Wednesday, April 24, 2013

more gardening philosophy

Monday was a day of yet more gardening, another onslaught against the convovulous... I do feel like I'm making some progress though. We're a long way from being clear of the stuff but the parts of the garden where it reigns supreme are being encroached on from all sides, well all the ones on our property anyway. Whilst none of our neighbours would mind in the least if I hopped over to their side and cleared it away for them too I don't have the energy to be so benevolent.

I have to admit to being very much a food orientated gardener, which is why over the last couple of years I've focused so much on re-establishing the vegetable patch and not worried as much with the rest. I have no great love for many of the flowering plants that we have in abundance because they are spikey, invasive and/or give me hayfever which to me are three very good reasons to get rid of them; however I wouldn't be in the good books for that so instead I settle for trying to contain them within certain parameters and beyond those I consider them fair game.

Mondays task fell into two areas - clearing under one of the apple trees on the Northtec side of the garden and under the vines on the opposite side. The apple tree has a huge bed of alstroemaria underneath it which makes weeding out the convolulous properly a pain, except at this time of year where the old growth has died back and the new is only just starting to reappear. I got some huge root systems out and thick stems over an inch in diameter which was very satisfying. I'd cleared the apple tree canopy of convovulous some months back but as I couldn't get to the roots it had regrown. Now with the roots mostly out and the tree pruned it looks much more manageable - except for round one side. This is where the banksia rose and another climbing rose are - yep, dratted spikey things... Lucky for them I've heard their history and how they've come from Phyllis' parents place in Waimate (South Island, not Waimate North down the road!), via various Kaitaia homes she's lived in to here so I'm more inclined to go easy on them and encourage them rather than be hard on them! But there's only so much scratching my arms can take in one day so it was off to the other side of the garden...

... to get my legs scratched instead! This time weeding around bromeliads. Okay so there are other plants in there too (that should be) but of course it was near the scratchy stuff most of the work needed doing along the fence line. I'm afraid though that this time if any came up with the convovulous by mistake it was into the barrow they went without a second thought.

During this I was pondering further the analogy of life and gardening, and how some things that are dear to one person can be very much a thorn in another's side (and thumbs, feet, arms...) but with some understanding of where things have come from and what they mean to that person it is easier to be tolerant and understanding. But sometimes they can be too much to let you move forward with your own life and unless you free yourself from other peoples' legacy and/or desires you can get stuck, swamped and left with no room to grow and flourish.

Of course sometimes there is a compromise, some give and take, times and seasons for different things. Sometimes you have to deal with things in small doses, a bit at a time so you can persevere until the job is completed rather than push beyond your limits and then give up in disgust or too much pain.

I was reading an article in one of the Herald's magazines that was referring to certain life choices being seen as selfish by some, often by those who have a selfish interest in the opposite happening! In gardening someone has to start somewhere, they create a garden and in time someone else comes along and takes over. What has been done will often shape what happens next, some things get planted knowing that you'll quite probably never even live long enough to get the full benefit of it and you hope and trust that your successors will nurture your planting and encourage it to grow.

But sometimes the next person has other ideas, other plans, other needs - instead of an immaculate lawn and rose garden you get a sandpit and swings, or a veggie patch; a favourite tree gets cut down to build an extension on the house for a growing family; a 'natives only' garden gets filled in with flamboyant exotics... Should they be chastised for not following the plan you had envisaged when what they have done is create something that makes their heart sing? Yet it can feel like the end of an era, and those still around to see it may well grieve for what was and could have been. But others will benefit, share the joy, make their own memories in that place and no doubt in time what has been created will become the new benchmark against which what follows is measured.

As I said, it is an anaolgy that just keeps, ahem, growing...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

it's a lot like life

I've been spending a lot of time in the garden again, trying to get various jobs done before the long awaited promised days of heavy rain reach us.

It has been tough work - my hands and arms are scratched; my calves are impersonating the monster in the Grandpa Toad book in terms of spots below the knees, only from mozzie bites rather than hurled berries (getting eaten instead of being about to eat...!); I've got a cracking bruise on my shin from where the loaded wheelbarrow toppled over and I'm being given a daily lesson in physical anatomy as various muscles tell me in no uncertain terms exactly where they are. However another corner of the garden is being reclaimed from the wilderness and Operation Obliterate continues to advance against the tide of convolulous that threatens to submerge the garden under a sea of green and purple (at least it is pretty, even if it is invasive!).

I found myself pondering again on the similarities between gardening and dealing with life - clearing out the deadwood, the things that smother and hinder growth in order to make postive steps towards being fruitful and productive. Sometimes you need to dig deep to remove the remains of what has been there before before you can move on as they are too hazardous to safety (and sanity!) or too restricting to leave in place, but some things can just be left to lie. What has gone before leaves it's mark, it's imprint on the soil, whether it has stripped it bare of nutrients or added food for future endeavours, broken up hard packed soil ready for a less hardy crop or leaves behind seeds or roots that enable things to grow back sometimes when and where you no longer expect and/or want them...

There are the thorny issues that need grappled with - yet sometimes the thorns are on the same plant as the sweetest fruit. Some things need pruned to grow back stronger (vines both figurative and literal!), when you have a lot on your plate you can't expect to keep on top of it all at once and sometimes you just have to let certain areas go until you have time and energy to deal with them, for everything there is a time and season... and so the analogies go on, and on, and on. As with gardening really, you never get to the end of it.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


Well we finally got some rain at the weekend, probably the first time in a while anyone around here has got excited about a wet Easter! Luckily this was accompanied by enough sunny weather to keep the beachgoers happy as well.

So having finally reached the point where it looks like things won't bake as soon as you plant them (the general idea being grow your veggies, then cook them - not the other way around!) it was time to get the winter veg garden going, and preferably growing too.

This year I've been able to plan out the garden better and do some major reorganising, hopefully meaning that the resulting crop rotation will increase our output. With various perennials firmly in place it had been limiting the options on that front so I've gradually been moving some of them around to more logical places to enable better use of the space we have rather than trying to extend the patch any further as it is already considerable as far as I'm concerned. But then I still haven't quite got used to a quarter acre section (of land) being the norm, certainly not when it comes to maintaining it anyway.

Another thing I'm still getting my head around is what grows when up here in the Far North given that our winters recently have been on a par with my parents' Scottish summers (although that is probably more indicative of how bad their weather has been than how warm ours was!). I don't need to worry about frosts but I do need to make sure I don't plant certain things at a time when you have an uphill battle beating the caterpillars and stink bugs to your produce (always check your summer broccoli very carefully unless you like it with added protien...). I was just googling when was a good time to take rosemary cuttings and happily clicked on the Gardeners' World website without thinking... then backtracked to find somewhere with the seasons in the correct months and an understanding of gardening at 35 degrees latitude!

But anyway, having checked a local planting calendar I set off for the garden centre knowing I was looking for onions, silverbeet and spinach, beetroot and broccoli at a seasonably appropriate time. I have had mixed success with root veggies here but certainly plan to have another go. The tomatoes are still going strong and since the rain have been producing cherry sized tomatoes again rather than pea sized which is a definite improvement when it comes to using them! I'll probably put in some quicker growing chinese leaves to tide us over until the spinach and silverbeet get big enough to harvest - but there was only so much I was planning to carry the 3km home in one go.

I've started reorganising the strawberry bed, but know I'm really a bit early on that front. However the bed has been elongated and narrowed, so using early runners to plant out the new patch plus digging up a couple of plants that were now in the 'wrong' place was a good start. I'd love to have raised beds but meanwhile I just have to remember to leave myself some footpaths when planting out and add in the odd stepping stone for getting around without trampling on anything I don't want to.

We're a long way off being self sufficient with vegetables but we're getting a lot closer. When we were clearing out the garage recently I found a pile of old sacks - ie real sacks, made of sack cloth! So I'm planning to use them to plant spuds in - you roll them down to about 15cm, plant your spuds and gradually roll the sack up and add in more soil as the plants grow. Same as the tyre stack method really I suppose. Anyhow, sacks we have, tyres we have not, so sacks it is! I found that idea in a recent AA magazine (as in cars not alcohol - Phyllis is a member!) although they suggested using coffee sacks. A cunning plan if you live somewhere like Wellington with it's abundance of coffee roasteries, but less so in Kaitaia.

Seeing as Phyllis loves her sweetpeas I planted a load of seeds we'd saved from this summers plants and then soaked for a day or so before planting to give them a boost. If they all come up I've no idea where we'll put them all so I'm thinking a 50% strike rate would be just fine!

Now I just have to hope the promised rain for later in the week comes otherwise I'm going to be wishing I waited another week or so as I lug the watering can around seeing as our hosepipe ban is still firmly in place...