Monday, 30 October 2017

Go go goji

Mum gave me some cuttings of goji berry she filched from my brothers place at Epsom. I dug out more creeping buttercup and put them in. I tried to find information on how to grow it but it seems to have been left out of all the gardening books...and what's on the internet is rather scant, google growing goji in nz and come up with people complaining they just up and die. My brother must be doing something right then. However don't know about his gardening practices, because the place at Epsom was bought not built for us, so it came with a garden already.

Over there, the house is framed by a pohutakawa, which presides over many bromeliads, there's a buxus hedge, hydrangea, magnolia, daphne, a prunus of some sort underplanted with japanese anemones and ferns, round the driveway there are more buxus clipped bay trees, clivia, agapanthus, astomerias. At the back there's a jasmine and climbing roses against a fence, a wisteria over a pergola, cannas, and I thought I saw a kauri tucked in the back too. There is a lemon tree, so it's not totally devoid of produce. My brothers have planted some incongruous plants though..what is spiky holly doing by the washing line...and buddha finger, which I am not allowed to touch. And goji berry.

Otherwise it's all very solid middle class villa, with a lawn. My brother said it's like old folks home, but since I now work at old folks homes...that's not quite true. What do old folk like? Camellias are a hot favourite, and colour colour colour.  No white flowers. No boring ferns. Plants that get too big they dislike saying they can't see out the window. Everything has to be manageable for them so no big trees as that only reminds them they can't climb them anymore. Natives are a no-no. Heaven forbid if you attempt to plant flax or a cabbage tree at an old folks home. Anything that is bushy is out. It will interfere with their walkers.

Old people like fluffy herbaceous flowering plants like poppies and pansies and roses by the tonne. Granny's bonnets and gazanias, lobelia and alyssum. Geraniums and lavender. Tulips and freesias. Petunias and carnations. Veges like beans, peas and onions. And herbs such as thyme, chives and parsley.

Anyway so a superfood apparently. According to Kings Plant Barn it is a trendy plant along with blueberries and kale. Mum says she uses the goji leaves and dried berries in soups. It's supposed to be very good for your eyes. Which may be what I need now along with failing a hearing test, without my glasses I would fail an eye test. So I need to be wearing spectacles and earmuffs, and I don't know what next will go in this gardening sense of smell? My tastebuds?

Found out today that my boss may have cheated on his hearing test, because I was talking to him and he couldn't hear a word I said, and kept saying speak up I can't hear you, whereas I can hear everything he says plus he plays loud rock music in the ute. I was very puzzled at this because the hearing assessor said look away at the wall while I'm doing these noises for you on the computer, and press the button when you hear it. Well it turns out he wasn't looking away so every time a noise was made he just saw the hearing assessor tap the computer and responded straight away.   My boss says he didn't know for 30 years that he needed glasses, and whenever he did an eye test he would cheat the eye test by memorizing the letters. What?! Thankfully he now wears glasses but... I'm beginning to think something's up.

Is there a plant that is good for your ears and makes you hear better? I'm hoping there is.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

On gardenwear

Actually I did go to the working bee yesterday as had coriander to plant under the fruit trees (apparently they repel beetles and do better under shade) so I just put on my boots and rain gear. The guys had the power tool to dig the corner fence posts and pour fastcrete an instant concrete mix in and we just cleared the fence of the herbs to shift to the orchard. Hooray!
We harvested cabbages, rhubarb and wormwood, which I cut back hard. My hands also turned green- but that was from their kiddy gardening gloves that had green dye on them. It looked like I was turning into the Wicked Witch of the West.

Then came home, washed my hands and what did I do - more gardening. This time shifting an astelia pup to the corner by removing creeping buttercup and mulching with manuka clippings. Then planted wormwood cuttings by the olive tree. I kind of get that it's not the best drainage, but here's hoping my sand will do it's work in the holes I dug. Another move was a nandina that was dry and dying under a gardenia and eaves of the house, shifted that near the wisteria. Hope it revives. I gave it a big drink.

Today in two minds which church do I go to, St Giles or...Henderson. Well I have a book to return to Henderson but then St Giles is neglected and needs more hydrangeas. The church needs more hydrangeas!! Maybe I can go to one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. I don't know, the help I enlisted last week didn't want to get her nice church clothes all muddy. Whereas  Henderson doesn't care about nice church clothes as long as you wear clothes. I think I've even turned up in my tracksuit pants one time.  Well, they were clean. All my good clothes were in the wash.

Note to self, need new clothes and garden uniform otherwise will end up wearing fig leaves. I had to return my shorts I was given cos they were too big and were falling down. I am supposed to be getting new petite size shorts as soon as they get them in but it's been about 3 weeks now. Butt cracks are not a good look for gardeners! Thankfully I had tights on underneath but still. I then found my bosses earmuffs in my car. I need to put a label on one them 'Selina's earmuffs' and the other one 'not Selina's earmuffs'. We both had hearing tests last week and my boss got a perfect A and I failed, seems like I won't be able to hear dolphins or Mariah Carey singing anymore, bummer. So he probably doesn't need them despite being 20 years on the job and I being all of 5 months. The hearing assesor asked what I did previously and I mumbled oh..librarian for seven years. Yes a real noisy, ear damaging job. That's why I ought to wear earmuffs all the time now?!  We also wear goggles for eye protection (well I do, they go over my glasses) and gaiters to protect our shins. When think about it we wear a whole suit of armour, and we go armed with secateurs and wonder weeders.

I am thankful I do not garden at the Auckland Outdoor Naturist Club in Ranui. Yes it's nice to be outdoors and your skin does need Vitamin D but I think they go a bit too far. Also I wonder what they do about thistles and thorns and prickles do they wear gloves or shoes or anything or is it completely au naturel? There's a lot of stinging nettle around Ranui....

Friday, 27 October 2017

Wet wet wet

Today is a scheduled working bee for putting up the fence at Woodside but looking out the window I don't think it will happen this morning.
Labour Day was also a drizzle fest and I'm sad to say I didn't make it to the kumara workshop either, despite telling my friends "You should go!" The problem with rain is, unlike in Australia where it's probably very welcome and everyone goes out dancing and shouting Hallelujah when it does rain, in New Zealand, or rather, in Auckland, we can't dance as we will be slipping over in the mud. Gardeners are not welcome when they come inside with muddy boots and rain sloshing everywhere. I feel like a pariah, with my dirty fingernails, clothes smeared with mud, twigs and leaves in my hair, and grass clippings in the cuffs of my pants.
The trendy concept of tiny homes or shepherd huts is possibly an offshoot of gardening potting sheds or, as Lynda Hallinan terms them 'She Sheds', to distinguish the girly from the Bloke's Shed or mancave where, women are apparently not allowed to venture. I was looking at setting one up but of course mum doesn't allow it. And we don't have a big enough tree for a tree house, as mum cut them all down. It is for rainy days like these where, I inevitably go nuts from being in the same roof space as a contentious woman. Or maybe I am the contentious woman. I tried to figure out why I was single as my co-worker asked me on the first day of the job with him 'Why are you single?'. I just said I didn't know. Is that an answer?

Now I have had time to think about it it's because I am a messy person (or in kinder terms 'creative') and nobody wants to live or put up with me.
Also whenever anyone rings me nobody likes it when I'm out in the garden and have to come to the phone, because I don't take my phone with me into the garden, of course. What do you need a phone for? Only if you want people bugging you.
But maybe the real reason is, they just might have my mother for a mother-in-law and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. could be worse...I could have a mother-in-law that might out mother my mother.
So there's some very legitimate reasons, although one of my married friends said I will probably die alone and have nothing, like her brothers that never married or left home but, the married people I know all their children left home and their spouse died so its pretty much of a muchness.  Maybe they will be left with a big ol empty nest of a house and can move into a retirement village with all the rest of everyone in the same boat so I don't really see the difference as children and grand children are not allowed to stay in the retirement village anyway, am still trying to figure out if the children sent their parents there cos they were naughty or whether they chose to live there and sold the family home and sent the children away cos the children were naughty. I'm pretty sure that's where our homeless population came from, all these broken homes from people who just can't bear to live with each other anymore.

In any case if worse comes to worse I do have an investment home up in Heaven anyway that I've been promised plus gardens galore where there are no weeds, so, that's where I will be when I'm put out to pasture. And there is no rain and no mud. Thank you Jesus.

Hmm still raining. Well with all this mud and clay I could go make some pots if I had a potting shed and a kiln. And then I can garden indoors with my pots. If that isn't going potty then I don't know what is. Might just go read November issue of NZ Gardener since there's only 4 more days of October and I will have a head start. Yesterday my boss told me off for doing the indoor pots instead of mowing the lawn while he swanned off to Ayrlies without me. But it was raining!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Mission accomplished...

Although there's always more as gardening are never ending. But got two things done - planted hydrangeas by the church (two), and removed the rest of the blackberry bush from Woodside so we can put the fence in. It filled a bin and two sacks. Nicole says she's got a thornless blackberry we can grow, it remains to be seen if this thornless blackberry is edible.. but we will train it so it doesn't grow into a huge tangled mess like the last one!

 I have another to - do list

1. save toilet rolls to grow seedlings
2. sow - silverbeet, feverfew and wildflowers seeds
3. source more hydrangeas, need three more to plant by the church
4. create a lavender hedge by St Giles church
5. weed St Giles church corner bed
6. learn how to grow kumara
7. feed worms - think they've chomped through most of my papers
8. mulch other church bed at Henderson
9. buy coriander to plant by plums at Woodside as they repel beetles
10. visit Oratia Native Plant nursery, to buy aspleniums/spleenwort, pink cabbage trees, kowhai, hebes and manuka
11. more swan plants for butterflies, and bog salvia for bees
12. finish my design for APW

I am looking forward to the trip to Mangawhai in a fortnight where will visit some gardens with Te Atatu  Floral Circle. I am sharing a room with a seasoned flower lady called Sheryl.

Tomorrow must restrain myself from visiting all the garden centres...and buying up all their plants. They just look so good at this time of year.

I have been reading 'Farmers of Forty Centuries' Organic Farming in China, Korea and Japan by F H King. It was first published in 1918 and is basically a narrative of a tour taken by an American agriculturalist who is rather astonished that farmers in the East have been farming their land for centuries and never lost fertility, due to organic practises and manual labour whereas in America they farm for two generations with artificial fertilisers and machinery and end up with a cancerous dustbowl. I have been inspired by the rice paddies and think with so much rain and wet in Auckland, and the fact that rice is just a grass, why can we not grow rice as a crop here? Then we could feed our growing Chinese population, and won't have to rely on imports. We could also grow bamboo, (a very renewable resource as it 'grows like Topsy'*) mulberry trees for silkworms, and tea. Why not? We could just turn this land into an extension of China. After all, that's where roses, magnolia, willow and most of our magnificent flowering ornamental shrubs we grow in our gardens originally came from.  Bring on the pandas!

* I asked one of the old folk at the retirement village who Topsy was cos all the old folk kept saying things grew like Topsy, meaning something that grows so fast that it's 2 metres tall before you know it. They didn't know who Topsy was either. It just growed.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Labour Weekend

3 days of work...It's Labour Weekend. And that means getting out into the garden. I'm sure Labour Day was deliberately put in October so that everyone has time to go work in their gardens.
Also, we have a new last!

So things are looking up. Went for a walk round my garden and could definitely go for more swan plants to bring the butterflies, I've decided. I saw birds hopping around and one using my birdbath the other day. Yates have sent me silverbeet 'Bright Lights' to grow in my garden so need to get cracking on those. I bought potting mix the other week to pot up my aloes but seem to have run out of good size pots. I must have taken all the plastic ones to Kings, who have now taken up my suggestion to have a recycling depot at their Universal Drive barn.

On Wednesday we had a garden meeting to figure out what to grow for summer crops - my choices are kumara, eggplants, capsicums and sweet corn. Also as we've got funding for a fence we are going to put that in later this month, weather permitting.

Tuesday was Floral Circle meeting where we learned about orchids. To get orchids flowering again, they need a period of cooler and darker hibernation so the tip was to park them away so they can form flowers. And feed feed feed when they do - osmocote or orchid fertilizer. I learned that they kind of grow upside down or sideways in trees so when people put them actually they are putting them the wrong way, then the roots get too damp and rot. The best thing to grow them in is bark not soil. They all have unique pollinators and they are expensive because it takes a long time for them to grow from seed.

Church garden plans still on the back burner of my mind but I have enlisted some help to plant some hydrangeas along the side wall. How I will fit everything in I don't know but God knows.
Monday I plan to head along to Ranui Community Garden to learn how to grow kumara, last time we got an abundant crop of leaves but no actual kumaras. I only have one more Permaculture workshop to go and then need to present my design...who knows maybe one day I will be a genuine practicing permaculturalist if the new govt decides to have some regulations to keep greedy speculators from buying and selling off our land!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Empowerment and Resilience

Permie workshops are coming thick and fast. Yesterday's workshop was called 'Empowerment and Resilience' and going over my notes, seems to be telling us to - be encouraged and be flexible. The world may be going one way but Permies are meant to resist the world and set up their own commune. No hold on that's hippies. Finn just basically warned us about the coming apocalypse.

The old guard may not want to change but we can't change people who don't want to change and are not willing.  So let's just do our own gardens and encourage one another where we are at. Small and slow solutions right? So what if the church wants to expand their building. Just do the edges first, value the margins. Right?

One of the problems we have right now is with the mammoth supercity. Everything was a lot easier for us Aucklanders in terms of sharing and caring when Auckland was decentralised and we had some authority over our own patch. Another issue is renters and bad landlords. We have lots of people wanting to care for the land and keep it for future generations yet the Council don't see that as important - they just see it as a moneymaker. I think basically you can make a tidy earner by just buying and selling it and dividing it into smaller and smaller portions. Everyone seems worried over their own retirement but you know what...from what I've seen at retirement villages many of the old folk aren't actually truly enjoying their retirement. They seem to sit around in groups with nothing much to do and complain about their ailments and reminisce about the good old days. Swearing at us gardeners for not instantly tidying up their gardens they have left in a mess through neglect. But maybe I've caught them on a bad day. On other days they listen to ABBA and attempt to do Zumba. Money money money...

I don't know, its hard not to judge. If, God forbid, there is a fire or some other natural disaster or the volcanoes erupt those oldies are not going to be able to get out of their apartments in time. They'll be queuing at the lift and blocking the fire entrance with their walkers.  The gates, which only work electronically, will keep them locked in. I foresee all these hazards, the buildings are leaky, and yet, living as they do, they can't see their shoebox lifestyle cannot be sustained. I had this eerie feeling that they had banished the children from their fancy six storey apartments in a way they didn't really want them around. Trying to do something simple, like having a raised bed portable kitchen garden for their cafe is JUST TOO HARD. Health and safety regulations they say, and no we can't grow our own veges or herbs and serve them at the cafe. For some bureaucratic reason that I cannot fathom.

What does it mean for a Permie. Well maybe if they sold or better yet GAVE some of their apartments or land to younger people to live and work in (who can help them out!) maybe we would not have such a crisis. The meek shall inherit the earth, the rich can have their monopoly board mortgages and crumbling hotels. Nobody can really get out of jail free unless they stop playing the game. Permies refuse to play the world's game.

Monday, 9 October 2017

The Creek

Things are blooming and booming and the garden centres are at their busiest gearing up for Labour Weekend. I could not resist having a look see after work, planning to buy some bog salvias but instead came away with a scabiosa (it's a flower). Am still dreaming about my north border and whether to double dig, or lasagna garden it. According to Beth Chatto, author of 'The Damp Garden' the best thing for clay is to add grit to it. Or soil on top. It's just a waste of time to dig clay. There's also gypsum granules. At any rate, it does call for something if only I had the favourable weather to work in.

One thing that I find missing from garden books is any mention of creeks. There's coastal planting, and bog gardening, but curiously no mention of what would be best to plant round an estuary creek. Perhaps a mixture of both? I was looking in the library and the only book I could find was a biography of writer Maurice Gee. I found out, among other things, that he was a teacher and a librarian before he gave it up to write novels full time and his stories always seemed to end up with someone drowning in the Henderson Creek. We had an oil portrait of him at the Henderson Library since he won so many book awards but it turns out he left Henderson for greener pastures in Nelson. Not much help then?

Have been thinking of creeks lately as Riverpark is surrounded by Huruhuru Creek, which is further downstream from Henderson and Oratia stream. Woodside Road backs on to one arm, Riverpark Crescent straddles the other and then the creek empties out to the Waitemata Harbour. On Saturday we tested the water - it was fine and no shopping trolleys were dumped that we could see. What this means for our soil is that we get the run off from the rain and stormwater into our creeks but conversely we also get the salt from the tide. The one plant that does well to filter all this salt and fresh is the amazing mangrove which lives in this rich alluvial mixture of mud. It's not land and it's not sea. It's mud.

I have a booklet called 'Native to the West' A guide to planting and restoring the nature of Waitakere City. This was published 1997 and updated in 2005. Waitakere City is actually no more, having been subsumed into the Greater Auckland Monopoly Board, but I think there's still a lot of green space in the middle of that board that doesn't have hotels, casinos, parking lots and motorways running round it and that's where I'm putting the free park and playground. I have identified that we live in the Waitemata Lowland Forest region and there are plants that are recommended for this ecosystem. The main task is for native plants to claim back the land from the tyranny of dog turds, mud and mown lawn weeds. And phoenix palms. After we have eradicated these interlopers and sent them back to where they came from...the natives can then have their own party swing seat. Or something. I don't know. Maybe Winston Peters can help us out here?

Friday, 6 October 2017

The Promised Land

I have just been told I could win $500 if I enter the Yates Vege Growing challenge. I would rather win plants or a bit of land, but I suppose $500 could buy lots of plants and a trailerload of soil.
The deal is to grow some veges and monitor their progress, blogging at least three times a month. I could do that, I think. But we do that anyway at Woodside. So you can read about stuff that happens here. I have requested this season we grow more kumara. However Yates does not sell kumara as they are a tuber not a seed so am not sure if growing kumara would qualify.

I have been thinking lately, I would one day like to build my own house, with my own garden but need some land first. Where can I do this? I have decided I don't want to live in a cookie cutter home that someone else has made and abandoned, and possibly selling to make a profit or 'get rid of it'. Nor do I want to live in a factory farm for humans i.e an apartment block. Would you like to buy a broken home? We've subdivided it into 400 pieces. You just have to spend the rest of your lifetime putting it all back together again. Um no thanks.

It seems Auckland is full. Even the church's own land which was taken away for Auckland Transport roadworks has disappointingly said they are going to use the remaining land for expanding the church building, which I think personally is a horrendous idea. We don't need a bigger building, we need a garden. Otherwise why not just build tower of babel parking lot there and squash more people in? Then charge rent. What, no outdoor weddings? How can His face shine upon you when you stuck inside a windowless church building? I had just realised that many churches these days do not have windows so you go into a dark bunker thing that for all anybody knows could house a nightclub, complete with flashing lights and smoke machine. That's if the wolves get their way and turn our churches into lairs and dens of iniquity.

So I have revised my garden plan. We are just going to have olive trees, hibiscus, gardenias and bird of paradise, and there is going to be NO lawn I have also abandoned the sheep idea, and decided we are going to go with the flow and have Moses in the basket or Wandering Jew (tradescantia) to grow over everything, for that lush, garden of Eden effect. Nobody can stop tradescantia. It can cross the Red Sea if it has to get to the Promised Land.  It will be a teaching plant - if anyone asks what it is, I will just say this plant is to remind the Mayor of Auckland and the council officials to let my people go --- to church.