Garden reading

I’ve recently read a few fantastic books on gardening, which I’d recommend. In fact, that’s what I’m about to do…

(Please note the first two links in this article are affiliate links, which means that while buying from them doesn’t cost you anything more, it does help support our blog.)

Gardening with kids

Gardening with kids (by Catherine Woram and Martyn Cox) is a really interesting book for new gardeners, particularly those who are discovering gardening alongside their children. As well as information about choosing a site, preparing your soil and getting the garden growing, each chapter suggests creative projects to keep you and your children involved.

Growing Vegetables year-round (by Dennis Greville) is another great introductory guide written for New Zealand seasons and soils, and suitable whether your garden is in the ground or in pots. It covers off all the popular and easy to grow vegetables, with a handy monthly gardening guide to help keep everything on track. I really appreciated the comprehensive section with information on each plant, including what sun and soil conditions they like, and how to handle common pests or diseases.

Ginny’s Herb Handbook (by Ginny Clayton) was more specialised, though as an inexperienced herb gardener, it was still very easy to read and understand – and will no doubt be of great use in the future! This book not only has information about how to grow a wide range of herbs, but contains recipes for cooking with them, and details on traditional herbal treatments. Written for New Zealand and Australian conditions, if you’re interested in herbs this is a great place to start!

Bedroom (almost) complete and turning into a pumpkin

Plastering and painting in our bedroom was completed this week, and we’ve moved back in. The electrician still has to finish fitting our new power points, but it’s such a great feeling to have at least one room which is practically perfect.


Outside in the garden, we’ve been considering what to do with our pumpkins. The vine has died off, but the seeds we planted – despite being saved from a Crown pumpkin – have given us fruit that look distinctly like buttercup squash.

It’s quite likely they could be Crowns that simply haven’t had the sun or the warmth to mature – and cutting one open, they don’t have the well developed seedy centre, which gives this possibility extra weight. However, I also wonder whether they could be a cross-bred variety that’s reverted.

Either way, we’ll roast some up and see. We’ve only got five pumpkins of small to medium size, but considering the seed was free and they were so easy to grow, that’s an acceptable haul.

It’s been a cold week, and while we haven’t actually had a frost yet, our mint is dying back (it really doesn’t like the cold). We’ve invested in some frost cloth for the citrus trees, and hopefully can get that on today.


Winter is coming

We hardly had any summer to speak of this year. Our tomatoes rotted away before they had a chance to ripen, and several of our lettuces have been similarly undone by the rain. The media termed it a “bummer summer”, and now we’re officially well into autumn.

Curly kale

The early curly kale has flourished, and needs thinning!

The telltale signs of a changing season are in evidence around the garden, and we’ve started preparing for a switch to winter crops. Our new season’s kale has sprouted and is doing well, while cauliflower and bok choi seeds are in the ground.

Yesterday I mowed the front and back lawns, possibly for the last time in a while. We only needed to mow once or twice last winter, which was fortunate, since there weren’t many days when the ground was dry.

Hopefully today I’ll  clean out the chicken coop, and remove the decomposing loose organic matter that in winter will turn into problematic mud. We also need to clean out the treadle feeder to stop it from clogging up – a piece of maintenance we have to undertake more often.

It’s also time to harvest some of our ample herbs, and either use or preserve them. We’ve got a particularly lush bed of chives, which I’ll mix with butter and freeze, a combination perfect for adding into scrambled eggs.

Our usually reliable supply of eggs, however, have become more of a precious commodity this week. The girls gave us two eggs yesterday, and just one in each of the two days before that. This is a logical moulting/slowdown time for the chickens, so we’re not too concerned, but as we move into the season for comfort food, we also don’t want to run out!


Make your (raised) bed

Back in about March, we thought adding a herb garden close to our front door would be easy. There’s an ideal spot, with easy access from our path. Herbs typically have shallow roots, so we wouldn’t need to dig too far down, and then we’d have an ample supply of fresh taste just meters from our kitchen bench.

One of the challenges of gardening here is managing the soil – it’s well-compacted solid clay, with a high proportion of stones. However, the initial turning of the soil wasn’t our issue – the problem was what we found.

Soon after we started digging we found a pipe (wastewater we think) which isn’t on the house plans. It’s shallow, and right in the way of where the garden was to go. And at the time, that’s about where we stopped.

So while we’ve been making all kinds of other progress, the denuded patch of intended-to-be herb garden has been taunting us. Until now.

We finally decided to build up, and put our herbs in a raised bed. We put together a frame, and removed the brick edging we’d originally laid. Our frame is macrocarpa – a hard wood that withstands the elements without requiring chemical treatment – and we laid cardboard at the base to help kill off any grass or weeds that I didn’t pull out first.

On top of the cardboard, we laid straw from the chicken coop, and litter from our rabbits. Both will break down over the coming months, and the animal manure they contain will boost soil nutrition. Then we laid on fresh compost, mixed with sheep manure, to provide more quality nutrients for small plants. In went the herbs, then we mulched around them with pea straw.

We now have the herb garden we wanted – with rosemary, basil, sage, pizza thyme, garlic chives, oregano and cilantro, along with a curry plant that ultimately ended up in a pot.

The whole process of constructing the raised bed was fast and simple. On ground which hadn’t been gardened for more than a decade, it was close to ideal. In fact, it was so easy we’ve got another raised bed (off freecycle – a great way to bring new life to unwanted things) to set up a pumpkin/rhubarb patch.