Gardening in Whangarei
Janet and Robert of Dandelion Farms have written the following articles from their wealth of knowledge and experience of their sustainable life style and gardening supplying their stall at the Whangarei Grower's Market. They are contactable on firstname.lastname@example.org
So many people ask us about how to garden we have come to realise that the old ways are not being passed on. We recollect a time when all the family's fresh produce came out of the backyard, It was fresh, organic and very local. We also had somewhere for our kitchen scraps to go, grass clippings, leaf fall, anything compostable including wood ash from the fire. So rubbish bins were a lot emptier back then when recycling hadn't been heard of.
We would like to help you get your garden started whether it is a small backyard plot or a bigger lifestyle one we are going to get you there step by step, month by month, starting with February. You won't be picking vegies before spring but summer is the right time to begin as you can plan and prepare now to plant in spring.
Before picking up a spade, you need to ask these questions
What grows well in your neighbourhood?
Whangarei is considered subtropical which means we can grow bananas but stone fruit doesn't like it here. Perhaps a friendly neighbour can talk about their successes. Garden centres sell plants grown in other regions so don't think it will survive in your garden unless it suits it.
What does the weather do at your place?
There any different climates all over Whangarei, We have parts which flood and other places which get hit by wind. We keep rainfall and temperature records as climate change keeps the seasons unpredictable.
What is your soil type?
Is it clay, volcanic, peat, alluvial, a mixture? You may find the best location is not where the best soil is. Take a soil sample for analysis.
Where are the prevailing winds?
Does the garden need protection, either a hedge or fence?
Where is the sun? The garden needs all day sun.
Is this a year round or just a summer garden?
How much time can you honestly spare to attend to tasks?
A garden needs daily attention, for watering, weeding, pest control.
How many people are you planning to feed?
How many vegetables does your family use?
Which vegetables should you grow? And when?
We use a lot of parsnips, and leeks in winter but want tomatoes and basil in summer. Some crops take up to six months to mature. Plan to start small with the basics until you have the hang of it, and allow space to expand the garden later.
Begin your research now. There are good books and online resources but remember to keep it local.
Next month we will talk about preparing a garden bed and composting. In the meantime if you have any questions you can email us:
email@example.com or find us on Facebook as DandelionFarmNZ.
Janet and Robert
Starting your garden
So, did you read last month's article and think about all our questions?
because we are now ready to begin our garden. At this point you will have found where you are going to place it but before you put a spade in the soil you are going to make your first compost heap. Why?
This is like making a cake, first assemble all the ingredients, mix and leave to cook! It will take about three months in this weather and by that stage the garden bed will be ready.
What is compost and why is it so important?
Using plant and animal materials we are harnessing the natural decaying process to create plant food, improve soil structure, increasing soil biodiversity, aerating the soil, improving eater retention and generally making our soil a living breathing organism ie humus. When we started our garden the topsoil was less than two inches deep. It is now several spades deep due to compost. We are also recycling all our organic rubbish and not bothering with artificial fertilisers because compost contains all the nutrients our plants require. If you don't care to be organic don't bother reading past this point. Hopefully we are speaking to the converted.
Making a compost heap
1, Position it close to your new garden and in full sun, away from tree roots and free-standing to ensure good ventilation.
2. Loosen the soil to a depth of about 12 inches with a garden fork.
3. Build your compost bin. This can be as simple as some stakes with chicken wire attached in a circle or a more permanent structure like our bins which are three foot square and are filled to 3 feet high made with 6x1 timber. You can also buy kitset bins from your garden centre.
4. Inside your bin lay down some roughage about three inches thick. This can be twigs or brush such as tee tree, any woody material.
5. Next put down a layer about two inches thick of dry material eg hay, dried weeds, dried grass clippings. Water thoroughly.
6. Now a two inch layer of green material eg fresh weeds, grass clippings, hedge clippings, green crops, kitchen scraps. Water well.
7. Finish with a layer of soil about ½ inch to prevent flies and odours. Moisten
Layering may continue with brown then green matter until pile is three to four feet high. Finish heap with another thin layer of soil. Water heap regularly and keep covered until ready in about three to six months depending on temperature. Heap will reduce by 50 to 60% when cured.
Problems beginners create
No heat to start process. The heap should start heating in two to three days and continue heating for up to three weeks. If you made your heap in one go to about the height and depth indicated it will get going OK. Keep layering until you have adequate height to allow heating. Begin a new heap Don't keep adding on as it all needs finishing at the same time so save your materials until you have enough for a new heap.
Heap is smelly and slimy
Probably you ignored the proportions and have too much green matter. It should be 45% dry brown matter, 45% green fresh matter and 10% soil. If you are low on dry matter lay out your lawn clippings to dry for two days, raking to turn then add in to heap. Remember to wet each layer but only so that when you squeeze a handful you will only get one drop out. Keep covered in wet weather with old carpet or tarp or ply.
Your compost should smell sweet earthy and warm. Ideal temp is 60-65 degrees. It is ready when the material is unrecognisable as it has rotted down.
Send us your questions if you are stuck
Janet and Robert