Tag Archives: workshop

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!


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!

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!

New moon, October

So much is happening now it looks like an actual explotion, except it’s not destructive but a growth explosion! I got back into my garden after two weeks away and it was covered in chickweed (stellaria media). As I chipped away at it with my beautiful Niwashi tool, the soil underneath was moist and open, full of life. It’s the most excellent living mulch – as long as you get it out before it seeds, which I hope i managed to do this time.

Upcoming events:

We’re looking for a child-friendly gardener who would enjoy coordinating the family garden time on Saturdays, please email workerbeoasis at gmail.com if you’re interested! Another role we’re looking to fill is Compost Guru: if you’re well experienced in making high-carbon, aerated compost and available for a part time contract, get in touch. I could do it of course, but I’d prefer focusing on other parts of the project and open up for more people to be involved.

In my home garden, I’m currently having the biggest aphid infestation I’ve ever seen on my mandarin and orange trees. They’re both in containers and need repotting, but first I want to get rid of a maximum of the little buggers. Yesterday I got them out of the greenhouse, hosed them everywhere and sprayed with neem oil dilution in the evening (when the bees are asleep). I’ll let you know next week how it goes, and if you have any tips please let me know and I’ll share them.

To do this week:

  • Sow all fast germinating seeds
  • Make sure beds are prepared for planting out – aerated, fertilised (Nature’s Garden) and compost incorporated
  • Keep on top of slugs and snails with night patrols
  • Spray brassicas with bt to limit the white butterfly damage
  • Feed everything with either seaweed or fish liquid.
  • Cut all weeds at soil level with a niwashi (available at Commonsense Organics) or a sharp knife. This time of year, I remove them from the garden and put in the compost. I find the soil warms slower with plenty of mulch on top and snails/slugs love mulch…

That’s all folks – hope to see you at one of the events!

IMPORTANT! In the first version of this post, I announced Gardening times for Workerbe Oasis. We’ve decided to push tis forward to November. If you want to come and volunteer before, PLEASE contact me – you’re more than welcome, but we have to be more flexible with time for the next couple of weeks.

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).

Spring changes

Last night, I woke up at about 3am thinking “oh no, it’s going to hail on my newly planted tomatoes!” and ran out in the garden under pouring rain to put cloches on all the seedlings. No hail came, luckily, but the intense rain and the drop in temprature were both quite characteristic for Wellington spring. Everything we do this time of year seems subject to strong winds and temperature hikes!

Other radical changes are also underway: I’ve finally done some work on posters and flyers and am ready to have some people over for a workshop! So Thursday the 13th November, 1.30-3pm, I’ll run a proper Double Digging workshop – part of the Grow More Veges workshop series, see above in the workshop menu. Please register to come.


Special offer: If you pre-purchase all the six workshops in the Grow More Veges series, you only pay for five!