Saturday, 11 May 2019

We're just dropping in your garden Chris...

Our pruning man Ben put a Facebook post about visiting Chris Ballantynes' garden and soon all the Tree Croppers were saying ooh can I visit too? Next thing you know the hordes descend upon his garden. Chris' landscaping company is Second Nature which I did some work for in the past (very basic garden care, ok, hired hand). Gardening is his passion, his hobby, his livelihood and his obsession. And so we met the garden behind the man.

Chris has got a very subtropical palms and bird of paradise lushness going on in his front yard, and out the back, the traditional vege patch, complete with bee hives and chickens as well as a sideline of exotic plants in pots all for sale. The signature plant star jasmine is there of course. All Second Nature gardens have them...the garden backs on to the Henderson creek and has a lovely view. The soil is NOT the greatest - Te Atatu Peninsula-ites have to contend with rock hard clay. 20 years of feeding and composting and a clay breaking substance has resulted in friable soil where plants can actually grow.

He gave us some tips on rainwater harvesting, sharing two big tanks with his neighbour. He feeds plants with comfrey tea, and keeps the kikuyu at bay with them.

So much to take in, but an interesting snippet he shared was in the commercial gardening world, or shall we say industry, nurseries have mechanised everything. All the plants grown for sale are mass produced on production lines like a huge factory glass house. The upshot is they can grow large numbers these plants, all controlled hydroponically but the downside is they only last a couple of weeks when planted in your garden and then they die. They are planted in peat, from Lithuania. He says they are glorified cuttings.

He also showed us these special plastic pots called hydropots with holes all around that mean you can air prune the roots and the plants don't get pot bound if you surround them with mulch. Black plastic pots though, are the bane and dirty secret of the nursery industry as they are non-recyclable and they make hundreds of thousands each year that just end up in landfill, many can't even be reused because its cheaper to make new ones then wash and sterilise them.

Chris mentioned a planting project Second Nature are involved in, which is actually at mum's work Parrs Products. They have transformed outside the factory into a bee pollinating garden, that used to be a wasteland of weeds - privet and morning glory and pallets. I'm definitely going to visit and check it out next time I will pick mum up from work. We have got pallets for Woodside Garden from Parrs and so good to see commercial business looking after their premises and creating gardens for not just to look good but to provide habitat for bees.

Another project Chris has his hand in is the Rivercare project looking after Henderson Creek and its environs, after several disgusting sewerage overflows and kayakers trawling rubbish as they went out kayaking. Now there is going to be a coordinated approach to monitoring the health of our creeks, clean ups, and lobbying of our Watercare  to get our overloaded stormwater system up to scratch.

Thank you Chris for showing us your garden. Some of us took photos, others took cuttings, I've taken  a lot of inspiration from another good keen gardener.