Saturday, December 20, 2008

More vegetable garden enthusiams

Every year the vege garden gets better. The caulis and broccoli have been so healthy this year that they grow enormous and don't suffer any disease. Beans are climbing to the sky and when we get home we expect to climb the beanstalk and meet the ogre and his wife.

Today I mulched the corn, peppers, lettuces, leeks and of course the potatoes with a mixture of grass clippings and wood mulch mixed with a compost activator and some magic liquid (water from comfrey, nettles, chicken manure and human urine). There are potatoes growing everywhere and only the Maori potatoes were planted by me this year. The others all popped up unannounced. Carrots are good. The pumpkins the same except for four heritage pumpkins which I nurtured. Tomatoes look good on the west side of the house this year. I only have a few in the glasshouse as I am building up the soil there this summer instead. It is hard to keep moist and gets quite powdery.

I have planted radish and more beetroot. The latter are something I have yet to master growing.

Looks as though it is going to be a good apple season and I have had to thin them quite a bit.

I wasn't much good at growing peas though so I have fed them for the first time and then we will see. I thought they could do without feeding.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Growing kumeras, harvesting broad beans and dealing with passionfruit moth

I have decided to grow quite a few kumeras. I have now harvested nearly all the broad beans and the theory of rotation is that I should start again by adding nutrients and growing greens again.

But we have enough greens and to grow kumeras will save more money. So I have planted kumeras in one patch to which I had added compost and all liquid feeds and wonder what will happen. Apparently they should be planted only in poor soil so will they grow all top and little root? So today I will put 20 more plants in without the extra nutrients right next door and see the experiment emerge.

As for broad beans I have learned you don't need to blanch them before freezing and have frozen heaps. Poor Malcolm is so sick of helping shell them. Then I learnt you don't even need to shell them to have them in a stirfry. Admittedly they repeated on me and I might try again with what is left in the garden.

The darned passionfruit has a moth. I have taken off a lot of leaves and will do some more research. It might need garlic spray.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

An early summer report

Things look so great now. The lawn isn't dry at all and everything looks very green.

I have got the bug of making compost in the actual garden bed rather than on a special pile and then transporting it. The handcart is a real boon. I can get a huge load of grass clippings from the pile left here regularly by a commercial lawn mower man and the wood mulch from the pile Malcolm makes when he uses the mulcher. This gets loaded onto the garden. Well the place where the broadbeans have come from anyway. Then I water it, add rock dust and lime. Then I add the various wondrous liquid feeds I have.

The liquid fish waste gets diluted 200 to 1. Then the worm wee gets diluted and added on. Then I use the diluted contents of this blue bin of comfrey leaves, nettle and a bag of chicken manure suspended in the water. Of course this latter stinks to high heaven and I am not sure that it is altogether right, because it must have e-coli in there.

Today at the edible garden tour run by our Transition Town group, an older guy told us that he cold presses his comfrey in a bucket with holes in over another bucket with a brick. The liquid which emerges doesn't stink and is very concentrated. I might try this but would have to get nettle water in somehow.

Anyway there is some new soil-to-be waiting out there. Not sure whether to plant the corn plants there but might try even before it changes itself into compost.

The other thing I did tonight was suspend some jars from apple trees. Inside each jar is 1 tbl molasses and 1tbl of vinegar and water, stirred of course. We have corrugated cardboard wrapped around each tree this year, or rather each branch of each apple tree. It is tricky to suspend them safely.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My first good carrots

Finally I have learnt the art of growing carrots. Buy King seeds or use Koanga Garden seeds. I made the soil very fine before sowing. Used only rock dust and no nitrogen. Thinned well by two granddaughters who needed plenty of instruction. Watered well after thinning. And boy do they taste good.

Good veges coming from the garden now

Gosh I realise that I now use the following to feed my tomatoes, greens and sweet corn:

Worm wee diluted
Fish concentrate very much diluted
From the blue barrel – comfrey, nettle, and chicken manure in a barrel of water, diluted.
Compost tea, made by aerating a panty hose full of compost for three days, having added 2tbl molasses and 1tsp humic acid. I use a $13 acquarium pump. All Elaine Ingham inspired, thanks to Ken Ross of Northland. So easy and cheap to make and teeming with microbes.
Bokashi buckets buried. Not doing these so often at the moment.

Those are the foliar feeds.
And of course when the soil is depleted I add compost itself and lime. The woodash in the soil under the potatoes and the tomatoes is obviously doing a good job because the stems are so strong.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Property is for sale with First National

See on this site our property is now for sale with Grant Robertson of First National. Price $595,000. Phone him at 06 364 2430(0ffice) or 06 364 2430 (home) 021 660 113. Email is firstnational(at)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rupert fells the macrocarpa shading the fruit trees

A lot to clean up yet but the view is already very different with no macrocarpa there. More firewood too!

Monday, September 22, 2008

More photos of the working bee

The effort of city children to distribute blood and bone is certainly appreciated. The smell stays with you for ages and here is Genevieve braving the reality of blood and bone. Hamish was suitably horrified at the smell and the origin.
There is also a photo of Genevieve in front of the figs which are just coming into leaf.
You can also see the process of mulching the feijoas as we lay down cardboard to kill weeds.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Working bee third day

Yes it was fun as well. The Stanley handcart proved both useful and a great toy. Useful for carting the grass clippings and mulch all the way back to the feijoas and fun for joy rides round and round the house. The two year old Lachie enjoyed it most of all. In this photo from left are Jim, Rachel, David, Susanna, Ruby and Genevieve. In trolley are Hamish 4 and Lachie 2 (not visible)

I never thought we would manage to get the feijoas mulched but today people were great. We had heaps of grass clippings and wood mulchings to take back there and we laid down some cardboard and newspaper to kill the weeds beforehand. When we had run out of mulch we got the rotting leaves under the trees on the west side out the back.

And here is David shovelling grass clippings. We were so lucky because just as we ran out, the mowing service fellow arrived with more. And he fixed the line trimmer while he was here too.

Then we all got stuck in and cleaned up round the compost heaps and made two more lots of aerobic compost. Wonderful wonderful. And we mulched the persimmons with grass clippings and compost. And watered them.

My son David and his daughter Genevieve came from Christchurch and joined us. Rachel's partner Jim had just got home from Scotland.

Working bee second day

Wow it was a great idea of Fiona's to have a working bee to get the place tidied up. Yesterday Alistair and Malcolm bought some gravel and fixed up the drive. The best picture I have is of Rauaroha, aged 2 who came with her father.

Then in the afternoon Susanna arrived with a couple of kids and we got the line trimmer going so she could clean up. I taught Ruby aged 10 to thin carrots, transplanting the thinnings so we didn't waste them. She in turn taught her cousin Genevieve the next day and they managed a bit of chinwagging while doing it on the Sunday.

Working bee first day involves wallpapering the kitchen

So here is Oriwia, Malcolm's granddaughter pulling off wallpaper in the kitchen. Rob and Oriwia spent a long time doing it and the job was bigger than we all anticipated. There is more to do and oh the trouble putting back those two way electric switches! Rob is so patient. Things didn't work out on Friday night and the dark overtook him so it was a relief when my son in law finished wiring things up today. Rob will come back to finish the wallpaper when he has time. A long job. We are so grateful.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Freesias are a sure sign of spring

The previous owners Margaret and Ross Dean planted quite a few lovely flowers under the walnuts and chestnuts. The narcissus are nearly finished but we greatly enjoyed them.

When the freesias bloom it is so lovely. You can see the grape hyacinths too. I don't know the name of the yellow bell like flower but they are everywhere and make a good show.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Picking macadamias now

Well it looks as though we have a reasonable crop this year. The first year was good, the second I picked them too early and they were too small and this year it is just at the right time.

You have to take off the coating within 24 hours, then leave them to dry for 12 weeks. Had to get a ladder to get the top ones, scared I would fall and noone would find me. Still more to gather I think. Maybe we will use the young men when the families come for a working bee on Saturday.

Wow just picked yet another bucket. Wonderful! Good size this year.

And another photo is of the macadamias when about half of them have their green coats off. Malcolm takes some off every day. We have now filled a bucket with their shells.

Mulching in the spring

I never thought these trees could use so much mulch. Christabel has shown me that it is easy to kill the weeds under a tree by putting down wet cardboard. And then we just pile on the half rotted grass clippings and the mulched up prunings. It just never seems to stop.

She tried to persuade me to make a bigger circle under the apricots but that is hard work and a heck of a lot of mulch. We already get extra grass clippings delivered from a local contractor to save him paying money to dump it in the Council's dump. So we have done the citrus, grapes, figs, apricots, plums, peaches (well the ones nearest the house anyway), persimmons (these sure need to be protected from the coming summer drought), feijoas (the ones nearest the house), the new avocado, two new apples, new grape, tamarillo, pears, quince and nectarine.

Malcolm's grandson Paul is living in Otaki now and was a great help recently.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Making new soil out the back

When you grow root vegetables there is seldom enough room. So last year I started a patch out the east of the property to grow Maori potatoes. I laid down straw and mulch but they didn't do well as apparently Maori potatoes need a lot of water. It was just too far away from the house.

So this year I got my granddaughter to build a new garden. Rather than pay for someone to build raised beds, we used the nearby stones (this property and all surrounding properties are full of "Hautere spuds", big stones under the ground, and all gardens and all fruit trees have been developed by taking out those stones. In our case there are piles of them around and shrubs have been planted among them quite successfully over the years.

Well we have put brown cardboard down over the grass to kill it, then layers of wood mulch and grass clippings and manure and sprinkled it with EM. Then more and more and covered it for a while. Now that soil is developing, and the spuds have sprouted we have planted the Maori potatoes, not to mention some attractive flowers. (After all it is the bed we see straight out from the dining room window.)

Today I rummaged round in it and worked in some wood ash so that the potatoes have plenty of potash. Should have done that earlier. I worked it into the soil around the tomatoes too. Should have done that earlier too.. We live and learn.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The front of the house

Here is a view of the front of the house. The plants are growing well there and the hollyhocks are rising again.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The blossom is all coming out well now

The early plums look fantastic at the moment and the late plum has also come out in blossom.We are about to pick the last of the macadamia and weed the last of the figs ready for mulching. I think the persimmons will get some attention soon too. They are very vulnerable to lack of water so we will be very particular in giving them quite a deep layer of mulch.

In the vege garden I have just planted two heritage tomatoes next to the warm brick wall on the west and of course have over a dozen in the glasshouse. On the west wall I have transplanted some hollyhocks and hopefully will get a sunflower or two in there later. See above. I think they have just survived the transplant. I am growing tomatoes outside this year more than in the glasshouse, easier to water.

I have some more Maori potatoes sprouting and will soon put them where the cabbages and broccoli have been.

This property is for sale

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Spring 2008 and the property is for sale

We have been weeding, mulching, mowing and generally tidying up to put the property on the market soon.

The citrus have been fed. One of the best ways of killing weeds is to lay down some cardboard and then put grass clippings and brown mulch over them. Trying to build up mulch now while the moisture level is just right. We have had to clear under the new avocado and the newish apple (Monty's Surprise) and feed them well.

I have also made two new gardens. Photos next time

This small holding is for sale.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The big storm of late July 2008

On the last Wednesday of July we had an easterly storm here with winds of 140km per hour relentlessly for hours on end.

We lost seven firewood trees as they were vulnerable to an easterly. The prevailing wind is nor westerly. Here is a photo of Malcolm's grandson Rupert using his chainsaw to clean up the fallen trees. Um well I couldn't find it on my photos, sorry. He has been wonderful. Even fixed the satellite dish back on the roof after it had been blown off.

And we managed to get some free pallettes on which to stack and dry the firewood.

Lately I have been weeding under the citrus, under the pears, the quince and the figs. The soil is great now, with big juicy worms showing up all the time.

The lettuces on the north face of the house are thriving. I have fed them with the bokashi I made. They will get even better and so the photo will come later.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My first ever kumeras

A guy in a garden centre told me he had financed his university studies by growing kumera and in Wellington no less. His secret was to mound them up and put them under black polythene. So I did this and even in poor soil, they grew really big. More to harvest yet.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Grow your own food in sunny Otaki. Beat rising food prices

Ranui Orchard
202 Otaki Gorge Road, Te Horo
7 minutes from Otaki town, Kapiti Coast, Wellington, New Zealand

A tree cropper's delight. Be self-sufficient in organic fruit, veges and nuts. A rare opportunity to acquire a food growing property where the development work has been done. Live in a spacious house where views from every window delight the eye.

* 233 sq m on 1.4 hectares (3.5 acres)
* native bush, lawn, fruit trees and nut trees, woodlot
* converting to organic since January 2006
* 3 bedrooms, kitchen/dining/living room, lounge, rumpus room
* implement shed, glasshouse, chookhouse, double garage, storeroom

Price: $595,000NZ
Enquiries: Phone 021 660113 office 06 364 8350 AH 06 364 2430
Or email firstnationalotaki(at)

For photos see entry on November 13, 2007 on this blogspot.

About the House
This special tree cropper's property is just seven minutes from Otaki at 202 Otaki Gorge Road, Te Horo. It has three spacious bedrooms, a kitchen/dining/living room, a large lounge and a huge study. The study was originally going to be the double garage so that is the size of the room, and it can be adapted for anything. So it would be listed as four bedroomed. There is an ensuite and a walk-in wardrobe. Altogether there are three toilets, a bath and two showers. A generous back porch area makes for easy country living. Full insulation with more wool recently blown into the ceiling. Monier tile roof, brick cladding. Deck out from living room.

Range hood over ceramic top electric stove.

Heating is by woodburner in the living room, with a pump transfer system to the lounge. This works very well.

The other buildings
There is a generous double garage with an attached store room and pump room.

There is a mower and implement shed with attached glasshouse and chook house. A shade house is situated near the garage. The Walker mower, valued at $10,000, is for sale separately. Nets go with the property.

What is growing on the land?
Of the 1.4 hectares or three and a half acres some is in eucalyptus firewood (there is always plenty of this), and three quarters of an acre is in native bush with magic pathways throughout and a clearing for events like weddings.

A large number of fruit and nut trees have been planted over the last seventeen years. There are walnuts (a good crop is on its way), macadamias (looks good this year), hazel nuts, and chestnuts. There are over 35 heritage apple trees, fifteen fig trees, four pears, two apricots, four plums, one nectarine, four peach, 2 almond, 1 cranberry, 4 persimmons, 1 guava, 2 lemonade, 2 nashi pears, a hedge of green tea, 2 carob, 1 grapefruit, 2 lemon, 1 lime, 1 mandarin, 1 orange, 1 raspberry, 1 cherry, 2 rows of red currants, 1 blackcurrant, 3 avocados, 1 kumquat, six olives, three kiwifruit, one tamarillo, five loquats, two rows of red grapes, several table grapes, a most wonderful vegetable garden, and a very good orchard of feijoas. The red currants and black currants are good this year too and a cherry has good fruit on it. In addition there are pine nuts and some unusual non-fruiting trees. In the summer the glasshouse is full of tomatoes. Corn, pumpkin, potatoes, Maori potatoes, kumera and yams were all in last year and now we have broad beans, broccoli, onions etc in. Garlic will go in soon.

Who would it suit?
This property has been organic for two and a half years and before that was not too chemicalised, so it would suit people who like to grow their own food organically and develop it as a permaculture property. There is scope for kunekune pigs, a house cow or chooks, as well as for installing irrigation.

What is the soil like?

It is classified as stony loam and everything has been planted by removing the stones just below the surface. Rock dust, compost, mulch, liquid seaweed, worm wee, manure, lime and EM (Effective Microorganisms) have been applied regularly to increase microorganisms in the soil and the worm count is increasing. Bokashi buckets have been dug into the vegetable garden regularly.

Wind, shelter, water and frost
There is an excellent water supply from the Hautere Plains scheme and the property seems to have its own microclimate. It gets very little wind as the shelter was planted early and it only has occasional light frosts.

Why are we leaving?
Our advancing ages. We have loved living here but our time is now up. It is one of the best houses we have ever lived in. Sadly, we must now move on.

We will miss the kumquat marmalade and the bees

These have been the most marvellous citrus. Here is the kumquat in full flower and when you pass it there is a hum of bumblebees and honey bees. When the crop comes you can make the most deliciously tasing marmalade. It is unequalled in flavour.
This property is on the market

We will miss these chestnuts when we sell

It takes a while to harvest them float them and cook them and peel them but look what you get!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Harvesting chestnuts

We have at least six chestnut trees and the season is now. From the fallen pricky balls you extract the nuts, which are strictly a grain. Roll your gumboot over a ball and use gloves to pick up the nut.

We have had chestnut and pumpkin soup, chestnut and kumera soup and just plain boiled chestnuts as a vegetable.

This property is for sale

There is no greater pleasure than digging good soil in moist conditions

Yes I had to prepare part of the vege garden for the next crop. I had grown corn and thought I would have to plant a green crop like mustard or lupins to fix some nitrogen and build some more soil after heavy feeders. But The soil was fantastic. I had dug in some bokashi buckets last year and of course the ground has had many feedings of worm wee and seaweed and blood and bone. So each spadeful was a delight. The clay below had some worms in it breaking it up and to see it fall apart so easily was super. I think I wlll plant either garlic or onions there.

This property is for sale

The quinces survived the summer drought too

No problem. They actually thrived and there were few blemishes on this year's crop. Lots of stewed quince and friends have made jelly or jam.

It's feijoa time again

Our families are now gorging themselves of feijoas, some grandchildren eating ten at a sitting or more. This bucket on the doorstep is a common sight in April and May. They survived well despite the drought this year.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Walnuts nearly finished, chestnuts coming on

The walnut season has been a bit strange this year. Great promise in October and November with good crop swelling well, but the drought after that was phenomenal. It only broke in April. So the walnuts didn't mature before they dropped. But then it all happened. They then matured and dropped normally and we will have more next year I am sure because the trees are getting bigger and there are six of them. Four are still quite small.

As for the chestnuts they have driven us mad because we didn't know how to use them and tried to keep them without success. There is nothing worse than getting a bag of chestnuts from the freezer only to find that about 5% are any good and the rest have rot in them. So we are trying to just eat them as they come and last night had them as a vege. We float them and throw away the floaters which last night wasn't many at all. Maybe we will ask a family member if they want to market them. Anyone who wants any will have to pick up their own this year I think. We have six mature chestnut trees.