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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!


Unripe grapes
Blitz in a blender then strain out the juice
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.

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.

Royal Water Lily – Victoria Amonzonica at the Auckland Domain Winter Gardens
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!

10 Waste Streams and Counting….

Waste Stream definition:

  1. The total flow of solid waste from homes, businesses, institutions, and manufacturing plants that is recycled, burned, or disposed of in landfills, or segments thereof such as the “residential waste stream” or the “recyclable waste stream”.

I was recently reading about a zerowaste town in Japan called Kamikatsu that has 34 waste streams and diverts 80% of waste from landfill. Their efforts are impressive and I particularly like the share, swap and close-knit community aspect of town. Here in New Zealand zero waste enterprises are popping up all over the country and last July I was lucky enough to visit Xtreme Zero Waste Raglan. Servicing the Raglan township by providing a waste kerbside collection and drop off service Xtreme Zero Waste diverts approximately 75% of the waste from landfill. Seeing the numerous waste streams and learning the value of waste and shared ethos throughout the township was exciting for a waste reduction enthusiast such as myself.

Here’s a video of the study tour I joined to Xtreme Zero Waste Raglan made by Auckland Council. Watch here.

Waste streams offered at these enterprises cater for all types of waste which made me think about how many waste streams I have in my home. Here’s my list:

  1. bokashi compost – small scale kitchen waste
  2. kerbside recycling bin
  3. landfill bin
  4. soft plastic recycling
  5. compost heap – large scale organic matter, e.g. garden waste, toilet rolls, large kitchen organic waste (banana skins, cabbage leaves), rags, bamboo toothbrushes and scrubbing brushes
  6. food scraps fertiliser: tea leaves, coffee grounds, egg shells
  7. glass jar collection: used for homemade condiments, skin balms that I share, swap and occasionally sell
  8. flowers and herbs: dried to use in homemade skincare, craft and baking
  9. fabric: from old clothes and towels used for rags or upcycled for small sewing projects
  10. plastic bags from commercial soil/seed-raising mix: good to use to collect and swap seaweed/compost/mulch

These waste streams are valuable for numerous reasons and like Xtreme Zero Waste Raglan and the town of Kamikatsu help close the loop or circulate resources a few more times before ending in landfill.

I would be interested for people to share how many waste streams they have in their home to inspire me and others!



Real Month of Work*

So far I have not kept to my new years resolution to post on the blog fortnightly, but I think I may give myself a free pass for the month of February as I have had several waste related projects that I have managed to get through. From my involvement in my local waste reduction community group I have been given opportunities to lead some waste initiatives. With my work* on these initiatives I hope to address sustainability at a grass roots level that is utilitarian and accessible to all. Here are some photos of this month’s work*:

Tomato sauce making workshop
Our stall at he Kulture & Kai Market Day in Glen Innes

These projects are low cost and utilise materials that would otherwise go to waste. Also, I am not a natural leader, nor am I particularly good at getting up in front of an audience, but I am learning and building up my confidence each time. So, if you feel that you would like to lead/facilitate/host any community projects – just do it! If I can you can!

And finally, I’m quite proud of this – the website that I created using squarespace for my community group is now live. Please check it out!

*doesn’t feel like ‘work’, just talking the talk while walking the walk

Real Appreciation

I have been meaning to publish this for some time now, but life and general procrastination kept getting in the way. This has led to a new year resolution which I can hopefully adhere to, of a new post every fortnight.

The weather over the holiday period here in Auckland was amazing, we did our usual family Christmas lunch with my side of the family and then on boxing day we headed up to South Head to have Christmas no. 2 with my partners family and to stay on for a few days. We enjoyed a break away from the city and had a chance to reflect on the past year and our journey towards the more sustainable simplistic lifestyle that we have embarked on.

Te Rau Puriri Regional Park . Here Max is getting cockles that were made into a delicious soup with leftover ham from Christmas.

Surrounded by our family and loved ones in such a beautiful setting we were struck by how lucky we were to have the opportunities we do, and the lifestyle we have. While we only have a modest income we are able to live comfortably and provide for our children, Christmas is unfortunately a time when you are reminded there are many who are not so fortunate.

Reduction in material possessions and/or obtaining those you do as hand me downs or from second hand shops may be lauded by some, or given a label such as minimalism, but for many people not having many possessions or purchasing anything new isn’t a goal and doesn’t have a label, its just life.

What we appreciate is that for us its the life we choose.

Happy New Year.


Real Meal Overhaul

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I made some produce bags from an old mosquito net

Re-evaluating our understanding of sustainability has coincided with a financially difficult period that has forced us to rethink our weekly meals. Our meals now feature less meat – only beef mince and free range chicken which the butchery at Pak n Save puts into containers we provide. We are yet to do a complete zero waste grocery shop but we are getting closer to our goal, finding alternatives each time.

To see where we could eliminate packaging I typed up a weekly meal planner which clearly lays out the ingredients and utilises our garden produce. The planner may seem a little overboard, but as societies’ consumption norms are often stacked against sustainability, a planner has become a vital tool to help us work towards cutting out packaging completely. We also learnt that leaving a ‘free day’ often leads to eating out or impulse shopping choices that inflate the food budget and/or lead to extra waste. We will eat this menu until we feel the need for a change, adapting with seasonal availability and when we tire of certain components.

Weekly Meals

Useful condiments:

Homemade sauerkraut

Homemade fermented tomato sauce

Apple Cider Vinegar

Chilli Sauce


Olive Oil (Our favourite is the Palestinian olive oil from Trade Aid)

If you decide to attempt a zero waste home your kitchen is a good place to start. I suggest going through a week’s worth of rubbish to see what forms the bulk of it, which is often food packaging. Items like rice, pasta and flour can easily be bought in bulk with re-usable bags and stored in glass jars that you have saved. Reducing your waste by finding a non packaged alternative not only benefits the environment but has a flow on effect to other areas of your life such as good health and reducing your living costs.

To quote Valter, one of the catadores from the movie Waste Land  “99 is not 100” – one less piece of packaging does count.

*My partner has IBS so our  meals are FODMAP friendly .

Real Wake Up Call


Two recent experiences have left me re-evaluating my understanding of sustainability on a global scale, and modifying the approach I was taking in my own life.

Firstly, I watched the documentary ‘Waste Land’ that follows artist Vik Muniz create an inspiring art project in Brazil’s Jardim Gramacho, which until its closure in 2012 was the world’s largest landfill.

I also recently read ‘Zero Waste Home’ by Bea Johnson which was prompted by getting down to one bag of rubbish per week (which I am now determined to do regularly, and hope to reduce even further in the future). One of the many insights that I took away from the book was Bea Johnson’s point on how recycling should be the last option. I now realise that many people, myself included, misunderstand where recycling should rank in the hierarchy of sustainability, as the products made from recycled material are more than often non-recyclable, as well as wasting resources and creating toxic by-products in their manufacture. Remember waste doesn’t start at your bin – it starts the moment you buy a packaged product, so either refuse it, reuse it (2 of the 5 R’s from Johnson’s book), or find an alternative.

Lead by example – take a zero waste morning tea to your next group get together

I have also become acutely aware that living a sustainable lifestyle is a continuum and an ongoing learning experience. It can’t be achieved instantly, but that is what makes it so enjoyable, the satisfaction gained with each new insight and achievement on the journey.

Real Recipe For Waste Reduction


Every Wednesday morning our rubbish is picked up by the Auckland City Council, so every Tuesday night we take the bin up the driveway to be put on the curb for collection. Normally we do this without much thought, however last night was particularly interesting as there was only one small bag of rubbish in the wheelie bin. My partner and I gathered around the bin and reflected on our week’s worth of rubbish. This was the least amount of rubbish destined for landfill that we had ever had, and, well we gave ourselves a pat on the back – not bad for a family of four that includes a baby.  So here’s our recipe for waste reduction.




Social Awareness

Respect for the Environment


Eat real food, compost food scraps, grow vegetables, plan meals in advance and buy only what’s needed, recycle, use cloth nappies and cloth wipes, be an ethical consumer.


Every living thing x

Are you doing the best with your waste?