Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Billy Williams once said, “I enjoy painting, cutting the lawn, and working in the garden when I have time. That’s therapy for me. I enjoy working with my hands.” I feel exactly the same way. For me, it doesn’t matter how screwy the world gets, it doesn’t matter how stressed I get, all I need do is go out and work in my garden, staying out there from dawn till dusk, and by the time I come back indoors all is well. Getting my hands dirty is therapeutic, maybe it reminds me of the carefree days of childhood. I love my garden and the constant nature therapy it gives me. Here in New Zealand, it is the height of summer. Gardening becomes impossible after midday. Cool breezes and temperatures have given way to blistering days and soaring temperatures.

As for the weeds, they don’t seem to be affected by the heat but carry on thriving in a bountiful fashion regardless. In my ongoing efforts to control weeds, I employ various methods. With small weeds, I dig them up with a hoe and leave them on top of the soil to die. With Kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum), I dig up and dispose of it. The invasive Wandering Jew plant (Tradescantia) can be dealt with in many ways. Either find someone with chickens and bag it up fresh for them, as my dad used to do, or put it into plastic sacks and tie them up. Leave the bags sealed until the weeds turn to liquid and can be used as fertilizer! Another way of eradicating Wandering Jew is to pull out every scrap you can scratch from the ground. Or you can cover it in large sheets of tin roofing held down with stones to prevent light from getting in and leave it for 6 months or more. Lack of sunlight and air will eventually kill it.

My good friend, Lyle, used to pile all the pulled-out weeds on the ground, cover them with a plastic sheet, and weigh them down. He said he uncovered it every few weeks, and turned the pile over with a garden fork, crushing under the gumboots, and covering it with a plastic sheet. The noxious weed eventually transformed into compostable soil. Be warned before you put it back on your vegetable beds. Even the smallest scrap of root will regrow.
With Oxalis (from the wood sorrel family Oxalidaceae), resist the temptation to pull it out. This only makes the weeds multiply virulently. You can either cover oxalis with plastic, or tin sheets, and weigh them down till they suffocate, or you can pour boiling water directly on the oxalis plants, which burns the roots.

This is coincidentally the season when Onehunga weed (also known as Prickle Weed or Bindii) flourishes anew on our lawn. While the seeds germinate in autumn and get spread by foot traffic and on the fur of animals, the plants are forming flowers by the middle of spring. These contain ripening seeds with spines. Then the seeds mature and drop by the middle of summer. The best time to cull them is to treat them in spring, preferably before they have a chance to flower.
I have experimented with various ways to combat Prickle Weed, and I’ll admit I resort to a potent pesticide for this issue. Hydrocolyte is the only treatment that seems to work for me. It kills only the Prickle Weed and leaves the grass and other plants to grow. I walk the lawns and spray it plant by plant as it appears in the grass. It has to be done twice in summer. Painstaking but worth it to have no prickles, especially when the granddaughter is here racing about the garden, or the times I want to walk barefoot on the grass.

Also, don’t forget to water in summer! It’s vital to monitor moisture levels on young trees, dwarf fruit trees, kiwi fruit and citrus, which are shallow-rooted and dry easily. Feijoas are in the same category and will produce far greater yields if they are kept watered. If plant roots have moisture they are able to take up minerals needed and will stay healthy and more resistant to disease.
Happy Gardening. More next time, green thumbs.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

“Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Ever since I was small, my parents told me we had to eat five or more vegetables a day. Unfortunately, while the fruit and vegetables may look the same as when I was a child 50 years ago, today they are inferior. The other day I spoke with a friend who moved here from Europe in the 70s. I mentioned I didn’t want to eat genetically modified fruit or vegetables. She said, “But, we live in New Zealand. They don’t grow genetically modified plants here.”
The truth is farmers worldwide use hybridized and genetically modified seeds and spray their fields with chemical fertilizers, fungicides, and herbicides. Researchers like Weston A. Price have proven that vegetables have dropped their nutrient content by 90% since the 1930s. These days the only way to eat nutrient-dense food grown in healthy soils is to buy or grow our organic fruit and vegetables. I pay a lot for organic produce. At the same time, I am developing and expanding my vegetable patches so we can grow more of our food.

I’m keen on planting more fruit trees at home. However, space is limited as we already grow a fair amount. There are the veterans my parents planted: the plums, lemons, bananas, and grapefruit. There are three feijoa and two apple trees I have put in, as well as two fig trees, although I’ve espaliered the latter to keep them from outgrowing the section. Then I have lime, clementine, and kumquat trees growing in large outdoor pots. To add more at this stage, I have to consider dwarf varieties. The dwarf trees are too small to yield enough fruit, so we buy semi-dwarfs. I’ve planted nectarine and apricot. When buying trees, try to buy direct from the nurseries. And check the labels first to make sure the trees are self-pollinating.

Once home, plant trees in spots with adequate sun. Fertilize regularly. Prune fruit trees at least twice a year. However, do not prune when borer is flying, which in the southern hemisphere is November, December, and January. Another tip is to feed your fruits and vegetables, especially citrus trees with trace elements. Trace Elements Chelates is a good source, available in New Zealand.
With your vegetable beds, keep it simple and plant the vegetables you want to eat. But remember to dig in your ‘soft’ fertilizers like blood & bone or fertilizer teas to the beds and leave for a week before planting.*See my post, Backyard Gardeners2, for the recipe for fertilizer teas. If you live in a highrise or apartment with no access to a garden, it is possible to grow vegetables in planters, grow herbs in pots on windowsills, and have small cloches indoors. However, when you grow plants this way, you provide every nutrient the plants could need, which takes special know-how. Try googling a step-by-step guide or looking it up on YouTube for a tutorial.

Here in New Zealand, we still have a month of winter before us. It has been an ideal time for growing spinach, kale, silverbeet, and brassicas like cabbage or broccoli. I have two beds growing broad beans, which I will dig into the ground next month. It will fix nitrogen in the soil, ready for planting spring crops in October.
August is the time to plant potatoes as the seed potatoes become available in New Zealand prior to spring. You can grow them in garden beds or in containers.
The container method requires a Flexi tub, available at hardware stores for $7 – $11. Drill four holes near the bottom but on the sides not on the floor of the tub. Quarter fill the container with potting mix. Don’t be tempted to use compost in planters or containers. Always use high-grade potting mix or garden mix. Space out about six seed potatoes on the soil and cover with a bit more potting mix. Water them daily and make sure to liquid feed every two weeks. And remember to vary the fertilizers, to keep things lively.

When your potatoes sprout green leaves, add another layer of the potting mix up to the level of the first two leaves. Carry on caring for your plants and as the plants grow, keep filling with potting mix. After four to six weeks, the tubs should be nearly full. The plants might eventually flower and then wither away. At that point, tip out the tubs and harvest the potatoes.
The garden method requires a trench dug across the bed half a spade in depth. Put seed potatoes spaced apart at the bottom of the trench and cover lightly with soil. As the green shoots and leaves come up, add soil and keep adding earth until you have built your trench into a mound running along the vegetable patch. When the greenery above ground starts to fail and wither, it is time to dig up your crop of potatoes. Yum! There is nothing like the taste of homegrown.
Happy Gardening. More next time, green thumbs.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol


Life can be difficult if all you see is everything that’s wrong. Start focussing on what’s right, what’s good, what’s constructive. If you want to feel better, you’ve got to think better. ~ Mufti Menk

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I have finished the backyard gardening course put on by our local council. The webinar series featured a gardening expert, Paul, teaching basic tenets and techniques for backyard gardeners like myself who want to grow more vegetables. The course has been educational. I have learned more than I expected.
The first vital tenet for the home gardener is to develop your ground. The message our tutor Paul repeated most often was to feed the soil and use organic matter to improve it. The organic matter can come from worm bins or compost heaps and needs digging in. Alternatively, it is easy to buy compost by the bagful, which Paul advocated spreading on top of the beds. Fertilizers come in hard (pellet form), liquid, or soft (powdered). Pellets need to be dug through beds and left for two weeks before use, preferably three to four weeks.

I usually buy a bag of sheep pellets once a year and sprinkle it around the garden. I did not realize that I was at risk of “burning” the plants if the pellets ended up against the stems or trunks. Fertilizer powders like blood & bone or powdered seaweed work faster and are safe to use. Always dig them in on a rainy day to save yourself and your house wearing the powder. These products should be dug through first and left to settle for a week or two before planting.
The buzzword these days is tea, especially the homemade kind. In the first post on this subject, Backyard Gardeners, I shared how to make worm tea. If you don’t have a worm farm, or even if you do, you can also make other fertilizing teas, like sheep pellet tea and compost tea. It is best to vary the kinds of products you feed your garden. Just as we need a variety of vitamins and minerals to grow healthy and strong, so do our plants.

Sheep pellet and compost teas are both made the same way. Quarter fill a bucket with pellets/compost, then fill the bucket preferably with rainwater. Again leave for three to four weeks. Then you have fertilizer tea to put in your garden. Typically, the tea is strong, so make sure to dilute it 50/50. Throw the remains of the pellets and compost back onto the compost heap and start your buckets again. And though you might feel tempted to feed your ground more often, once a fortnight is plenty.
As to pests, I was surprised that when it came to controlling the critters munching on our vegetables, the first thing Paul said was, “Don’t worry too much. Most plants will outgrow the pests.” Then, after half an hour of dispensing advice about the various insecticides available, he said the easiest, cheapest way of dealing with pests eating our vegetables was to spray them with a homemade mixture: mostly water with a bit of detergent. Yay! Love it.

An advocate of natural pest control, Paul recommended encouraging birds (who predate on snails and caterpillars) into the garden by providing water and feeders. He suggested employing companion planting, where certain plants are grown together because they repel pests. He also told us about a company in NZ called Bioforce that supplies predatory insects to consume the bugs bothering your plants. There are all sorts of natural, simple ways of dealing with issues in the garden.
My advice? Throw yourself into it. That’s what I did fourteen years ago, and I am obsessed with my garden and growing our fruit and vegetables. The main thing every gardener must remember to do is to love your plants! (My advice, not Paul’s). I believe plants respond to attention and love. I talk to my plants, even sing to them. Why not? You’ll be happier either way.
More another day, green thumbs.
Why not have a go and get gardening!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Gardening is active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe. ~ Thomas Berry

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