I visited the Koanga Institute last week and as usual, I was inspired by the maturity of the development of their permacultural design of a multi-storied garden. Koanga has built up a rich ecosystem and variety of vegetables, fruits and flowers by sowing and saving heritage seeds and plants. I can’t help but reflect how my gardening techniques and views have changed since I first planted silverbeet and lettuce seedlings in a small, carefully tended weed-free plot. I wanted more fresh food for my children and so over time, I’ve learned to garden without digging and of the importance of creating natural diversity.
“An ecological garden has many layers, from a low herb layer through shrubs and small trees to the large overstory. Each layer can contain ornamental species, varieties for food and other human uses, wildlife plants, and flora for building soil and maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Together the layers provide diverse habitat, many products, and plenty of visual interest.” (T. Hemenway. (2000). Gaia’s Garden: a guide to home-scale permaculture. p. 26).
Organically grown vegetable seeds were the reason for my visit. I like growing different varieties and so buy heirloom seeds with the view to saving my own seeds from plants grown in my garden. For winter crops this year, I’ve sown: Winter Lettuce (wavy fingers for picking through winter), Nutty Celery Apium graveolens (nutty taste, disease resistant, can pick by the stalk through winter), Purple Sprouting Broccoli Brassica oleracea, Salad Pea Pisum sativum (low growing, tasty shellout peas and edible tendrils), White Belgium Carrot (large, sweet taste, fast growing, good in a warm climate), Manglebeet Beta vulgaris (sweet, mild taste, large orange root vegetable).
The trees bought at the garden centre sale on Saturday are now planted.
Pohutukawa – planted group of three trees as a living connection gift. Crimson flowers at christmas-time. Bees enjoy the nectar. Fast growth rate.
Pukatea – planted two trees in the swamp. Evergreen foliage. Slow growth rate.
Puriri – planted two trees for posterity. Evergreen, pink flowers most of the year. Berries are a food source for the birds. Medium growth rate.
Kahikatea – planted a row four trees for posterity. Evergreen and berries are a food source for the birds. Slow growth rate.
On another note, I’m really enjoying the sight of the other trees – especially those gracing our driveway in their colourful autumn foliage.
Friend Trish and I finally got to the local garden centre’s sale yesterday. Most of the fruit trees had been well picked over but there were other bargains still to be had. I had my wish list drawn from the Northland Regional Council publication Trees for the Land: Growing Trees in Northland for Protection, Production and Pleasure (pp. 30-31) A guide to planting native trees. My best buys included four Kahikatea Dacrycarpus Darydioides trees at $5 each were normally priced at $29.95. Perfect for the swampy paddock I’m planting up. The garden centre owner said people weren’t interested in buying tall, slow growing, native forest trees. I won’t see these trees in their maturity at about fifty metres – I’m planting for posterity. Kahikatea may grow about six metres in ten years. Next best buy was two Pukatea Laurelia Novae – Zelandiae at $10 each (half price). Another slow growing tree that is best planted in a wet situation. Pukatea also grow about six metres in ten years.
In a previous post, I included a Rockyou slideshow showing trees planted in the swampy area. Today as we dug the planting holes, the clay was heavy and ‘gluggy’ and water welled up as we hit an underground rivulet. The Pukatea should lap up their new watery location. Digging holes for the Kahikatea was another story. We dug through the swampy clay loam and then hit the hard-pan clay layer beneath. We used the pick-axe to break it up. Worth the effort as the Kahikatea will be happy in the moist soil.
Digging in the swamp was easy compared to the digging we’ll do tomorrow on an exposed sunny hillside which has poor soil, rock-hard clay. Why the effort? Pohutukawa Metrosideros Excelsa ‘Lighthouse‘. I bought this tree as a living gift to celebrate the birth of 4-month grandson (sibling to two-year old pea-picker). I’ll also plant Puriri Vitex lucens (bargain price $7.50) as a solitary specimen tree and because the flowers and fruits attract native birds – the wood pigeon (kereru) and tui. Lots of compost will be added to give these young trees good drainage and a good start before next summer.
The sale was a good start towards meeting my pledge to the UN Plant a Billion Trees Campaign. Trish bought lots of sale-priced trees and shrubs – she’s planting a sanctuary to complement the earthbrick home they’re building on their two-acre lifestyle block.
It’s the long Easter weekend and we’re spending the time at home. The weather’s fine but the temperatures are cooler – especially at night and a light ground fog greets us early these mornings. There’s lots of catch-up work to do and preparations for growing crops in the cooler months.
The tree that fell across the stream – the last of the flood debris, has been cleared. Himself and our neighbour ‘played’ with the chainsaw and the tractor. Much to his chagrin, two year-old grandson wasn’t allowed to help and had to spectate from a distance. Adults get to have all the fun even to dressing up and wearing red ear muffs and leather gloves!
Gardening convert son’s efforts are paying dividends. His recently planted gardens are producing lots of fresh green vegies. He prepared a new bed yesterday and raised it with wheelbarrow loads of rotted wood chippings and compost. Same son sowed rows of broccoli and carrot seeds. He’s annoyed about the white butterfly / caterpillar damage to his cauliflower seedlings.
The local garden centre phoned to let me know that three of the pohutukawa trees I’d ordered have arrived. It’s quite good timing as the ground is moist enough to dig planting holes. In a previous blog, I wrote about planning to plant trees as living connections as special living gifts that celebrate life events. Older son phoned last night to tell me there’s a 50% sale on fruit trees and that he’d managed to buy several fruit trees including an Egremont Russet apple, Omega plum, Snow White nectarine and two heritage fruit trees – a Clergeau pear and an apricot. I’ll get my friend to come along and bring their ute – sounds like there might be some bargains to be had.
I like to rotate where I grow the vegetables in my garden. I have no hard and fast rules and tend to do what my father did. He grew potatoes to clear the ground and condition the soil in preparation for another crop. It’s a common sense approach to organic principles of avoiding the build up of disease problems in the soil. The brassica seeds have sprouted in time to be planted for the winter months ahead. I’ll plant these where I grew the potatoes in rotted hay layered on newspaper.
The hay that was mixed with weathered animal manure is now a crumbly structure and is full of worms. The newspaper that I’d layed down before I planted the potatoes has broken down and is part of the organic matter.
As is my practice, I applied a dusting of dolomite lime in preparation for planting the broccoli, cabbages and cauliflower seedlings and I’ve spread more newspaper around the edges of the new growing beds to suppress weed growth.