Category Archives: In the Garden

Composting

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Dearest Sultana,

If there is one thing about gardening I really don’t like, it’s the creepy crawlies. I’m OK with lizards, in fact I think since we’ve moved here the skink population has flourished, we see them quite often in summer and they are generally shy and we don’t bother each other.

I’m also pretty OK with spiders, as long as their webs don’t overtake our living spaces, I leave them to themselves. However creepy crawlies, they really creep me out. Still I really liked the concept of composting, I knew it worked wonders in my parent’s garden and I like the idea of our kitchen scraps going to produce something useful instead of overfilling landfills.

I took a free course in composting with the Kaipatiki Project. I really didn’t like the idea of handling or looking at creepy crawlies every time I open that compost bin and decided that composting wasn’t for me. Fortunately we were also introduced to bokashi buckets and that seemed more handle-able so I got one of those. Didn’t really work for us though, I think I tried doing it for about half a dozen buckets but I just couldn’t stop the smell. I knew I was doing something wrong but couldn’t figure out what.

About half a year later I managed to talk myself into getting a compost bin, creepy crawlies and all. It wasn’t an easy decision but my family was complaining about the stench from the bokashi bucket and I was not exactly excited about opening that lid every time I put my food scraps into it. I didn’t want to go back to throwing my food scraps into the rubbish bin and I was getting more involved with my gardening and wanted the free rich compost for the garden.

So I set up my compost bin and we’re still using it today. There have been ups and downs. It has really taken some getting used to. Yes, there are creepy crawlies, millions of them. But they are happy to be left to do their own thing and don’t really hang around in the crumbly and rich compost layer. That layer is packed with earthworms, thankfully I am OK with earthworms (with gloves on).

I have also had the unfortunate encounter with a mouse! Oh, just the memory of it makes me shudder. I opened the lid and two beady eyes looked straight up at me. I guess it was winter and the poor mouse was cold and hungry. The next few nights I had nightmare of a family of mice taking over my bin, nesting inside and all the hundreds of mice that this family would produce. Courage! That’s what I needed. For the next few days I avoided that bin, in the end my husband gave the bin a bit of a shake about and there was no mouse and then we fortified the bins sides with big rocks and haven’t had anymore problems until last week, when I saw a mouse hole (but thankfully no mouse!) more fortification and so far no more sightings of the mouse.

So far I have only harvested the mature compost once. It was so satisfying digging in that rich compost into my husband’s priced feijoas. They won’t flower for a few more months but I see a lot of new growth and am very hopeful we will finally get some feijoas next season. Feijoas are the girls’ and husband’s favourite food. They usually have to rely on gifts from family and friends. Store bought feijoas don’t taste as good for some reason. My theory is that they don’t get cross pollinated with a range of different varieties, that’s why the taste is flat.

For those of you who haven’t encountered Feijoa before, it’s a guava like fruit originating from parts of South America but it’s very common in NZ.

I would highly recommend joining the composting course if you are an Aucklander, it is free, highly informative and I think at the moment they are offering free Bokashi buckets.

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Enjoying the Garden and “Spot It Again” by Delphine Chedru

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Dearest Sultana

What a beautiful Friday morning we have today. Especially after two days of heavy rain.

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I am having my morning coffee in the garden with June, it is a little windy but the sunshine is keeping us nice and warm. I will soon have to start preparing my garden for the summer, but I think it’s still a little too early at the moment. We’ve just experienced a cold snap and there could be another one of those before the weather truly improves.

In the meantime, here are some of my plants. The feijoas are showing some promising new growth, lavender blooming wildly. I love my lavender, they came with the house and last year I was so frustrated with their unshapely growth I cut them right down. Wasn’t sure if they would be able to grow again but to my utter delight they did and there’s a nice bush of them now.

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I’ve got some fragrant freesia too, such a delight. And the goldfish swimming happily in their big pot.

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Oh, and I found some Kumquat. I’ve never tried these before, they came with the house and didn’t fruit last year. I’m looking forward to trying them out when they are ripe.

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We happened upon this book while browsing the children’s section in the library

spot it again

Spot it Again by Delphine Chedru

I had to mention this book because my girls had so much fun with it. It is a variation on the “I spy” theme which is a great favourite in our family. It’s got 50s style colours and very simple repetitive geometric designs with little creatures hiding in them. It’s brilliant, highly recommended. We are going to be looking for the first of this series, “Spot It”

Rewards Chart and Auckland Museum Visit

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Dearest Sultana,

May made herself a Rewards Chart:

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She even made the stickers to go on it. One side for June and the other for herself… Obviously her side is the one with the long haired girl and the most rewards.

She rewards herself, for tidying up, for creativity and for sleeping in her bed for the whole night. She rewarded June for finishing her dinner and helping tidy up.

And you know what, this chart has been working wonders! And she came up with it all on her own! It’s been up since yesterday, I hope she will stay with it for a little while longer.

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On Saturday the three of us went to visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum. It’s got a lovely children’s section which the girls enjoyed. They also had an engaging exhibit on the marine life surrounding Auckland, “Moana, my Ocean” which has become a hot topic in our house since the government proposal to reduce the recreational fishermen’s fishing quota. What we found of most interest in that exhibit was the life cycle of the snapper, the fish that daddy usually brings home from his fishing trips, and the biodiversity at the Leigh Marine Reserve. We plan to take the girls there in summer, it really is a fascinating place to snorkle, to see snappers and lots of other fish, completely unafraid and swimming right up to the shallow waters. This time round, we’ll also be doing some kayaking.

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After the museum we went to the Wintergardens. This is one of my favourite spots, I love the burst of colours in the wintergarden.

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The greens in the humid heat in the tropical garden, such a contrast from the wintergarden and never fails to remind me of Indonesia. This time round they even had bananas and jackfruit growing. Jackfruit growing! What a sight.

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The Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Wintergardens are both located at the Auckland Domain, Park Road, Grafton.

Enjoying the Garden and “Spot it Again” by Delphine Chedru

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Dearest Sultana,

What a beautiful Friday morning we have today. Especially after two days of heavy rain.

I am having my morning coffee in the garden with June, it is a little windy but the sunshine is keep us nice and warm. I will soon have to start preparing my garden for the summer, but I think it’s still a little too early at the moment. We’ve just experienced a cold snap and there could be another one of those before the weather truly improves.

In the meantime, here are some of my plants. The feijoas are showing some promising new growth, lavender blooming wildly. I love my lavender, they came with the house and last year I was so frustrated with their unshapely growth I cut them right down. Wasn’t sure if they would be able to grow again but to my utter delight that did and there’s a nice bush of them now.

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I’ve got some fragrant freesia too, such a delight. And the goldfish swimming happiliy in their pot.

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Oh, and I happened to find some Kumquat. I’ve never eaten these before. They came with the house. It will be nice to try them out once they ripen.

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We happened upon this book while browsing the children’s section in the library

spot it again

Spot it Again by Delphine Chedru

I had to mention this book because my girls had so much fun with it. It is a variation of the “I spy” theme which is a great favourite in our family. It’s called “spot it again” by Delphine Chedru. It’s got 50s style colours and very simple repetitive geometric designs with little creatures hiding in them. It’s brilliant, highly recommended. We are going to be looking for the first of this series, “Spot It”

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In the Garden – a learning experience

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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.

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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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