Summer Garden 2018

Summer has been a bit of a mixed bag here in Auckland. Long hot days, a few storms, rain and high humidity. This was the first year that I had a full season of gardening in the raised beds that I had installed last summer. To recap I had moved the location of the vegetable garden for convenience and for full sun position. We picked up a wooden crate from the side of the road that we converted to three raised beds, I hammered together a fourth bed from some old timber I had lying around. I used the sandwich method of layering various types of organic matter;  starting with a thick layer of cardboard to suppress the grass and weeds then layering with bokashi compost, coffee grounds from local cafes, dried leaves, comfrey leaves, manure, seaweed, lucerne straw, mulch, and compost.

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Three beds are intersected by a feijoa and mandarin tree.

At first some of the plants were not doing too good which was a bit puzzling as I thought the soil must be good from all the rich organic matter. I am always asking questions and listening intently when around other gardeners and from this I found out that my soil could be too rich and it needed a bit of neutrality so I bought some potting mix and added this to the beds and this seemed to help.

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A packed bed – tomatoes, chillis, butternut pumpkin and some onions (I think!).

I planted lots of tomatoes this year. I bought one grafted tomato – a gardener that I once worked with at the school garden had planted grafted tomatoes and they were the size of small trees and were abundant with fruit. So this prompted me to try this, I put one grafted tomato in a large pot, it grew very large and produced a fair amount, however I think it would have done better being planted in the ground where more nutrients could have been provided by the earth. The other tomatoes that I planted were the variety ‘money maker’, I planted these in the raised beds. They were value for money (excuse the pun), I was picking around 5-10 a day from around four plants. I pick mine when they are orange and leave them on my window sill to ripen. As I intended to make passata and pasta sauce I would put them in the freezer until I had enough to make a batch.

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Pasta sauce made from my tomatoes

Chilli’s were also very productive and still are producing, I put most of them in the freezer until I had a good amount to put in brine to preserve. The one chilli plant that I had in a pot I have now brought inside to see if I can get chilli’s through winter. I got a few courgettes off one courgette plant, but overall not they weren’t that successful with a few rotting on the plant. I planted kumara for the first time in November in one bed. I think I had around eight shoots, from these eight shoots they are looking very lush and I am looking forward to this harvest – probably around April. Kumara planting advice from Richard Maine (Gardens for Health) – Plant in mounds with several shoots in each mound, position the roots towards the east, mound up as they grow as you would with potatoes, they like seaweed.

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Kumara patch, you can eat the leaves!

Nena was given some New World ‘Little Garden’ pots. She enjoyed growing these from seed inside and planting them out in the garden. From her ‘Little Garden’ the cucumbers were most productive and are still growing! We have been enjoying lots of salads and I have pickled a few jars of them.

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Nena’s cucumbers

 

In the back garden there are still things growing. My grafted apple tree is now producing some fruit and a couple of citrus trees are also doing well. The grape vine was disturbed from an install of a new fence, the fruit wasn’t going to make it so I picked the unripe grapes and made verjus and unripe grape jam. Our beloved banana trees give us a bunch every around every 3 months. The last bunch I peeled and put in a bag in the freezer, the lady finger size is perfect for throwing in smoothies!

 

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Unripe grapes
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Blitz in a blender then strain out the juice
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Verjus. Jars have gone in the freezer.
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Unripe grape jam, goes well with cheese and crackers.

 

Taro loved the humid weather with the leaves getting to nearly one metre in length! At this size they are not great for eating but the smaller ones are which we sometimes cook. Remember if you are cooking, cook them for a long time or else they will make your throat fifisi (itchy)! Other leafy greens such as lettuces, kale and spinach didn’t fare too well in the garden, slugs and snails  would get to them before I did.

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Monster taro leaves!

Aside from enjoying gardening at home I have enjoyed other gardens! The winter gardens at the Auckland Domain are always a highlight, especially the water lily pond. It has become a tradition for our girls to be photographed at this pond that started with Nena when she was around two years old. I was particularly excited this time to see the lily pond after reading The Plant Messiah. It is a fascinating read of horticulturist Carlos Magdalena’s experiences and passion for plants, water lillies are one of his favourite plants and it was interesting to read about their history and the species.

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Royal Water Lily – Victoria Amonzonica at the Auckland Domain Winter Gardens
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Visiting and harvesting from friends gardens while they were on holiday

Summer now is officially over and I have pulled out some of the summer crops. A knowledgeable garden friend suggested that I cut off the plants at the base and leave the roots in. This helps aerate the soil and feeds the soil as the roots rot. I intend to do this in one bed, I am always keen to try out new things in the garden.

I hope everyone has had a great summer in the garden! Please let me know your high and low lights in the comments!

Time to Smell the Roses

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My ‘Waste-Less Home’ table at the Rethink Waste event

I recently set up a stall at a community event which aimed to educate people on waste. My little table showcased all the things that I do at home that help reduce waste; it covered grocery shopping, cloth nappies, DIY cleaning products, waste-less essentials, rubbish free lunchboxes, composting and gardening. It was great to connect with people and share practical and inexpensive advice as to how they can do the same. A few people remarked as to how I have the time to do all of these things and about the effort that it takes. I tried my best to explain that it is more about more about behaviour change.

At first what directed our waste-less lifestyle that is now become normal behaviour centered around these three points:

  • no packaging  (or at least reusable or recyclable)
  • cost effective
  • ethical

Grocery Shopping

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Cloth bags are easy to make or you can purchase them new or used.

I recently heard the term ‘precycle’ which is similar to the zero waste definition but also emphasises the consumer’s role “precycling is also characterized as a decision-making process on the behalf of the consumer because it involves making informed judgments regarding a product’s waste implications. The implications that are taken into consideration by the consumer include: whether a product is reusable, durable, or repairable; made from renewable or non-renewable resources; over-packaged; and whether or not the container is reusable” (wikipedia definition)Our shopping habits are more aligned with precycling as we still buy some products in reusable and recyclable packaging. We have yet to put out our landfill bin which contains mostly soft plastics from packaging that we are yet to find alternatives (i.e. cheese and toilet paper), we are hoping to put out our bin just once this year.

DIY

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Baking soda and white vinegar have many uses in my home

I predominantly use white vinegar and baking soda for cleaning, and I no longer need to buy the following items:

Dishwash liquid, Jiff (abrasive cleaner), General cleaner spray, Shampoo & conditioner, Toothpaste, Washing powder

Aside from the washing powder all of the above simply requires pouring into reusable vessels (however not even this is required if you didn’t care!), which takes a few minutes.

Cooking at Home

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Simple pumpkin soup

Being mindful of waste in relation to food makes us eat local and seasonal vegetables that I mostly grow at home or at the community garden. This eliminates packaging and food mileage and encourages biodiversity. Making time and effort for gardening and cooking is important as it’s a way I can provide and nourish my family, community and environment.

I guess at the end of the day it’s about the bigger picture. Like anything that is important time and effort become irrelevant, that leads to a shift in behaviour, paving the way to a lifestyle change. Despite the time and effort I put in to my waste-less life I still have time to smell the roses, from which I get great pleasure and is a reminder that nature makes no waste.
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Sunshine is appreciated

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A fellow blogger The Green Lips nominated me for a Sunshine Award* upon her nomination from another blogger from the greenie / waste-less / simple living blogosphere. I’m honoured to be recognised and to be part of this network of like minded people. Here are my answers to the questions:

What motivated you to start blogging?

I can’t say for sure what motivated me exactly, I think it was a spur of the moment thing. I was looking at a lot of self sufficiency blogs at the time while enjoying time at home with my children. It also coincided with moving into an area where I felt had a sense of community. I guess I wanted to capture all of these things.

Have your motivations changed over time, and if so, how and why?

Yes definitely. I have developed a deeper understanding of sustainability that was a byproduct of a waste-less lifestyle I was embracing. I started reading up on waste (organic, recycable and landfill) and connecting with other like minded people and organisations. I joined a community waste reduction group and community garden and started adapting more sustainable practices to my everyday life, as a result I found the quality of my life had improved immensely. The blog has now become a tool to share this information and hopefully inspire and educate others on the benefits of living a waste-less lifestyle.

What is one book that changed your life? (If you aren’t much of a reader then you could share a movie, life event or even blog that’s had a big impact on you.)

Books: Zero Waste Home Author Bea Johnson, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation Author Michael Pollan.

Films: Waste Land (2010), Plastic Paradise (2013)

Destination : Raglan Xtreme Zero Waste

What are some of the simple things in life that give you pleasure?

Sharing with others; whether it’s food, plants, seeds, recipes or your time, gratitude from others is fulfilling.

Hanging with my family.

Being in a garden.

*Sunshine Award is for those who “positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere


I would like to nominate the following blogs for a Sunshine Award:

The Zero Waste Chef – my zero waste idol

Sustainable Holdfast Bay – extreme garden and pantry envy here

Questions:

What does a perfect day look like for you?

Would you like to time travel to the past or future?

What are you having for dinner tonight?

My Garden, My Community

Next to the kitchen the second place I spend most of my time is in a garden, mostly mine or the community garden. They have equal value and provide a vital role for our waste-less lifestyle.

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Taro and lillies were salvaged from a nearby vacant property that is destined to be demolished. Heliconia’s are from family in South Head.

I think about my garden a lot. I gaze at it from my bedroom window, check on my seedlings constantly, and rain or shine I will find something that needs doing in my garden no matter how big or small.

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Silverbeet, native spinach and rhubarb were grown by a seed raising co-op I belong to. Beans were gifted by a good gardening friend and the spinach came from my long time mentor and GI native who now lives in Mt Eden.

One of the things I love about my garden are the stories of the plants and garden objects. Aside from the established plants that were already here when we moved in, I enjoy thinking about and telling people where my plants and gardening materials came from, which are either acquired from friends, family, garden colleagues or salvaged.

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These items were salvaged from Wai o Taki Bay last summer.

I read a book over summer called ‘A Tohunga’s Natural World: Plants, Gardening and Food’ by Paul Moon. The tohunga talked about how the energy that is put into the plant is important for its mana and can determine its productively and value. At the time I read this I must admit I was a bit dubious of this notion. However, now as more and more of my time is spent in my garden and on gardening projects I couldn’t agree more with these wise words.

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Lettuces, kohlrabi, cabbage and beetroot grown from the seed raising co-op. Straw and poop from my favourite bunny in Pt Chev.

Whether its preparing or eating the fruit and vegetables from the garden, looking at their beauty or admiring their role in their eco-system I’m constantly reminded of where and who they came from. It’s a lovely way to appreciate your friends, family and community.

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My latest acquisition – a thornless blackberry comes from a Glendowie friend. It is planted in compost from the community garden, from which my food scraps helped make!

The other night I made a beef stir fry made with cauliflower from Ruapotaka community garden, broccoli from PERA community garden, radishes from a friend and beef that was gifted from my neighbour’s son’s farm. I felt honoured and extremely grateful to nourish myself and family with food grown and raised by people I value.

Thank-you to those in my garden community who support, nourish, and enrich my life. Ofa lahi atu. x