My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

"I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills," William Wordsworth


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My Garden ~ potato harvest

I can’t imagine not growing my own potatoes. There’s always a space somewhere in my garden. As usual, I spread newspaper on a patch of ground and then layered rotted hay. I layed each sprouted seed on a wilted comfrey leaf and covered them with a deep layer of hay. As the shoots grew, I piled more hay around the growing plants. Fertiliser was cow manure collected with the rotted hay from the paddocks.

We enjoy the varieties and flavours. The different textures lend themselves to different ways of cooking. As I mentioned in a previous post, we simply steam Urenika (Maori blue potato) as we do with the early variety ‘Swift’. I add sprigs of mint (and of course there has to be a knob of butter and black pepper over the cooked potatoes).  

I tried growing three varieties new to me this season.

‘Heather’ is described as a main crop with a purple skin, smooth skin and white flesh, great taste and good cooking qualities.

‘Moonlight’ is described as new in 2000, white skin and flesh, high yielding, excellent boiling quality. Excellent drought and wind tolerance.

‘Red Rascal’ is described as improved Desiree with a deep crimson skin and white flesh. Excellent baking and roasting.

Potato Harvest

Today I harvested the crop. All I had to do was pull the hay away – no digging and the potatoes are clean. I left them to dry in the polyhouse before sorting according to size and variety. I keep some aside for the next season’s seed crop. I was pleased to note no blight or disease and minimal physical damage that seems to have been caused by slugs.

I store potatoes in shallow polystyrene boxes (used by growers to transport grapes to supermarkets and then discarded) and keep them in a cool and dark place. 


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My Garden ~ after the severe weather event

The floodwaters have receded and the sun shone yesterday. It’s Saturday and it’s clean-up time. Our concerns are minor compared to the major damage and disruption faced by people who live in districts up to one hour’s driving time north of us.

Clearing flood debris from fencelines  Poplar trees Poplar trees

Weather experts said the severe weather that wreaked serious widespread havoc in the north was once in a 150 year event. For our district, it was described as a once in a 125 year weather event. The long range forecast is that we can expect more of the same at some point in the future given the changes to the global climate patterns.


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My Garden ~ Severe Weather

The garden is now well and truly watered. The temperatures are still quite warm so the plants are happy – as were the pukeko. About 230 mm rain fell at our place in the last 24 hours. Easterly winds caused some tree damage. The animals were moved to higher ground. Himself said that as he took down the electric fencing from the stream boundary the water was rising rapidly from behind. Local roads were cut off – I wondered if I’d make it home tonight because of the extent of the flooding. We escaped very lightly in comparison to elsewhere in the region which had heavier falls of up to 400 mm causing serious washouts and slips on roads.

Rising Floodwaters Flooding  Flooding

There’s quite a bit of debris to clear away later when things dry out.


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My Garden ~ Trees for the Swampy Area

I’m attempting to reforest a swampy area fed by underground seepage from a spring . A hardpan layer lies beneath a layer of clay loam. Digging the planting holes has had it’s difficulties – rock hard in the drier months and very boggy at other times. A pick-axe was useful at times. While I planted exotic trees because of their affinity with growing in wet situations, I also planted native trees such as Cabbage Trees and Tree Ferns. I also planted two small Kahikatea seedlings  – these are slow growing and are planted for posterity.  We happen to have many Totara trees. Some are about 20-30 metres and still growing at about 80 to 100 years old. Tree have an important significance in stories Maori people tell of Tane, the god of the forest.

Thinking about trees and people in this way, reminds me of two quotes I read in the United Nations Environment Programme: Billion Trees Campaign 

“The great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, ‘In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!'” John F. Kennedy

“Trees are poems that Earth writes upon the sky. We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness.” Kahlil Gibran

This purpose of this post is really to experiment with using Rockyou slideshow to show captioned pictures of some trees I planted in this swampy area behind my garden.  

[rockyou id=61242868&w=426&h=320]


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My Garden ~ Peapicking grandson turns two

Life’s been busy since he came to live here last year. The garden’s full of discoveries – hedgehogs, water, animals and all sorts of things to pick and eat.

Negotiating the puddles  Driveway puddles are a natural hazard when you’re short-stuff.

Feeding the neighbour’s pigs Neighbour’s pigs love my rejected cooked dinners. I take the pig bucket with my food scraps every day.

Feeding hay to the calves in the winter Grandad just wouldn’t cope without my help. The electric fence is scary though.

Cooking makes a boy hungry Cooking makes a boy hungry. I let Nana help me make banana cake and date scones.

Wheelbarrow time There’s gardening to do and peas to pick. Daddy really needs my help with his new raised garden.

Sweetcorn is the new peas Sweetcorn is the new peas (Nana’s note: what he doesn’t know is that more peas are busy sprouting in secret places he doesn’t know about yet).

Black grapes is good I’ve moved on from strawberry tasting. The grapevine is a good place to hang out this month. I’ll get Nana to pick bunches of pink, white and black grapes for my friends at my party.

Story day with my friends at Playcentre My friends at Playcentre are coming to my birthday party.


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My Garden ~ planning for tree planting

Trees are still very much on my mind. At a recent family gathering, the importance of the function of trees in creating carbon sinks was a topic of conversation. My brother referred to something he’d read to the effect, ‘plant 101 trees for every one felled’. So it was with some interest tonight that I read Willem Van Cotthem’s Desertification  post, and I quote:

“The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a major worldwide tree planting campaign. Under the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign, people, communities, business and industry, civil society organizations and governments are encouraged to enter tree planting pledges online with the objective of planting at least one billion trees worldwide during 2007.”

Great idea!  I won’t be able to plant ‘101 trees’ though. I still want to plant some trees as a living connection – but I’ll broaden the ecological context. This autumn I’ll plant groupings of native trees and other plants for their flowers, berries and nectar that are valuable  sources of food for the native birds such as tui and keruru (wood pigeon) especially in the winter and spring, and let’s not forget the bees. The shades of green, the shapes and different heights should not only create a restful visual effect, but also an ecologically beneficial habitat. 


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My Garden ~ trees as living connections

Trees are very much on my mind at the moment. It will be soon time for planting. Last year when my three-month old grandson was born, Pohutukawa trees had started flowering as they do before Christmas. Later towards the end of autumn, we’ll plant a pohutukawa – our gift to celebrate this baby boy’s birth. The placenta will be put into the hole and planted with the tree. In this way his tie will be especially forged to the land. The tree variety chosen will suit our inland situation – and won’t grow as large as the coastal specimens. This tree won’t be planted in isolation – I plan to plant it as part of native grove that will include trees for his cousins and two-year brother. Trees evoke strong natural connections with our life experiences.

My sister planted a Rimu sapling when her son was born three decades ago. Decades ago, my Dad, who saw active service during WWII, planted Golden Totara, inspired by a memorial grove planted in remembrance of local men who did not return.  I think it was his quiet way of remembering and trying to restore the land. My sister-in-law has this most wonderful cherry tree – my mother-in-law would have loved the fabulous blossoms and bird life. Each of us has this strong sense of connectedness with the land.   

On another note, some tree felling will have to happen soon. A stand of Leyland Cypress  were originally planted as a roadside boundary shelter belt about 25 to 30 years ago (well before our time here). As with the row of trees lining our drivewway that we had felled in the summer of 2005, these are on borrowed time and are showing signs of rot. Himself will be able to get his chainsaw out again. Lots of firewood to cut. I’m thinking nature abhors a vaccuum. What trees can I plant?