Tag Archives: November

Super low maintenance garden

This year, I’m setting up a super low maintenance garden at home. With the baby arriving end of December, I won’t be out there weeding, watering or anything in January and February, yet I still want the soil to get better and also to eat some of my own produce… So how do I go about it?

Well, it does help that I’ve already got some good perennials going: Rhubarb, black & red currants, raspberries, lemons, peaches… I’ve also added in a full bed (5m by 80cm) of strawberries this winter – these only need a bit of liquid feed if they got plenty of compost and fertiliser when planted. Most of my hard-to-reach or dry areas are already covered in herbs which, if I don’t harvest them before they flower, attract bees and butterflies.

I’m choosing some different plants for my vege patch

  • Beans: my perennial runner beans are coming up, which is great, and I’ve planted some french garden filet dwarf beans too. I think these will be eaten and pulled before the baby’s here (or just about that time) and they will enrich the soil they grow in.
  • Cucumbers: with a sturdy structure to climb on, these will give some much needed shade for the rocket/coriander patch. And provide me with cucumbers which I won’t have to bend down to harvest!
  • Tree-lettuce: a variety of lettuce that doesn’t go bitter when it starts bolting. And it also bolts very slowly! Just harvest the bottom leaves (and if you don’t the snails will eat them). These can yield for months, much easier than having to replant lettuce every few weeks. I’ll leave them in place and let them go to flower so I can later harvest the seeds, as they are such a lifesaver for time-poor gardeners.
  • Perennial spring onions / Welsh bunching onions: these are a permanent feature in my garden, as they grow like chives and just keep coming back when you cut them. They taste more like “real onion” than spring onions, and can substitute either in most dishes. And on top of that, the green onions are more nutrient dense than yellow ones!
  • Potatos: just because I’ve got space left over, and my partner said he’d build a potato tower and add mulch as they grow. It’s an experiment we’ve wanted to do for a few years, but it’s never fit in to my crop rotations! We’ll measure how much the yield is for a tower. They’re much less work than tomatos (see below) and can take their place in the rotation.
  • Perpetual spinach: more versatile than silverbeet, it’s super hardy and will deal with anything you throw at it. You can’t even let the roots in the ground when you’re done with it, it just keeps growing back! 4-5 plants will be plenty of greenery for the two (soon three) of us.
  • Rocket, coriander and miners lettuce: in a patch, I’ve got all of these mixed together and I know that at some point they’ll all go to seed. Not an issue this year – I’ll either let the seedlings grow and eat them later in the year, or transplant them or pot up and give away… In the meantime, they cover the soil and are nice edible “weeds”!
  • Zucchini: I’ve planted 2, and count on them to take up a square meter each. Good cover for the bare ground, and I can just go out and pick what I need. Until they grow big, I’ve got radish sown in between, as they grow I’m harvesting the radishes and adding a bit of compost and mulch.

I’ve also changed my watering system. Instead of hand-held hose with a wand and very fine nozzle, which takes between an hour and three every 2-3 days over the driest period, I’m going for drip irrigation this year. It’s a first for me, so I’ll let you know how I go! I’ve got the theory, but not the practice on this 🙂 The idea is to have a system that goes through all of the growing areas, with the drippers at an appropriate distance for the plants’ needs. I’ll cover the driplines so they don’t get UV damage.

Mulch will be my saviour I think – I’m planning on cacao husks, if I can get it, otherwise straw, or compost plus wood chip if I can’t get neither. I usually plant very densely and weed as needed (generally only once after planting, as the leaf canopy quickly shades the weeds out when the vegetables are densely planted), but this year I don’t want to keep a constant eye on the garden and replant as I harvest. Mulch covers the soil and holds in moisture just as a good plant cover does, and doesn’t need the same maintenance.

What I won’t do, because it’s too much work

Tomatos – just the thought of tying up and delateraling weekly, liquid feeding, treating so they don’t get psyllids or blight or…. Rhaaa nononono! As lovely as they are when you’ve got the time & energy, it’s not for me this year 🙂

Carrots –  watering every day during germination, weeding religiously, thinning… no-no, all that crouching and bending isn’t for me right now. The organic ones from the store are totally ok for this season!

Kale, cavolo nero and the rest of the brassica family – over summer they all tend to get eaten by caterpillars, are prone to aphids and need a lot of nutrients and water. Can’t cope with that! I just might plant some very mature seedlings out in February, under netting, to have some next winter, but definitely not now.

Pumpkins – simply because they generally totally take over our whole garden, turning it into a jungle where my feet get tangled in their vines across the paths…

Spinach – bolts (goes to flower & becomes bitter) way too easily and need to be replanted regularly. Perpetual spinach can substitute in the kitchen.

Eggplant, capsicum, chilli, melon – these are soooo fussy with heat and often don’t yield well out of doors here in Wellington. I’ve grown them in the greenhouse, but they often get aphids there. So, not this year (I think…). But… maybe. What else would I do in the greenhouse? I can’t leave it empty… oh hard decisions 🙂

Peas – too much to think of. I’ll just forget to harvest them (I generally do anyway), and the structure can blow over and damage other things, and they get mildew if they get too dry in summer… nah. I love them though and wouldn’t usually do without.

THIS BLOG – as you can probably guess, I’m not going to necessarily write weekly! You’ll get the occasional post, but at some point there will be gaps of a few weeks or more. I know you understand – babies are kinda time consuming in many cases!  I’m officially on maternity leave from now on, so no longer available for design consultations or gardening advice. But I’ll let you know when I’m ready to start again – not before April 2017.

Big thanks for following this blog and spreading the gardening knowledge around! Happy growing season!

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First day of summer?

After the Spring Celebration a couple of weeks back, we’re now in a period that was celebrated by my ancestors as the first day of summer… even though neither in Sweden nor here it feels very summery at this point! It’s definitely clear that the seasons have turned and, apart a few southerly storms, it’s only going to get better.

Traditionally, this is the time for planting out the garden and dream of great healthy yields. To invite all the good energies / spirits / blessings (or whatever you want to call them) people used to light two new fires, by friction, and walk in between them. They also led the cattle between the fires to make the dairy ferment better! Often, all the old bones from winter were burned in these fires, and the ashes (with all that precious calcium) spread on the gardens. We can simulate this by making biochar and bonechar – we ran an internal workshop on biochar at workerBe oasis last weekend and are planning a public one for you – stay tuned!

Another tradition of this season was to visit a holy tree or well. I like to think of this as an invitation to connect with the wild nature surrounding us, maybe by a walk up a little stream in the forest. Feeling the energies of spring and summer growth that are present in the rising sap and sticking bare feet in the rushing water is such a pleasant way to welcome the warmer season! And if we don’t have the opportunity for a nature walk, maybe a few green branches by the entrance door, decorated with ribbons? Yellow flowers are abundant at this time and symbolise the light and warmth coming – maybe some broom branches?

To do this week (new moon Sunday 30th)

  • Check your brassicas are doing all right, give them extra seaweed liquid to strengthen their natural resistance to sucking insects and caterpillars
  • After the rain we had Wednesday, everything will grow crazy this week! But warm days alternate with cold, and Monday night will be quite cold by the looks of it. If you’ve planted out any heatlovers (chilli, tomato, aubergine…) continue to protect them overnight with a plastic cloche or microklima cloth.
  • Enjoy the growth burst! Find a nice spot to sit down and observe the garden. So much is going on now!
  • Continue to pamper your seedlings so you can plant them out in the first half of November.
  • Keep on top of weeds by weekly hoeing.
  • Sow seeds for flowers and companions: sunflowers, cosmos, gaillardia, alyssum…

Prepp for next week

  • By the end of this week, put the pots or trays of seedlings outside during the days to start hardening them off. Then progressively put them out for longer and longer periods. Before planting, leave them just next to where you will plant them for a good 24 hours. Slow hardening off means the plants are much less stressed and will cope with the planting out much better, leading to less slug/snail attacks and healthier plants.
  • Make sure you’ve got all the liquid fertilisers you need, gather materials to start new ones if you need. Best time to liquid feed is before and after full moon, that’s in about 2 weeks time.
  • Book a workshop 🙂 Next Wednesday, we’re working out plans for gardens to make the most of both the time and space we have. I’ll go through, step by step, how to plan a new vege garden, and how to adapt what you have to make it more efficient and abundant: Garden in Time & Space.

 

New moon to first quarter

Things are looking very promising at workerBe oasis on Hospital rd. Yesterday, we got a little shed up to be able to store our tools, fertilisers and hose etc on site. And we finally received the grant from The Funding Network, so we can now buy the things we need. Best of all, there’s a great crew of gardeners who’ve signed up until new years, so we now have the people on site to realise the plans! Very exciting.

Tonight I’ll be facilitating a workerBe oasis meeting using Holacracy. It’s a way of organising groups of people for efficient work towards a shared vision. Each person in the organisation fills one or several Roles which are clearly defined, and have full freedom and responsability concerning their work. We get together regularly in either governance meetings or in tactical meetings. The latter is a meeting where we just check in on what each of the Roles are up to and how we can make it all work as smoothely as possible, basing the work on resolving “tensions”: bring to the meeting all the little things that you think would make your work flow better.

There’s lots and lots going on in the garden now. Pricking out all the herbs, leafy greens and summer veges, supporting their growth and preparing them to go into the garden is the main task for me this week. The beds are all prepared at my place, and more and more get ready each week at the Hospital rd oasis.

Composting is another biggie: all these little lovelies need enough high quality compost to make it through summer. Focus on water retention and nutrient variety and availability when making compost will help the plants grow strong and healthy. If you’re unsure how to do that, sign up to the Perfect Compost workshop Thursday 19th, 6.30pm via email to rego@edibleoasis.com ($20 – half price for workerBe oasis members)

The moon is brighter and brighter, and closer and closer as well. Growt will probably pick up now – especially if the weather also warms up. We get a good dump of rain on Friday-Saturday, with strong Northerlies, so we need to protect our yourng tomato plants. From Sunday we can expect three or more warm and nice days, according to yr.no and metservice.

As everything grows, it’s important to keep on top of young weeds and feed them back to the soil before they become big and annoying. I leave their roots in the soil to act as food for the soil life and create little water channels downwards as they decompose. Their leaves and stems act as a thin mulch on the surface.

Prepare for the major seed sowing day 26th November, according to biodynamics it’s a day of “excellent seed germination energy, but space well for good light and air to avoid fungus on seedlings” (Rachel Pomeroy, OrganicNZ Nov-Dec 2015). Order or buy your open-pollinated, NZ-grown seeds, prepare or buy seed raising mix and make sure you have enough containers.

Pick some flowers, enjoy your week and feel free to share these little posts around if you find them useful!

Dark Moon

What’s up this week:

  • I’ll be at the Hospital rd Oasis tomorrow Tuesday 9-11am, and Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 4-6pm
  • The second Volunteer Introduction is Wednesday 5.30pm for those who didn’t brave the southerly gales and icy rain last Wednesday
  • Next workshop is Thursday 12th, Sow Seeds, 6.30pm at my place.
  • Next week, I’ll be at the Hospital rd Oasis same hours, and the workshop on Thursday 19th will be Perfect Compost 6.30pm at my place.

On Thursday, the Moon will be new again. But what does the different phases actually mean? There are three different movements: the waxing and waning, how high it is in the sky, and how close it is to Earth. Bio-intensive systems are most preoccupied with the waxing and waning, but as I grow tuned to these phases I realise there’s much more to the Moon’s influence on all living things.

Being alive on Earth means to contain water. And this water is easily influenced by the Moon’s gravity, with an easier upwards movement when the moon is closer to the Earth. The most obvious sign of this is of course the tides in the oceans, but there are actually tides in the fertile humus layer of the continents as well.

For plants, the photosynthesis seem to be quite influenced by the Moon’s luminosity (waxing and waning), and of course where it is in the sky. Some nights it doesn’t rise at all, and thus have little influence. Somenights, when the Moon is full and up from dusk to dawn, I find it really hard to sleep as it is so light. I think such nights are made for parties 🙂 !

Up until now, I’ve basically been repeating what different gardening books and publications say, combined with my own best knowledge and judgement. A short while ago, I started to be really attentive to when the Moon actually rises and sets, how high it is, what phase it is in and the sensations I have personnally and what I perceive in the garden. To help myself (and you, hopefully) with this, I use a moon calendar which shows just these three patterns. It doesn’t tell which constellation the Moon is in, as for biodynamics, but it helps me connect with the patterns that i actually do see and connect with.

So, this week:

  • Today, Monday 9th, the Moon is as its farthest from Earth (for this cycle). It will be less and less illuminated for the next three days, and is already at a scant 7.2%. It rose at 4.44am this morning, and will set at 5.39pm in the west, so it won’t put any light in our gardens at night.
  • Tomorrow, Tuesday 10th, it is a little bit closer (thus bigger, from our point of view), and less illuminated. It will rise again 5.13am in the east, set 6.35pm in the west.
  • Wednesday 11th, it’s rising 5.45am and setting 7.33pm, and it’s showing as a thin, thin sliver, just before darkening completely.
  • Thursday morning at 6.47am (just after it rises at 6.19am) it turns around and starts brightening up again. It’s already much closer to us as well, compared to Monday. If it’s clear, it will show on the west-soutwest horizon when it sets at 8.30pm (or earlier, depending on how high or low you are in relation to the horizon).
  • Friday, it rises after the sun in the morning and sets 9.26pm, so you have another chance at greeting it 🙂 .
  • Saturday, it sets even later (10.21pm), and is back at almost the same luminosity as today.
  • Sunday 15th, the Moon is well into its light (11.3%) and will be easy to spot in the evening as it sets in the west-southwest at 11.13pm.

What does this mean in terms of gardening? Maybe nothing, maybe something ; in any case it has been a way for gardeners through the ages to calculate when to sow, transplant and look out for diseases. Common gardener knowledge is that fungal disease strike hardest when the Moon is full and the sap is high, which for me sounds like the closest point between Moon and Earth (making higher tides). To prepare for this event, which would be the days between 21-27th, we should start feeding the plants with micronutrients now and avoid heavy nitrogen food the week before. So out with the seaweed and comfrey brews now for weekly sprays!

Support your plants through this week of weak lunar influence. They might not look like they’re growing so much, observe… Sow seeds of zuccini, beans, carrot, beetroot, spring onions and leafy greens on Tuesday so they absorb water and are ready to germinate when the Moon starts to move closer again, pulling stronger on the growth and the tides. Hopefully they’ll poke through on the weekend and benefit from the increased light as the Moon is up more and more at night.

Of course, these are just my experimentations with a life more in tune with these harmonies. If it speaks to you, feel free to use the tools and if you already have some experience in this I’d love to have your feedback below!

Coming together – Last quarter moon

Last week, wow what a flurry. Managed to support volunteers in double digging almost 30 square meters of bone-hard clay soil at the site – it’s not quite the right season for digging clay so that wasn’t easy at all. Many thanks & kudos to the volunteers! It is all coming together.

Also got some funding applications in, and would like to let you know that it’d be wonderful to find someone who wants to be our funding manager. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not that hard, but I really need to put my time towards the design and hands-on work on the site – sitting in front of the computer stresses me a bit! So if you feel that could be you, or someone you know, get in touch.

Talking about design work, I had three of the lovely Orientation Aotearoa crew here on Thursday morning to do just that. We came out with some fresh ideas, and moved some of the proposed structures around, so there is now a better design for the site. Really exciting to see how it is all coming together now as people join the organisation and we start digging the ground!

5 Hospital rd design

The full moon brough a lot of expansion and energy, but this week, the moon is shrinking and entering its last quarter on Wednesday. I’ll transplant some self sown calendula and borage, and dig up some comfrey roots to plant at the big oasis at Hospital rd once I’ve sprouted it in a tray in the hothouse. All the energies are kind of stalling now, and I’ll use this time to weed, prepare compost, spread mulch and prepare the beds so I can direct sow fast germinating seeds two days before new moon, that’s Tuesday 10th. This is the time when they germinate the best, according to Ecology Action who has done a lot of research on this. In my garden and for workerBe oasis, I’m sowing all beans, beetroot, carrot, chard (both silverbeet and rainbow), lettuce/mesclun, radish, regular spinach. All this goes straigh into the soil, well prepared, and watered daily until they’ve got their true leaves.

Continually prick seedlings out when they show their first true leaves all through this period. You can also transplant the ones that are big enough, but pay attention to the weather weather. It was so warm and nice this weekend that it’s easy to think summer is already here, but it’s another month of spring left. There’s a big cold storm dumping some rain on us this week, probably between Tuesday and Wednesday, which means you will have to protect and tie up your tomatoes, if they’re already in the ground, stake and tie beans and peas, and shelter zuccinis and other tender young seedlings.

Otherwise, keep an eye out for rust and curly leaf and other fungal diseases and control them before they get out of hand. Aphids are still on the prowl in my garden on all the potted plants – my rose is looking terribly sad! Hopefully the ladybugs will hatch soon and have a feast. To keep this from reoccurring, I’ll make sure to repot everything in winter and liquid feed well as spring comes!

Reminding you of the Volunteer Introduction on Wednesday 4th, 5.30 at workerBe oasis Hospital rd. All prospective volunteers welcome! No need to register for this one, just show up on time.

Workshops are starting next week with Sow Seeds, at my own edible oasis in Newtown, Thursday 12th, 6.30-8pm. Register by email to rego@edibleoasis.net, state your name, phone number, how you choose to pay (direct transfer preferred, otherwise cash on the day) and how much: $20, or half price for workerBe oasis members, or time credits for two lucky timebank members.

Hope to see you down at the land some day soon!

The lazy gardeners to-do list

I’ve just made a stupidly long to-do-list. There’s everything from “throw away the old dead pot-plants” to “mulch the citrus trees”. This inspires me to share my prioritising with you  –  maybe make your coming weekend (or week) in the garden just a little bit easier!

Ok, so what absolutely can’t wait? Nothing can wait, you say? No, a lot of the work around the garden can actually be done later. For me, the things that cannot wait just now are:

  • Transplant vegetable and flower seedlings as soon as they’re big enough
  • Protect fruits (I’ve got raspberries, red currants and strawberries ripening now) from birds
  • Mulch as much as I can after watering everything

Things that can still wait, but not for too long:

  • Mow the lawn: if it grows too high it’s annoying and it becomes patchy and uncomfortable to lie on, but the longer I wait the more material there is for the new compost pile, and I like to time the lawn-mowing with the compost making so the grass is fresh.
  • Weed the said berries: as I don’t have enough proper mulch, the weeds act as a decent living mulch, protecting superficial roots  –  I just need to cut them before they seed.
  • Liquid fertilising: I try to do this once a week on a not-too-windy day, but it’s ok to go a couple of weeks or even months without  –  just remember that once you’ve filled up your spray can with the brew, you need to use it all and clean the equipment before you put it away.

And stuff that, “sure, I’d like them to be done, but not today” are:

  • Weed in front of the house (I’ll do that while having a glass in the sun with a friend)
  • Transplant ornamental plants that are in the wrong place (when they’re really cramped and I also have the new spot ready… or never)
  • Pull out the enormous wild fennel plants (as long as  keep them from seeding, they’re not dangerous, really)

Happy weekend in your garden!

P.S. The next few workshop dates are to the right – please send an email to rego@edibleoasis.net for registration.