Full moon October

Protecting young plants

From my last few posts, and probably your own experience too, you gather the importance of good care for your young “babies” freshly planted out in the garden. Wellington weather in this season varies wildly, and a night of southerlies can check the growth for several days or even weeks.

This coming week, we have quite stable temperatures, although windy and dry. This is a good thing! Hopefully, the soil will warm up – especially if you have cloches or black plastic out – and be ready to welcome some heatlovers in a couple of weeks: zucchini, green beans, and the first tomatos.

To do 14th – 21st October (Full moon Sunday 16th)

  • Prick out & plant out leafy plants: lettuce, chard/silverbeet, spinach, cabbage, kale, cavolo nero… Best done 14-16th.
  • Foliar feed today Friday if you didn’t yesterday, and then again Wednesday 19th – seaweed is ideal with all the micronutrients.
  • Prick out tomatos, eggplants, zuccinis and other fruiting plants Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th.
  • Sow lawn seeds on prepared areas on the day of the full moon for quick germination.
  • Wednesday 19th October is ideal for seed sowing too:
    • plant main crop potatos
    • sow seeds to grow seedlings for planting out in December.
    • direct sow beetroot, carrot and turnips
    • sow autumn flowers and leafy greens – can also be done on the following weekend
  • Set up protection systems for young newly transplanted seedlings: cloches for warmth, netting against the birds, foliar feed for extra nutrients, diatomaceous earth to deal with snails and slugs…
  • Hoe all the newly planted beds so the soil surface doesn’t crust over and young weeds don’t get established.
  • If you have access to a good source of mulch (cacao husks is my favorite), apply some now: make sure the soil is moist, then water while you’re adding thin layer after thin layer of mulch. Otherwise it either blows away or stops the rain from getting through to the roots! Then be extra vigilant in snail/slug patrol at night, as they tend to move in to the mulch and breed there.

To prepare now for next week

  • Check your irrigation system and make sure it’s practical for you – you’ll start using it soon! If you have young fruit trees, how will you water them?
  • If you don’t have comfrey in your carden, try and get hold of some roots to to plant!
  • If you do have comfrey, it has probably sprouted now and the shoots show you where the different roots are. If they’re close together, dig some out to make more space and either transplant to another area where they can spread, or make them root in some potting mix and give away to other gardeners 🙂
  • Source mulch for your tomatos, zuccinis and other bigger plants
  • Get nets and hoops ready for berry beds

My workshop series on how to grow food efficiently on a small surface, “Grow More Veges” runs on Wednesdays from 19th October – still spaces left, so sign up now! You can register for one workshop or the bundle of six, up to you. As always, 2 spots are available for Timebank credits.


Pricking out and planting out

How is your garden looking now? Pretty bare, with young seedlings just establishing? Or still a jungle of last season’s growth? Take it step by step and get new plants protected and well established. Leaving some old and tall plants around can help create a micro-climate the young seedlings appreciate, cutting the wind and the heavy rain. But if your soil needs aerating, take old crops out before you dig, or it will be unnecessarily complicated!

This week is ideal time for repotting, transplanting, pricking out and planting out. On Sunday 9th (rain day 16th) I’m running a FREE 101 Food Growing workshop at workerBe oasis’ Spring Celebration. There will also be stalls to share, swap, buy and sell seedlings, so you can bring some there, or take some home!

This week: First quarter, Sunday 9th October

  • Prick out seedlings you’ve grown from seed as soon as the cotyledons (very first leaves, that don’t look like the “normal” leaves) have opened. Move them to a much deeper (8-12cm) tray at 2-5cm distance depending on the variety. Be sure they have enough light for this whole stage. Leave them in these trays/pots until the leaves start touching each other. By then, they’re sturdy enough to get hardened off and planted outside. It’s really good practice here in Wellington, where weather is so unpredictable in spring!
  • If you’re not growing from seed, buy good quality seedlings to plant out now. All the leafy greens along with celery, peas and beans can go in now. I recommend organic seedlings from Common Property (available at all Commonsense Organics stores) or Oakdale Organics (available at some garden centres). These establish better relationships with the soil life and are therefore better at taking up nutrients.Remember to harden them off slowly, as they have been very well protected until now!
  • Prep the beds: spread 2-5cm of compost and a good quality organic fertiliser (either RokSolid or Nature’s Garden), fork into the top 10cm and rake the surface crumbly and flat, ready to plant or sow.
  • If you need to fill in a lawn, now is a good time to prepare it: mow really low, rake off moss and debris, spread lime and poke holes with a fork to get some air in, then rake again. Best is to use a wire leaf rake, it scratches the surface just right!
  • Plant out onion seedlings 11th October
  • Foliar feed regularly, especially on Thursday 13th (3 days before full moon). Use any of the recipies I shared two weeks ago!
  • Prick out and plant out “leafies” 14-16th: celery, cabbages (kale & cavolo nero too), spinach, lettuce, silver beet…

Prepare now for next week (full moon Sunday 16th October)

  • Buy lawn seeds to sow on prepared areas on the day of the full moon (Sunday 16th).
  • Get trays and potting mix ready to prick out tomatos, eggplants, zuccinis and other fruiting plants Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th.
  • Check your seeds to have enough to direct sow beetroot, carrot, turnips and autumn flowers, and to plant main crop potatos, and to grow seedlings for planting out in November and December.
  • Make sure you have everything to care for the young newly transplanted seedlings: cloches, netting, foliar feed, diatomaceous earth to deal with snails and slugs…
  • Sharpen your hoe and other weeding tools (niwashi…) and keep them sharp! There’s a lot less work to do when you can just quickly go over all the beds and aerate the surface, killing the weeds at seedling stage instead of pulling them out once they are established. But it means doing this weekly over the next months, and keeping the tools sharp is essential!

Hope to see you Sunday at the Spring Celebration, 1-4pm at 5 Hospital rd!

Spring action

So much happening now that the spring equinox has been and passed! The days are finally longer than the nights, and everything seem to have an enormous growth spurt, weeds included. Here’s what’s to be done this week, and when, and what needs to be prepared now so that next week is a breeze.

New moon: Saturday 1st October

  • Outside, direct sow radish, beetroot, carrot, turnip and parsnip (these last ones thake a loooong time to mature). Good days are Sunday and Monday.
  • Outside or on a windowsill/greenhouse, sow nasturtium, sweet pea, lettuce, coriander, parsley, rocket and peas. If you sow them outside, it can be a good idea to put up a cloche with plastic or bug netting to protect them as they germinate. Slugs, snails and birds will fight for the first shoots! Germinated in a protected space, you can plant them out when about 8cm tall and they will withstand the attacs a bit better.
  • In a greenhouse or on a windowsill, sow pumpkin, zuccini, tomato, cucumber and dwarf beans. This is best done next Saturday, 8th.
  • Put up cloches to warm the soil so you can plant out the first zuccini and beans. Next week is the very earliest you can do this, and only in a well sheltered spot with a plastic cloche.
  • In a really warm place, 20ºC all the time, sow eggplant, capsicum, chilli and melons. I find none of these do well here out of doors, so if you plan on growing them, make sure you’ve got space in your greenhouse and big pots, or good cloches for the whole season and pamper them a lot. Chilli can grow indoors all year round though.
  • Put fertiliser under fruit trees – last opportunity before autumn! Over summer, just foliar feed them regularly.
  • Fix the understorey under fruit trees: plant companions and mulch.
  • Bring your surplus seedlings and leftover seeds to the Seed & Seedling Swap & Sale at workerBe oasis’ Spring Celebration Sunday 9th!


Prepare now for next week (first quarter starting Sunday 9th October)

  • If you’re growing plants from seed, make sure you have what you need to prick out seedlings as soon as the cotyledons (very first leaves, that don’t look like the “normal” leaves) have opened. And find a good space where they have enough light for the time they’ll spend in pots!
  • Make and apply compost: I’ve got a pile from last summer that’s been maturing over winter and another that’s half-way through with all the prunings and leaves from autumn and winter. I’ll use the ripe one, turn the half-way one, and build a new with all the vegetation I’m pulling off the beds now.
  • Prepare beds: take out all vegetation and, depending on how compacted the soil is, either double dig or fork open. Spread 2-5cm of compost and a good fertiliser (either RokSolid or Nature’s Garden), fork it into the top 10cm and rake the surface ready to plant or sow.
  • If you need to fill in a lawn, next week is a good time to prepare it. Get lime, a fork, fertiliser and lawn seed ready in advance.
  • If you want to grow onions, buy seedlings now so you can plant them 11/10.
  • Use any of the foliar feed recipies I shared recently to prepare a good brew! You’ll put it on next week.
  • Prepare to plant out “leafies” 14-16th: celery, cabbages (kale & cavolo nero too), spinach, lettuce, silver beet… Buy seedlings a few days or a week in advance and harden them off by putting them progressively more and more outside, so they don’t get a chock when they are planted.

Hope this helps! And welcome to the Spring Celebration 9th October, 1-4pm, I’ll be running a free 101 Food Growing workshop as a launch of the workshop series “Grow More Veges”. Six 90-minute sessions on Wednesdays, starting October 19th – register now!

Liquid fertilisers

Stinky, sludgey, murky. And delicious for your plants and the soil life! Liquid fertilisers are easy to make, and cost a fortune to buy (sometimes). This week, Edible Oasis has some “recipes” for you to try out.

The best time to apply liquid fertilisers seem to be before and after full moon, when plants swell with water. Koanga Institute recommend two days before and two days after, and that works fine for me – it might be more like the week before and after, but roughly that’s when I do it.

Always dilute your liquid fertiliser, even if you think “it’s not that strong”! More than once, I’ve been foolhardy enough to put it on undiluted and it has burnt the roots, or mined the carbon, Too much nitrogen in one go will use up the carbon in the soil and the structure collapses afterwards. I’ve seen this happen in pots and raised beds especially.

The only infrastructure you need to set up your own liquid fertiliser station is big buckets or troughs, access to rainwater, and a sieve – an old kitchen one can be converted to garden use.

Seaweed fertiliser

First, bring seaweed home from the beach. Some people worry about salt content, but as far as I’ve seen, it isn’t a problem. But if you can, harvest old stuff from high up the beach rather than fresh or growing ones. A day or two after a storm is ideal for doing this!

Second, put to soak in your big bucket/barrel/trough with rainwater. Make sure they’re completely immersed, sometimes a stone on top can help with that. After a few days to a week, it starts to stink and the texture of the seaweed changes. You can now start using it, after filtering and diluting. Then either add more water as you go and let it brew for longer, or use it all up before the smell becomes overwhelming and put the remains into your compost pile.

Best for anything that has trouble with trace minerals (boron, magnesium, manganese…), and works well on any plant that starts to show signs of fungal attacks. It boosts their immune systems. I have managed to stop mildew from spreading on my peas and zucchinis with this.

Comfrey fertiliser

Harvest big nice comfrey leaves, about 1/4 to 1/3 of the plant. Put it in a container with rainwater as above. Leave until it starts to go soggy, smelly and murky (often shorter than seaweed) and then filter, dilute and use!

Really good on heavy feeders, and the nightshade family responds very well (potato, tomato, eggplant, chilli, capsicum…). Great for newly planted seedlings too, they take off well with this treatment.

“Mixed weeds” fertiliser 🙂

Well, the easiest of them all! If you have noxious/invasive weeds in your garden, don’t put them in the compost (where they will become a perennial problem) but in your fertiliser bucket. Cover with water as above, make sure they’re completely immersed, as the tiniest bit can quickly regrow. Soak it for longer, 2-3 weeks may be enough depending on what weeds you have.

Filter this one very carefully, as seeds and bulbs may still be viable. Depending on the stage of decomposition, you may want to bag and bin the residue, or incorporate into your compost pile if it is all just a smelly mess with nothing solid left at all (i.e. definitely no roots, bulbs etc).

Dilute and use as above – this is my “general” solution, and I always have some as there’s always oxalis, tradescantia, convulvulus and other nasties around. A never-ending supply of nutrient rich ingredients, there for the harvest 😉

Adding carbon

To balance the nutrients, you can add molasses to your brew after filtering. If you do this, filter, add a couple of tablespoons per litre, leave open and stir at least twice a day for a couple of days. This adds oxygen, starts some other bacterial growth (aerobic) and should get on top of the smell as well.

Dilution and application

When your brew is ready, dilute 1:10 with rainwater and either use a watering can to add it to the soil, or put it in a spray bottle (I use a pressure sprayer) and apply to the leaves. I usually put it on the soil if I know it is going to rain, thinking the rain would wash it off the leaves anyway, or if I’m short on time. But foliar application (on the leaves) works much much better for fungal infections and is really efficient in summer when it is warm. Apply in the evening if you can, definitely not in the sun, and preferably not just before a big rain.

Good luck!

Our unreliable spring

Well, so much for our spring feelings, right? This week totally… blew them away, let’s say. I can’t help thinking “if only I had ordered the mikroclima cloth a week before” – yes, having it ten days ago might have saved those early plantings of perpetual spinach and silverbeet down at the oasis from getting pierced by the hail. But better late than never, and I thought I’d let you know my strategies to deal with this fickle season!

First of all, know your site. When does the sun come to warm up the soil? Which areas stay shady for longer? And most important, where does the wind hit? Do you get salt spray, and where? For all the most exposed areas: either just leave them until December (when generally speaking the spring storms have had their time), or mitigate the problem with some of the ideas below. There is no point in spending money, time and effort in planting seedlings which will never make it though the unpredicatable weather (plus snails, slugs and birds…). A good lazy gardener spends time observing and choosing wisely.

For example, part of my back garden just starts to get the sun about now. In all the areas that are shaded, I leave the weeds be over winter – it’s the only thing that grows, and it provides great cover and feeds the soil food web (obviously, I don’t let them seed and I don’t have any perennial weeds there anymore). As the sun reaches the area, I rip the weeds out to build a new compost pile, put well decomposed compost on the beds and cover with tarps. In a month, the soil will be warmed up by the sun and weed free for the season. Having the bed covered with either weeds or a good thick black tarp makes temperature drops and hail much less of an issue during springtime. And for that time, my seedlings thrive in the greenhouse and are big and strudy when I plant out.

If you’ve planted out some spring crops, put up cloches. For the hoops, I use old reinforcement steel bars that I cut to 2.5m and bend to a form that fits my beds. You can buy new ones at a hardware store – 8mm thick – and they last a lifetime. But of course you can use any bendy material! Young bamboo, tent arcs… whatever you find for cheap to reuse. Put them about 1.5m apart and cover with either mikroclima cloth (available at Sustainability Trust I believe), old mesh curtains or transparent plastic. This also protects against the birds who dig up your young plants in search for The Fattest Worm to feed their little ones, as well as warming the soil and speeding plant growth along.

To make sure the plastic tarp or cloche doesn’t fly off in the 120km/h winds, make sure you weigh down the sides really well. You can basically use anything, but what I find works well is to both use bricks (or other heavy material) and also heap up the soil around the sides as to bury the edges of the plastic. That way the wind can’t find a way under the tarp to lift it up.

Towards the end of October, we all want to plant out zuccinis and cucumbers, and that’s ok… but the weather being what it is, it’s a good idea to have them well hardened off and to use individual cloches once they go in the ground. To harden off your seedlings – whether you’ve bought them or grown from seed – put them outside for increasing periods of time each day for a week, and overnight in a sheltered spot for the last few days. When you plant, put a small cloche over each seedling. A 2Lt transparent juice bottle without lid works well. To stop these from blowing off, put a long bamboo stick through the bottle to anchor it to the ground, and heap up soil around the base of the cloche.

Hoping you and your garden will make it trough to warmer days without despairing too much! We have the first peach blossoms at the moment and I’m just hoping they will have the time to be pollinated before they blow off in the next storm… In this post, I’ve shared my tips and tricks – do you have something to add? Please comment below!

…and if you’re wondering what’s happening at workerBe oasis, here’s what’s coming up:

  • Volunteer time on Sundays at 1pm in September, and Saturdays 11-1 from October onwards. Everyone welcome, bring water bottle, gardening clothes and sturdy shoes.
  • A big Spring Celebration October 9th at 1pm (rain date October 16th): Seed & seedling swap, free 101 Food Growing workshop, guided tour, food and music!
  • Workshop series starting again October 19th – see sidebar (bottom of page on smartphones)


Back in time for spring!

Back in Wellington and getting geared up for spring. The time of year that I like to call “first stirrings of spring” is just starting, with the first bulbs showing above soil surface and the first treebuds swelling slightly. Even though it’s still cold, when it’s sunny it’s really enjoyable and my greenhouse becomes a sauna if I don’t open the door!

My to-do list this week (29th July – 4th August):

  • Check my garden plan up until December and count my seeds to make sure I’ve got enough for what I want to grow + maybe order more (I use organic seed from King’s Seeds, Koanga Institute and Setha’s Seeds).
  • Spray my peach tree with copper spray to try and curb the curly leaf. It was really bad last year.
  • Prune redcurrants, blackcurrants and raspberries – got too busy in autumn to get around to it and now is really last moment!
  • Make-over my wormfarm… I came back to a compacted and wet worm farm. To help the wee critters multiply as the days get warmer, I’m going to empty all the bottom stuff out, dry and sieve it to use for potting mix later ; then I’ll add new and dryer material  –  mainly half-decomposed leaf litter  –  and mix it all with a good amount of calcium (agricultural lime). I’ll also check that it drains properly and cover it to stop the rain from getting in. It’s so much easier to add extra water from a barrel than to deal with a soggy wormfarm!
  • Make my seed raising mix: sieved garden soil, sieved mature compost and old seed raising mix in a 1:1:1 ratio. You can also buy Dalton’s Organic at Commonsense Organics, it works well.
  • Sow the first seeds! This year, I’m only growing a few tomato plants outdoors, so I’ll hold off with those heat-lovers (but indoors tomatos, peppers and eggplants can go in trays on a radiator, they need minimum 20ºC 24/7 to germinate). I’ll start many others in trays in the greenhouse now: Beetroot, Broadbeans*, Broccoli, Cabbage, Chard*, Collards, Kale*, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce*, Mustard, Spring onions*, Onions, Peas (dwarf and tall)*, Rutabagas, Spinach, Silverbeet and Turnips. The ones with stars are ideal if you’re starting a vege garden for the first time!
  • Prepare a bed by pushing a fork into the soil and wriggling it slightly so it leaves nice holes, spread compost on top (5cm is good) and chop it in to the top 5-10cm with a rake or a fork, then rake the surface flat. I’ll sow some seeds directly in that bed, Carrots and Radishes*, and leave some of it bare to add seedlings once they’re big enough.
  • …ideally, I’d sow many of these seeds 2 days before new moon which would be Sunday afternoon, but I think I’ll start today. Spring makes me impatient!

Prepare for next week:

  • Start looking for more compost materials, take a walk on the southern beaches to check if there are good banks of washed-up seaweed (avoiding the Reserve of course!)
  • Check the compost when sieving it for seed mix to see it’s mature enough to be put on the beds
  • Go over my vege & flower beds using the Niwashi to cut “weeds” that are going to seed, if any – these can be put in a pile to go into a good big compost pile next week.
  • Check that I have seeds for spring flowers: Alyssum, Aquilegia, Calendula, Corn flower, Foxglove, Hollyhock, Honesty, Petunia, Poppy, Sweet william.
  • Put up cloches to warm the sunniest bed so I can plant in it soon! I double dug it in autumn so it doesn’t need much work now.
  • If you have carbon crops that start to go dry and seedy, prepare to harvest them and use the stems in your big spring compost pile. I can’t grow anything over winter, as my garden is too shady, so I don’t have any carbon crops.
  • Prepare (or buy) liquid feed for strawberries and rhubarb.

As you can see, there’s now a lot to do in our Edible Oasis! If you’re a beginner, I suggest you stick to a few crops that you really like to eat and learn how to grow those. Start with 3-5 different veges the first year, from the ones with stars, and add another 2-4 new ones each year. This will keep it from becoming overwhelming. And a few flowers, Calendula, Borage and Alyssum are both easy and pretty.

I’ll do my best to keep up with these weekly posts over spring, and I very much welcome your comments and questions! As my focus moves from my own edible oasis and my clients’ ones to the bigger workerBe oasis urban farm, I’d love to hear what information is useful to you and how you’d like to see my blog evolving. Thanks in advance for your comments!

Food Forest Gathering results

On May 21st, I had the honour to facilitate the Food Forest Gathering for the Wellington region, hosted by Common Unity Project at Epuni School, Lower Hutt. We hope we can make this a yearly thing, hosted and facilitated by new people each time – so if you feel like that could be you, do get in touch!

Right now, I’m in the very last few days before leaving the country for some much needed holiday, and I finally manage to finish some stuff! I’m a chronic initiator: I start things, am enthused, and then struggle to bring them to closure… Our yearly trips really help with that, and bring me a pattern of concluding projects around May-June and leaving just after Matariki rising. And now, I’ve finished the report of the Food Forest Gathering!

This week I thought I’d share the results with you, so the post is very long. But I think you’ll find something in there that may be that little pearl of information that you didn’t know you needed. We had a full day, starting with a guided visit of the Common Unity Food Forest (big thanks to Julia Milne). This was followed by a double-session on soil in the morning and then two paralell sessions after shared super yummy lunch, and another two paralell ones after afternoon tea. Each of the session’s subjects and hosts were decided on the spot in the morning through Open Space Technology, and thanks to the fantastic participants who were there, it was a very enriching day. A lot of time was also spent in more informal discussions with people networking and getting to know eachother. So let’s delve in…

1. Soil

Hosted by Richard Self and Zoe Reid, 10.30-12

Biochar experiment

“How to play with fire and build the soil” presented by Richard Self

We made bio-char! Ripped up cardboard – you can also add bones and eggshells – into a metal bin that doesn’t have holes in the bottom. Put fire to the cardboard and aim for pyrolysis, where the fire is smouldering with a minimum of oxygen. Add cardboard regularly to the top to maintain a vortex in the flames: they will be spinning and pulling gases up from underneath. When it has burned a while, pour worm juice or urine on top to kill the fire. This liquid penetrates the very porous charcoal and charges it with nutrients.

The finished product is good for alkalising the soil, adds loads of carbon and a huge surface area, which bacteria and microorganisms can hide in from bigger soil critters. Using seaweed  instead of urine/worm juice will add more micro nutrients. One big handful has a surface are of a football field, but all folded up!! Use two big handfuls for each square meter of garden.

Soil biodiversity and carbon sequestration

“Maintaining Soil biodiversity + How to use food crops to reduce carbon in the atmosphere” presented by Zoe Reid

Is it worth inoculating the soil? Different opinions: either inoculate with as many different organisms as possible, some will click and stay depending on habitat and food availble. Maybe this can lead to one dominating and consuming all others…  Adding a maximum of different foods will feed different microorganisms: Compost, duff, vegetation from other places, animal dung…

Compost tea – purpose: are we feeding the organisms in the soil or adding new organisms? Aerated vs fermented.

Value of different microorganisms is they all break down different things. Feed the microorganisms just as much as the plants. Phosphorus deficient soils, imported phosphorus often contain heavy metals. We need to make our own phosphorus, using bone char and guano. Keep recycling the existing phosphorus! Urine 15% nitrogen, 3% phosphorus, needs to be diluted well … maybe sprayed wide? In a vortex …? General laughter 😀

Adding nitrogen in right proportions to carbon is crucial for soil biodiversity and carbon sequestration.

2a. Crops and Guilds in NZ Context

Hosted by Kelly-ann Barrett, 1-2pm

What is a guild? Like companion plants to boost each other. In food forest context, plants feeding the “main” crop while also providing useful yields.

No guilds stand out as being specifically well suited. A lot of trials have been contradictory.

Crops good for a food forest: what veges can you have in there? Depends on stage of food forest, access to sunlight when trees are young. Succession planting. You could get everything in a ff, considering staged patches.

In a NZ context / Wellington: plants hardy in the wind. Buy trees that are specifically selected for Wgtn conditions (Neville Chun).

If in doubt add  more, don’t take away!

2b. How to start in specific conditions

Small spaces & Steep banks

Pam (1-1.30pm)

An area that has been cleared and which is steep and semi-terassed, where to plant? if you need to dig, it’s best to plant as close to the bottom of a slope / beginning of a terrace as possible, to avoid erosion. And to cover all bare soil at all times.

But do we even want to grow food on very steep slopes? It’s possible to use kowhai and coprosma to support the bank and avoid erosion, and leave it to natives if there’s other spaces for growing food. Forming the land: spring at the top of the property, water sheeting down, recommend to use logs underneath the cover to allow the water to slow down and soak in. Use structures on top of the soil rather than digging in.

Volcanic soils & Pasture to Forest

Paul (1.30-2pm)

We were lucky to have a geologist among us who enlightened us on the different types of volcanoes. In NZ, we get ash and pumice rather than lava flows. So when looking at resources on growing on volcanic soils we actually have to consider the combination of soil & climate in other places of the world to find something similar. Not very old weathered-down lava flows! Areas similar to here are Etna and Vesuvius in Italy – grapes & olives grow well there.

Resources available: Awhi farm, Turangi, Market. Neighbors. Contact experienced growers. Look at what grows well on other properties: chestnuts, plums & blueberries grow well in the area.

Paul has been putting down carpet to kill grass, and is now looking at what to plant once the grass is killed. Julia suggested bio-dynamic peppering of the weeds: turn them into a tea and spray on. Or burn and grind and dilute if it’s an animal. Recipes and advice are available from the bio-dynamic organisation.

3a. City sustainability & Community support

“Are sustainable cities possible? What’s the viability of urban farming? How can we gain public support for these initiatives?” Erin Todd and Jack Leason 2.30-3.30pm

A lot of vision! Most of these visions are already out there as ideas, more or less realised. The conclusion is that we just need to keep trying, and keep track of what works and what doesn’t work as well.

How to gain community support for food forests on public land? Recommendations:

  • Gathering statistics, data and stories on other current projects.
  • Inspiration from Dig for Victory and other wartime initiatives, which seem to be only times when there’s a genuine ownership and willingness from the public to create sustainable food systems and cities. How to recreate this but without the war?!?
  • We want to encourage and take advantage of council investment in this
  • Remind the public that not long ago all food consumed in cities was grown in the city, only 100 years ago.
  • Point to the example of Seattle, food forests from one side of another of the city, vision to be able to feed the whole city; the Cuban example, which has inspired a study re Glasgow being able to feed itself. Palestine is also self sufficient in food because of the Israeli embargo.

Can we create an impetus to create this change without having such an extreme need? At the same time, there is a really extreme need in many parts of society, it just remains invisible for those who don’t experience poverty. Maybe start there! Dig for Victory were based in positiveness and the social obligation to contribute to the national efforts, not from fear. So it seems it is a question of encouraging more civic duty in our communities, and more education around this.

Community ownership for food in public spaces is crucial! When planting fruit trees, food forests of any type of food production in public spaces we want to have community buy-in from the start and also council support. Let’s continue to put in proposals for local initiatives and stay involved in the political and policy making processes so we make more space for food in public spaces, both in the debate and in reality.

Finishing with Brad Lancaster’s (permaculture water-catchment guy) story about the gardens in his neighborhood: one particular neighbour was very very negative and at one point they were absolutely opposed. The group baked a cake for the guy, using ingredients from the garden, and completely won him over, blew his defenses.

“The circle of life is stronger than a lifeline.”

3b. Food Forests and Nutrition

Adam Shand, 2.30-3.30pm

Can we feed ourselves from a food forest? No reason we can’t! But if your land is nutrient  deficient, you get deficiencies too. So it’s not so much about being self sufficient, but locally sufficient… And it’s not just how we grow food, but also storage and preparation.

Designing our food forests with our actual diet in mind rather than based on what’s easy to grow. Describe new foods like combinations of what we are familiar with – apart for FF in public space as unknown foods don’t get stolen!

Chicken rotations as part of a more nutrient dense FF: Animals need to be rotated, you can use fences or domes for chickens so they can turn the land without damaging growing plants. Move them on before they demolish the land. A limitation is to pay attention to where you plant perennials vs annuals so they don’t destroy the perennials. And the chickens will need a different location for winter. A good source of inspiration for this is Linda Woodrow’s A Permaculture Garden, mandala garden.

Other animals have always been present in natural forests. Megafauna in forests trample, prune, and fertilise. We can use mob grazing to prune one area at a time.

How to get slow sugars and protein instead of just fruit from a food forest? Choice of crops: nuts (hazel, almond, walnut, chestnut…) and animals and understoreys (roots and pulses such as peanuts, chickpeas need lots of plants, flour peas, cannelini beans, broad beans, runner beans, quinoa and amaranth (harvest & bird issues – may better for chicken feed)).

Ways of storing / transforming the crops to enhance nutrient quality are drying, fermenting and sprouting, rather than jams and pickles. Another option that shouldn’t be shunned is trading to avoid deficiency – we’re all in this together!

Food gardening in Wellington NZ