

Then the leaves began to grow and I was very pleased. Then I began to notice little holes on my tender cabbage leaves. I couldn’t really see what was causing those. Must be some creepy crawlies but I couldn’t see any. Did I mention that I am terrified of creepy crawlies. Totally terrified, they really really creep me out.

A few days later I could clearly see what was causing these holes. By this stage those green caterpillars have gotten as fat and long as my index finger. I was so grossed out. Try as I did, I could not bear to touch them to remove them, not even with my gardening gloves on. I used scissors in the end. But this has really put a tarnish on all my rosy dreams of organic living.

My tomatoes were still growing OK, beans too, chillies were beginning to blossom. There was hope yet. Unfortunately it was a very wet summer that year, and the tomatoes got too much water, the beans, just as they were beginning to yield some lovely green beans started to develop some fungi on their leaves. The chilli blossoms rotted thanks to the rain. The only thing that seemed to be doing OK was the chicory. Too bitter for the caterpillars and they managed to grow before it became too wet. It was a rather disappointing start to my gardening adventure.

The following year I decided that I didn’t care too much about veggies, not if I have to share them with humongous caterpillars. I did put in some tomatoes, a bit earlier this time and when the caterpillars appeared, I managed to squash them (with gardening gloves on) and took some satisfaction in that. Unfortunately this time, it was a very dry summer… But we did get some tomatoes, though not as much as hoped. We also got some short and almost round cucumbers, so refreshing in summer. We even got some beans and snow peas, pity I only grew a plant each and there was never enough for a proper stir fry.

Crunchy green beans and snow peas

Round cucumber and yellow tomatoes

Fresh garlic

Fresh garlic

I grew lots of flowers this time, pretty annuals for my girls. They picked them and threw them into their paddle pool where they took flower baths. They took their bath in that paddle pool almost every day that hot summer and after that they’d help me water the garden with the water from their pool.

IMAG2243 geranium

Now it’s time to start planning for this summer’s planting. I think I’ll go mostly with seedlings this time and only grow my beans from seed. I’ve got some bamboo poles and I’m planning to make a wigwam structure for them and I think it’s best to start them off from seed. I have found that beans are not hard to grow, but hard to keep alive, because I’ve had fungus attack them on my two attempts.

I want to grow lots of basil. I’ll put them together with my tomatoes and hopefully that will help them both grow better. My basil is quite a small leave variety but so fragrant (Basil Vino Verde) and this way it won’t take away the sun from the tomatoes.

I’m hoping that my chillies will grow better this year. I’m going to get some seeds from Mum. She grew beautiful chillies last year. Mum grow lovely, luscious vegetables, I think the secret is in her homemade compost. In my attempt to duplicate her success, I talked myself into starting a compost bin. Not for the faint hearted, and I’m definitely faint of heart when it comes to dealing with creepy crawlies. I’ll tell you more about my ongoing composting adventure in a future post.

There will be lots more colourful flowers. The girls love these, it makes them feel like fairies playing in the garden and it’s so beautiful when setting up our Christmas lunch in the garden.

A summer arrangement

A summer arrangement

Oh I am so looking forward to summer. There is nothing as glorious as a NZ summer. Long lazy days with lots of sunshine, ice lemon tea, ice popsicles, watching the girls run around in their togs in the garden, jumping in and out of their paddle pool.



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