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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Drat! Rats!!!!

“We must”, I proclaimed to Himself as I handed him a mug of coffee, “reset the rat bait stations”, hoping in vain the Man of the House would leave off watching the replay of New Zealand’s Cricket XI Captain Brendon McCullum’s record-breaking fastest test century while batting against the Australians, and do the honours. You get the picture. Weekend sport, replays and all, is a sacred couch cow.

I mentioned in my previous post about a couple dead rats being an unpleasant fact of life and I couldn’t bring myself to take a photograph. Irrational, illogical, I know, I know. Indeed, and if you really must view pictures of Norway ‘black’ and Ship ‘brown’ rats, then google or click on the ‘pest’ link. It’s an ongoing battle against these pests that want the yummy food we put out for the chooks. We have predator proof netting the chook house, but there is the giveaway sign, the tunnel. I shudder.

What am I scared of? It’s only a rodent. Or is it a family of rats? I hate looking at them. What am I going to do if it jumps out at me? I’m such a wimp. I grit my teeth and shudder. You can do this. “If I have to I can do anything … I am invincible I am woman”, Helen Reddy sings in my mind as I don plastic gloves and collect the rat bait. I grab a heavy spade, for just in case.

I can’t think of a single redeeming ratty feature to commend this verminous creature.

  • Rats eat plants and fruits, destroying food sources of native wildlife
  • Rats plunder nests and eat chicks and eggs
  • Rats gnaw, damaging buildings, power cables and water pipes
  • Rats predate small native ground creatures
  • Rats contaminate fresh water
  • Rats transmit disease to humans
  • Rats scavenge on human waste
  • Rats tunnel, climb and hide
  • Rats cost me time and money
  • Rats are not nice to look at
  • Rats exist

I put the poison in the bait station. As I move forward to position the bait station under the chook house, my foot sinks against a tunnel concealed by grass. Horrified, I step back and stand in another tunnel. Geez!! Is there no end to this! I pull a clump of weeds and see the trail disappears under the overgrowth smothering the disused chicken cage. No rats jump out. Now, I feel stronger. I am doing this. ‘No’ to rats!

Himself has left the couch and ventured forth to give a helping hand. Together,  we each take a corner and lift and tip the cage up and out of the long grass.

With perfect theatrical timing, Rattus rattus leaps out of the cage. Seconds of confusion prevailed as Himself, spade in hand, and the rat play a deadly game of chase, while I, weakly in stereotypical female fashion, beat a hasty retreat.

Life’s not always a bowl of peaches in my garden.


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My Garden ~ Crimson Christmas Cheer

pohutukawa-collage.jpg 

Hi! My special season’s greetings to you and the people who are special to you and best wishes to you all for a happy and peaceful New Year. 

 pohutukawa-in-flower.jpg

I’m celebrating that the Pohutukawa trees I planted earlier this year are in bloom in time for Christmas. The drifts of white in the collage are the carrot weed flowers (wild carrot) which proliferate in the paddocks at this time of the year.  The cattle love the flower heads and the pukeko gouge and gorge on the roots.

The grandkids and their school-mates sang a neat New Zealand Christmas carol at their end-of-year playcentre and school prize-giving ceremonies – A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree http://folksong.org.nz/nzchristmas/pukeko.html which is sung  to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas.  Enjoy our Kiwi down-under spirit.


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My Garden ~ too busy in the vegetable patch to write about much else

It felt hotter outside than the official 20C today. The ground is dry and surface cracks indicate the need for rain. Never-the-less, early summer is here and this gardening month is busy with successive sowings, cultivation and harvesting.    

I checked the growth of my potatoes planted 30 September.  The Kowiniwini, Urenika and Maori  heritage potatoes are about to burst into flower. I was somewhat surprised to find the Swift (early variety for Xmas ) potatoes are almost ready to be harvested. Two-year-old Grandson who became an expert ‘tato inspector last year, inducted baby brother in the art of choosing the biggest and the best ‘tato for dinner tonight. He also picked the very first tiny courgette of the season (as you do) when you’re a connoisseur of baby vegetables. The early potato crop probably thrived because of the thick applications of mulch. The soil around the plants was friable, warm and moist despite no watering and drying conditions. We are careful how we use water because our domestic water supply is from rainwater collection. We pump water from the stream to the troughs for the animals. So gardening for me must be about conserving moisture and mulching. Our predominantly clay soil becomes rock hard in the summer – digging is a no go – hence I follow a permacultural approach to diversity and building up soil to encourage worms and beneficial insects.   

The Calendula are making a great show among the potatoes. With that in mind today, I filled gaps among the other vegetables with more heat-loving flowers as companion  plants Rudbeckia, Zinnia and French Marigolds. That should make the friendly insects giddy with delight (or confused should the pests have pesky intentions).  November here is a great month for flowers – I use different edible flowers in salads and drinks.  

I under-planted the sweet corn with a long green cucumber – my Dad used to do this as a living mulch so I though I’d give it a try this year as well as letting pumpkins sprawl under the corn plants.  I could have used beans – but I have these growing elsewhere. My last tasks today were to plant Sweet Peppers and to stake Beefsteak tomatoes – under-planted with Sweet Basil of course as I have visions of home-made pesto in mind.


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My Garden ~ Flaxes and Cabbage Trees are in Flower

a-corner-of-my-garden.jpg Some years ago, I planted these native plants to act as a windbreak to protect our fruit trees from the prevailing westerlies. The big bonus is that our New Zealand native birds love the food source. The native flax and cabbage trees nectars particularly excite the tuis and waxeyes (some people call these birds Silvereye) at this time of the year. The birds were coy about posing for the camera – so another time. Mind you, there was a deterrent. Mayhem – the Ginger cat, so wanted to be in the photo. He just doesn’t understand that the birds don’t want to be his friends. I love watching the tiny waxeyes – they look so cute after they’ve dipped their heads into the flax flowers and emerge covered with orange pollen. 

collage2.jpg My potato plants have made rapid progress and I’m still applying mulch rather than earthing up. The spring temperatures are warming up considerable and the other vegies are growing well.


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My Garden ~ trees are planted

The trees bought at the garden centre sale on Saturday are now planted.

Pohutukawa Pohutukawa – planted group of three trees as a living connection gift. Crimson flowers at christmas-time. Bees enjoy the nectar. Fast growth rate.

 Pukatea Pukatea – planted two trees in the swamp. Evergreen foliage. Slow growth rate.

Puriri 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 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.


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My Garden ~ planted trees today

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.