Sunday, 30 June 2019

Morning report

I was a busy weekend gardener. I did so much work that I'm hoping it will last me through the next few months of July and August while waiting for spring. Earlicheer jonquils are already out and my magnolia is budding.

I put in two new strawberry patches, one by the garage and one by the front door. Thank you Woodside Garden for the extra strawberries. Also added a whole lot of comfrey leaves as mulch. Apparently pine needles make really good mulch for strawberries, but I was using straw and lavender cuttings.

Also planted - more catmint, purple sage, and iceland poppies (which were promptly dug out by Martha as the poppies didn't have much protection. Ah well)

I also pruned the tangelo tree for some deadwood, which I may burn and make biochar. I dumped neem granules all around the citrus. I pruned some of the kowhai, which is gloriously flowering right now. It's divaricating habit makes it sprawl over the ground, so I can't get past. I'm training it to behave.

I planted some oriental lillies in the front side bed, scented. I had two packets so ten bulbs in total.

After that I swept the paths.

Someone has generously donated a whole lot of garden magazines in the pop up library so I've taken them out to go through them and read. Some copies I already have though. I sometimes find it annoying that people donate me garden magazines because I already have loads of the exact same copies. You not doing me any favours by giving me magazines I already have read. I think people can't just bear to biff them because they contain good information. Some magazines are totally throw away, like yesterday's newspaper, but in gardening world next season will come round again and you'll be looking at that month's issue even if it's from ten years ago wondering well what do I do now?

Just don't answer any of the  advertisements because some of those businesses have gone out of business, and the garden events and festivals have all passed, and fads and fashions change - who knew in the last decade that designer gardens would come crashing down because of the GFC (global financial crisis) so people couldn't spend money they actually didn't have on investing in their gardens to raise their property value to sell later. Well thank goodness for that because it's tiring looking at all the fancy garden gear and accoutrements they kept wanting you to buy to tart up your garden.

Now people have come to their senses and gone back to their first love, which is to grow yummy food to eat in their gardens and not just cos it's fashionable but because its necessary! Far be it from me to look down on anyone who thinks gardening is just a hobby to keep up appearances with the neighbours and that people do it just cos they have nothing better to do. Actually it's actually the only thing worth doing. You don't garden, you don't eat, and you won't have food for your soul.

I'm thinking of donating some of these extra magazines to the doctors waiting rooms. I don't know about you but doctor's waiting rooms seem to have the most trashy magazines. You could be waiting for the doctor for an eternity and all you have to look at is celebrity porn. How about a good garden magazine, that way, if you get into gardening, you might not even have to see the doctor next time.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

A spot of gardening

Kings Plant Barn is having a stocktake sale..with 30% off all plants. I swooped in and bought red cabbages, curly leaf red kale, ornamental purple kale, red begonias and purple primroses. If I'd had more money I would have snagged some more neem tree granules, and oriental lilies (scented) but I had to stick with my budget. I ran into a Garden Planet listener...Gui-Jae, who I don't know from a bar of soap, but apparently she knows who I am (are you Selina?) why yes I am..but rather embarassingly, I was not recording today because of my croaky cold which I am still getting over. Which is why I was looking at room diffusers in the gift section, to put in the library. Maybe the scent of mandarin and basil will dispel all the germs...? My Garden Planet listener had in her trolley a kaffir lime, a blueberry bush, and a persimmon. We chatted about this and that and then I went on my way, time was ticking.

I raced home to plant my haul, digging little holes around my azalea, and in front of the wisteria, and mulching with wormwood leaves. Mum and Dad must have something to come home to...they are going to cricket matches, and hanging out at transport museums, riding trains and having yum cha (or is it high tea?)  in Merry Olde Englande. I'm catching up with housework and hungry cats, and more laundry. Not to mention homework.

I found some potatoes at the bottom of my potato pile, looking like they are going to sprout. I know it may be a bit early, but I put them in my prepared potato pile of cabbage tree leaves and other prunings. hoping if they take I'll have potatoes for Christmas. They are agria potatoes, the best kind.

I've also decided the spider plants are ready to go in the ground in my flaming bed area, as a border. Terri suggested they were good border plants for night time because their white variegation illuminates a path. Now that I've gardenised my section (is that a word?) I'm having a cup of tea and a lie down because there are only four more days before my folks come home and Lord knows I won't get anything done or my peace and quiet back when they return.

Jolly good.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Magic mushroom compost

I recruited another older sister Louise to help me pile some mushroom compost into our gardens. A mushroom wholesaler was giving away free old mushroom compost/spawn on TradeMe, so even though we had to go all the way to Stanmore Bay in Whangaparoa, we pitched in and secured a car load of magical mushroom compost, so good for our garden beds. The bonus was there were pine needles there too so we piled in bags of pine needle for mulch.

What the mushroom compost does is not just good compost and bulk for the soil but contains a substance called mychorhizzal fungi that attaches to plants roots and works in symbiosis with the plant to form a vast network, kind of like a plant's facebook or social media network to exchange water,  food and nutrients that the roots can't access just on their own. They also bind heavy metals in the soil and decontaminate polluted areas, bringing barren areas to life.

A book called Mycelium Running, by Paul Stamets is  famous in Permaculture circles. It explains just how essential fungi is to life on this planet. Mycelium, or what we know and see as mushrooms, could literally save the planet. And it all happens underground. Some mycelium networks  or fungi can be four miles wide, making it largest single living organism one earth.

I've always liked mushrooms, the grower said he was growing Shitake mushrooms, which I know as Chinese Dried Mushrooms but other people call them by their Japanese name. They are delicious in soups and stir-fries, a boon for vegetarians - they are actually neither plant not animal. And they grow on rotting wood, in the wild they are found in forests. A gourmet food that every chef worth their salt ought to be familiar with.

I got home and piled the mushroom compost on my new garden bed, which is now marked out, with another edging of mondo grass. I've covered it with some plastic trellis to prevent Martha from digging it up all over the path, and will let it sit over winter to settle and rot down for planting in spring. Although I might not be able to resist planting at least a few plants..but I'm thinking I might need some cloches if I want to put any cabbages in. Old light shade fittings from the Op shop might do, or empty hanging baskets placed upside down.

Louise offered me a spare bag of sheep pellets which I sprinkled liberally and I used up the last of my dolomite lime. Its kind of fun like making a lasagna or layer cake to build a garden bed. I'm much better at gardening than baking. My baking makes the kitchen a complete mess so I don't do it much, although I have freedom while mum is away to cook whatever I like....

Some seeds I sowed today by the fence line were packets of Keith Hammett's sweet peas, 'Solstice Rose Pink' and 'Sweet Pea Blue Shift'. Hoping they will be in glorious bloom by November.
The Te Atatu Floral Circle held its 55th Anniversary celebration on Saturday, which was a fancy high tea. It was gorgeous, and I'm thinking I might visit the Chapel one Sunday because they always hold their meetings there, so surely they won't be averse to gardens and gardeners like St Giles were. They even have a community garden in their churchyard growing veges and a fruit and vege stand to swap produce. It's a shame I don't live on the Peninsula though, I need to find a church closer to home that will welcome gardeners. Or I could just carry on at the Baptist which I sadly have been neglecting. I have my eye on an empty garden bed just crying out for flowers. If nobody steals the flowers this time (won't plant poppies) I might just secretly do it.

I learned if you tell someone you want to do something or ask they just say you can't do it. The other alternative is they just rip out what you did or tell you to remove it, but maybe they can't if they don't even know you did it. Guerilla's like grafitti. But with plants.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Sisters are doing it for themselves

Well I've finally done it. I've got the base, mattress, and blankets, now ready for final cover and cushions - the plants!
My wisteria by the fence is losing its leaves. I've planted purple liriope along the fence line that I dug out from Sock's and Mary's bed, as well as mondo grass by the path, and around the azalea. Under the azaela I've placed a thick mulch of pine needles, scrounged from the reserve.

I've prepared the bed two ways, first dug over and turned the turves down, another patch I've not dug over and just placed newspaper and my homemade compost on top. I anticipate I may have to do some weeding in future because not all the kikuyu will die, but at least the soil is loosened enough it will be easier to weed. Plus I didn't want to lose all that lovely soil and spread weed seeds. The mondo grass did have some oxalis poking through but I've mostly removed those, so will keep an eye on it. I also added my new secret ingredient - biochar. Here's hoping it works! And of course later when things are growing I will add more CPP.

Now for the fun part, what to plant in the middle. Here are some contenders.

Ajuga - bugleweed, a purple groundcover I've now got a few of that I can divided and replant, perfect time for it is now. That will go around the azaela.

Strawberries - could make a good groundcover, but not confident Martha will scratch them out or eat them all.

Red cabbages or ornamental, purple cabbages.

Daikon radish - a clay breaker? Or would that be better broadcast to where I dug the mondo grass out?

Catmint - I'm really hoping to give it a good chance here, and the purple flowers will compliment the wisteria. It's a good edge/border plant.

Chives - perhaps a row of chives all along the mondo so it's within easy picking distance?

Purple salvia - I have two growing in tyres I could easily transplant

So many choices! But my next project to do is get some early potatoes in for summer. I have a bed prepared and need to just drop the potatoes in. It's basically a pile of clippings, prunings and fallen cabbage tree leaves. I'm going to give the gardenia a haircut as well to shape it up after its finished flowering, as it's getting leggy.

Lots of stuff to do! And only a week or so before Mum and Dad get back! We had our first frosty morning two days ago but all the plants seem to have survived that one. My arch near collapsed on that windy day and I was a bit furious with Trade Tested who sold me the product and they were absolutely no help at all. Um why don't you sell replacement screws or anchors with your product. Do you guarantee it? All they did was tell me to go to Mitre 10 or Bunnings. Well I already did and bought four rebars to pound into the ground. Try doing that single handed, well I had to as there was nobody around to help me.
Anyway the wind died down and its seems to be holding for now, but Dad did a hideous job of staking it with bright red ties. It looks frightful, and he's absolutely ruined the buxus around it. But what can you do, all of them are mere males. One learns never to ask a man to help as all they just give bad advice and don't lend a hand, or they just stick sellotape over the wound. You end up pulling out their bad fix-it job and starting all over.

Aiya. So here I am, forget about DIY.  It's DIM Doing it myself.   Or rather SADIFT. Sisters are doing it for themselves!

Sunday, 16 June 2019


Things are gearing up for Matariki - the Maori New Year.
I've been learning more Maoritanga this year than ever before, from Rongoa Rakau Maori herbal medicine, to going to my  second round of evening classes at Te Wananga, and now learning how to incorporate Te Reo and caring for tamariki who are tangata whenua at Ranui Primary School. I'm Kaitiaki of Te Wharepukapuka and the children call me Whaea Selina.

Me, a mother?
Well yes to 400 tauira! (students)
Gulp. The problem is, working at school means I get all the bugs. I worked outside gardening in all weathers for 18 months and never caught cold. But now I'm inside for four days a week at the library and I get everything that's going. Mum said 'don't blame the children!' but I say it's just a fact of life. I can't do anything about it, except stay in bed and catch up on my reading.

The school put on a Matariki Disco, and a Matariki Breakfast, and I couldn't go to either of them. However I've been reading Matariki stories, and whats so important for us gardeners to know, is that when we see Matariki, the seven sisters stars on the horizon, that means its time to prepare the garden for new crops. If you live further down South, you might not see Matariki, but her cousin, Puanga, another bright star, heralding the start of winter.

So this weekend I started digging my new garden bed. Bev had come over last weekend for a visit. I was picking her brain for advice. She just said 'plant what you like' but problem is, I like almost all plants. I'll give anything a go. I've decided to take her advice about preparing my new bed by digging over the turves, letting them rot down, placing my homemade compost on top, and also some soil amendments - biochar, and CPP. Lasagna gardening experts say put newspaper down 10 sheets thick to smother weeds and then place lucerne hay and manure on top but I don't have any lucerne hay handy. Also I don't know if lasagna style gardening actually really works on clay soil. I was reading another book that talked about raised beds, but then they said if you've only got clay then you have to go out and BUY soil. Man, do the people who write gardening books think gardeners are made of money?

Apparently some do, the authors of Gardens of the Greats sure think so, for the majority of the people they interviewed for this book were flush with cash enough to splurge on their properties, like Michael Hill (Jeweller) and Bev McConnell, (gardening doyenne) and other well known philanthropists. Bob Harvey (former Waitakere Mayor)  likes clivias, Malcom Rand (of Eco Store) is into permaculture, and  Sir Ray Avery (inventor) relaxes in a Japanese style garden.

Well like all things I was then inspired to use what I have. After all even these people had to start somewhere and rely on their own resources before they called the landscapers in. I don't have any landscapers. I'm the landscaper. At least David Hornblow gives down to earth advice. He just advises make compost, compost and more compost. You can never have too much compost.

I've made a start of digging over and and lined the fenceline with some liriope I've dug out from under the feijoa tree. I never liked the lirope there where nobody could really see it behind the buxus. Then I will filch some purple salvias I've got in tyres in my other beds and see if I can get a purple flower theme going, to complement the wisteria, which is rapidly losing it's leaves. For the edging I'm going to try ajuga, and if that fails, more garlic chives. And then, I'm going to try a gardening trick learned from Trish Allen, to grow daikon radish to break up the clay soil. To complete the edibles theme, will add some red cabbages. I'm hoping the next crop after that could be kumara, but that will have to wait...

I hope these children will like daikon radish. Who knows I might be able to persuade them to like Lo Bak Go when its harvest time. They're all keen to try the Hell Pizza challenge - read seven books and earn a free pizza, but how about reading 8 and they can earn free Lo Bak Go.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019


Am sad because Les passed away on Monday. I wasn't able to go to his funeral, which was today.
I will miss him as he was a kind and humble man who was always eager to help with the St Giles church garden. We weren't able to do much this year as the church board said we couldn't spend any money (which wasn't theirs anyway, it was funded through the Eco Matters  Love Your Neighbourhood Fund) or plant anything. He would always ask me but I had to say no we can't do anything Les. I had to call the project off because of the lack of support from the church board and wrap it up. I did that last week after a somewhat fierce argument with them claiming it was never approved, despite all the evidence that they said go ahead at first.  After much back and forth I decided I just couldn't go to St Giles anymore if the church board was not interested in creating a garden as we still had unspent funds.
It was only last weekend that they said Les was on life support at the hospital, but as I wasn't there, I only heard about it on Tuesday.

Les was a bit of a character and self-confessed chatterbox. He had led an interesting and colourful around NZ and Australia and was always telling me his exploits and what he got up to when he was young. He really enjoyed gardening, going to the library where I used to work, and our trip to Motat, where he ran to catch a moving tram!  One time I bumped into him at the library and invited him the  community meal at the Baptist church. He made a good dinner companion. He was finally baptised in February of this year (after a few years of us praying and urging him) at St Giles so finally found that peace with God he was searching for. Bless Les that he's now found and abiding in his Saviour. I'm sorry that I wasn't able to get to the zoo with him that was going to be our next day out trip. But I'm pretty sure there will be plenty of animals and plants in heaven.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Calling all Gardeners

Please fill out my Questionnaire and help Garden Planet!

It's only ten questions. I really appreciate all responses. Well except for one really rude person on Neighbourly who probably isn't even a gardener, who seemed put out that they were asked to fill out a 'badly designed questionnaire not done by a professional'. Well sorry that it's on Google forms and I didn't pay someone $100 bucks to do a top job maybe he was just put out I didn't ask him to design it.   Oh well thats his problem!

My teacher just said, don't listen to people who say nay. She gives us all motivational quotes like this one from Michelle Obama, who by the way, is a gardener I look up to, after all, she turned some of the White House Lawn into a thriving kitchen garden.

'One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals'

Here's another one, which is encouraging

'COURAGE Do one brave thing today, then run like hell' - I don't know who said that...

And this one by Warren Buffett. Who knew he was a gardener? Maybe he just liked trees.

'Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago'

And then there's all these little quotes at the bottom of the 2019 diary on each page that I find inspiring.

'Stones and sticks are thrown only at fruit bearing trees' - Sumi
'Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers' - Voltaire
'Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later' - Og Mandino
'What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing' - Aristotle
'If you want to conquer fear, don't sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy' - Dale Carnegie
'Generosity gives assistance, rather than advice' - Vauvenargues

And my goal to go out and do some gardening. And then chat about it with Karyn to share with all you listeners out there who also are interested in gardening. Who knows, maybe there are some gardeners who are also professional questionnaire designers but ..its only ten questions. I'm sure I've been asked worse questions. Like..this one by mum. 'Are you really a gardener?' Oh man. How do you even answer that. My questions are easy. I'm not going to ask where are you from and look at you funny if you say you are from Auckland and not China.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Poos and perennials

One of the dirty secrets of gardening is...poo is really good for your plants. Most modern day non gardeners would shy away from it, but anyone who's in the know wouldn't spend mega bucks on  artificial fertilisers when they can get poo free - from chickens, or maybe the local pony club, or your friendly sheep farmer (if you know where they live). Or your worm workers.

Poo is basically digested plants coming out the other end which makes minerals and nutrients available to the earth. When it breaks down or is composted, it enlivens the soil because of the good microbes in it. I've put a whole lot of pony poo onto my freshly planted lemon tree, as well as CPP - the cow pat pit, to get it off to a really good start. I've removed some to the budding fruit so it will put more energy into growth first for more fruit later on when it's stronger. 

Mum has given me some garlic and spring onions to plant so I've put those in the poo-enriched ground along with Jerusalem artichokes. People say Jerusalem artichokes spread and don't want them but I'm all for some spreading plants these days to out spread the kikuyu. It will be perfect for my bare patch under next doors cabbage tree, where nothing much is growing except rampant applemint. I let that one go wild a bit to smother the creeping buttercup. A smotherer to smother the other smotherer. So far seems to be winning, and there seems to be less creeping buttercups and kikuyu. Hooray. I've also put in a line of ex St Giles cannas in hopes that that too, will keep the creeping buttercup at bay.

My next project in the works - and I have been given the go ahead by Dad, is for a garden border outside our front door where a whole strip of narrow lawn is going to be transformed with perennials.
I have yet to decide on the starring plants, but I'm leaning toward yarrows, perhaps parsley, and maybe ornamental alliums if I can find them. Or maybe ajugas and more lambs ears, or catmint. The plants  have to complement the  purple wisteria thats already there, and the azalea. They can't be too high and they need to be permanent perennials by the path. It gets full sun but it also does get a bit boggy so dry loving coastal plants like rosemary and hebes and rock roses aren't going to work. 

So I'm going to be dreaming up combinations while Mum and Dad are going away to London to visit Queen Glennis for three weeks. If by miracle I hope to get it started and planted up before they get back to surprise them. I'm hoping something will work and there's no danger of it being mowed over while they are away because I'm not planning on doing any mowing at all. 

So..let the dreaming begin.