Category Archives: Workshop info

Winter is for Dreams

Hello again! I’m almost back from maternity leave, my daughter is now 6 months and is enjoying some time with her nanny. So back to blogging, designing and farming!

Winter, for me, is stillness and darkness, a perfect time for dreaming. Of course some of our dreams will be about the coming of warmth and light, just like the dreams that lay hidden in the seed before germinating… All the information about what it will become and how, is already present in that teeny tiny speck. And when the conditions are right, it will send out its little root, then its little stem, and if the environment allows it will develop into the best version of what it can be.

I use this calm dark time to plan next seasons production in the garden and at the urban farm. Starting with my dream garden – like the information hidden in the seed – I then narrow this down to how many of each plant, how many seeds or plants to buy, and by when the beds need to be ready and warmed up to receive these. You can learn this method in the first session of my next workshop series, Grow More Veges #1: Plan your Edible Garden 2-3.30pm Sunday 30th July – register here!

To get as close as possible to the best version of that dreamed garden, I look closely at my notes of what worked and what didn’t last season. That special lettuce that handled the warm weather really well? The tomato variety that didn’t get psyllid? Grow them again, and maybe save some seed next season. On the other hand, the boggy area that got flooded in all those rains? Might need some double digging and maybe even drainage installed before planting out this spring.

These decisions all stem from the meeting point of my dreams of an edible oasis, and the conditions I have to deal with – like the fickle Wellington weather! Every season, I learn something new and get closer and closer, by keen observation and information gathering rather than hard work.

If you sign up to the full workshop series – 5 Sundays – you get a nice discount, and you get the opportunity to apply for the position as Gardener at the urban farm. Practice the skills you learn at the workshop alongside me and the Production Manager, and after three months with us you’ll have the confidence and skills to produce a good portion of your own food in the Wellington region – we focus on our local climate and soil so the growing strategies and techniques you learn will really work here.

I hope you have beautiful dreams this winter, and that you spend some time gathering the information you need to make them come true!

Advertisements

Last workshops of the year

For the next five Wednesdays, I’ll be running the Grow More Veges workshops. This week we did Perfect Compost, next week we’ll explore Double Digging and soil health in general, then you can learn about how to Garden in Time & Space – how to arrange your beds and your plantings to maximise the use of a small urban garden. Finally, we’ll go through the nitty gritty of how to Sow Seeds (and which to choose) so they produce healthy seedlings, looking at their families, history and needs ; and how to Plant Plants so the tender youngsters survive and thrive. Finally, we’ll cover Maintenance, to make sure you have what you need to keep all your edibles happy and productive all through the year.

You can take the workshops independently, or all in a row as they do partly build on each other. My aim with this workshop series is to provide the full range of basic knowledge and hands-on skills you need to be able to grow a decent amount of your own fresh veges in Wellington. Advice and ideas are tested and proven to work with the climate we have here and with the size and styles of gardens that are common here – steep slopes, awkward shade, natives, clay or sand subsoil etc. There are still spots open, so don’t hesitate to sign up if you’re tempted! The groups are small and there’s plenty of opportunities for questions and discussion.

If you’ve seen me lately, you know I’ve got a bulging bump! By the end of November, I’ll go on maternity leave. I’m not setting a specific date for being back in action, but I do have the intention of running this workshop series again in April… if I feel up for it, if it’s still a priority for me – chances are my priorities change with this major new person in my life. So if you’re keen on learning, now is the time!

This week in your Edible Oasis

  • If you have any brassicaceae growing in your garden (cabbage, kale, cavolo nero, broccoli, cauli…), get Bt-spray to stop the ravages of the white butterfly caterpillars (see photo above) which are becoming more and more present. Bt comes as a powder, marketed by KiwiCare brand as “Caterpillar Control”, that you dilute in water and spray onto all surfaces of the plant. These “Bacillum thuringiensis” will infect the caterpillars and cause them to die, hopefully before they have devoured your plants!
  • If you managed to get hold of some comfrey root last week, you can plant it now. Each plant takes up a good 60-80cm round, so plant pieces of root at that distance and mulch between.
  • We have this strong southerly today and tomorrow, but then it will get more stable from Sunday on. Make sure your cloches and other light structures (pea teepees etc) are anchored well enough to not blow away tonight!
  • Keep an eye on rainfall – anything less than 5mm in a 24h period is probably only wetting the top few centimeters, so check soil moisture a spade depth down too. It’s good to get the habit now, so you know what moist vs. too dry soil looks like in summer. For example, check Monday night when we’ve had 3-4 days of no rain and lots of wind, and then again Wednesday night after the rain.
  • If your site is getting dry (at a spade depth) start watering. And water direct sown seeds daily until they develop true leaves.
  • Apply mulch anywhere you haven’t yet (apart from on your direct sown seeds). Seaweed is really good for fruit trees and bushes this time of year, check the south coast for washed up stuff after the southerly swell, making sure you avoid the Marine Reserves!
  • If your berry bushes are starting to form fruit, put netting up this week – by next week the berries may already start to take on some colour and the birds will quickly find them!
  • If you have germinated seeds which have opened their cotyledons, transplant them into deeper trays or pots at 2-5cm spacing depending on varieties (check seed packet or Koanga Garden Guide for more info).

Prepp for next week

  • Pamper your seedlings so you can plant them out in the first half of November. Liquid fertilisers and slow hardening off is the recipie for success.
  • Keep on top of weeds by regular hoeing. Much easier than pulling bigger weeds by hand, and you’ll exhaust the weed seed bank in the top few cm by hoeing regularly, with long term benefits.

Happy gardening, and hope to see you at the workshops!

March, First quarter

Autumn is here and the energies in the garden start their yearly descent to earth again. Leaves start falling, we’ve had the first autumn rains, most summer crops are harvested and plants composted. Time to focus on the soil – the origin of the health of you edible oasis, and of your health too – what can we do to improve it? What worked in the garden? What didn’t? It’s a time for reflection and note taking while we still remember how this season went so we know what we need to learn to make next year better.

I’m running a day-long workshop, “permablitz”, on food forest creation and compost making 9th May at a friends place in Mornington. We’ll look at how to implement the permaculture design I created for her– it’s half way there already, and very inspiring!

This is a great opportunity to learn by doing: harvest compost materials and build a compost heap according to the bio-intensive method, look at soil and soil quality to learn about amendments. We’ll end the day by preparing holes for the trees and put stakes in to show which tree will go where – learning about distances and how to plant trees well.

For the theory, we’ll cover things like multi-tiered orchards, herbal ley, chooks in the forest garden, compost integration and more. Most of the theory and practice will be useful for anyone with an edible garden in Wellington. The area we will work on is approximately 20m2.

To register, email Barbara with your name and phone number. Bring good clothes for outdoors work, pen and notebook in case you want to note things down, a potluck lunch dish to share and the course fee: $90-$120, up to you to choose how much you pay. If you are a timebank member, 7 time credits, just let Barbara know beforehand.

To do this week in my Edible Oasis:

  • Soak broad beans overnight and plant next day (even if you don’t like to eat them, they’re great soil conditioners and grow well in winter, and make lots of material for compost).

  • Foliar feed next Thursday, 2nd April (actually, I’ll ask my partner to do it as I’ll be in Christchurch for the annual Permaculture Hui!)

  • Harvest fruit and sunflower seeds

  • Sow seeds for winter lettuces – choose varieties that are known to grow well in winter, such as Koanga Institute’s Winter Heritage Mix.

  • Sow winter greens in the hothouse, like parsley, coriander, rocket etc which I want to grow well and fast.

  • Sow Mustard where the tomatos have been (or still are) and lupin/oats in the other empty beds.

  • Choose a bed for winter veges, in the sunniest spot of the garden. I use Lumos, an app on my iPhone, to check where the sun will be in midwinter and, from now on, only plant edibles where they will get 5h of sun even on 21st June.

  • Prepare that bed with composted manure, lime, fish meal if you can get it, biophos, whatever good organic matter you can get really! Turn it into the top 10cm of the soil. Digging in seaweed also seem to work, or bokashi in the bottom of a trench… Cover it all with thick mulch and plant into this.

  • Transplant winter veges into the new bed: silverbeet, chard, winter lettuces, endive/chicory and peas. Later in autumn, I’ll fill the gaps with the winter lettuces I sow now.

  • Manure and mulch fruit trees & bushes. Make sure citrus are well watered & fed.

  • Plan what I need to do with my fruit trees & bushes over winter: pruning, planting new companions/herbal lay, put on copper oxy in spring to slow down the leaf curl on the peach etc.

  • Start looking for places where fallen leaves accumulate so I can collect them later on.

  • Order strawberry plants and other perennials.

Vouchers, dates and what to do

Good news: There are now vouchers available for Edible Oasis workshops! One for $12, or the Grow More Veges series of 6 workshops for $60 – saves you $12.

The workshop dates are set for January and I’m excited by the number of people telling me this is exactly what they’ve been looking for. Posters are printed – if you know a place where there should be one, let me know. Even better: if you want to give me a hand putting them up around town you’ll be rewarded with one of the brand new vouchers!

Gardening tasks for next week: the moon is waning and the last quarter starts on Monday. It’s a time when energy starts to turn downwards, so root growth is strong. This means plants transplanted at this time will root well. Apart from getting your last summer seedlings in the ground, the only thing left before midsummer celebrations is to tidy up and ensure everything is well mulched to keep the moisture in. I keep track of how much it rains by jotting down millimeters and dates on my wall calendar, that way I know when I’ve got to water again.

If you’re growing herbs or medicinal flowers, harvest them on a sunny late morning, when there isn’t any dew left on them. Depending on what properties the particular plant has, you may want to harvest at a certain moon phase as well. St John’s wort is traditionnally harvested mid day on the full moon closest to midsummer solstice, for example.

If you’ve got fruit trees, check if you need to thin the fruit to get the rest to ripen, or support any branches to avoid damage. Feed the trees with seaweed or, even better, Environmental Fertilisers’ “Reproductive Foliar” (available at Commonsense Organics).

Roundhouse Workshop 31st May

Roundhouse Workshop

Bomun Bock-Chung from Sheltercraft is coming to teach us all how to build a portable roundhouse, a light structure with a reciprocal roof structure. Its origin is solid houses on foundations, but Bomun has adapted this which makes it possible to learn to build one in a day!
All happening in Newtown Saturday 31st May – $50-$75 on a sliding scale – contact me to register!