Tag Archives: cape gooseberries

Celebration & Sadness

‘Our’ bits of the public zigzag get better and better. The man downstairs has built a second hugelkultur and some steps that make it safer to garden. (I’ve had a few near misses, slipping and tumbling.)

Our neighbour has employed a new gardener who will not spray. He’s planted the native grasses you can see in the background, beneath her (spring-flowering) kowhai tree.

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from front: steps, second hugelultur, sorrel patch, cape gooseberries and sundry herbs and then the neighbour’s place
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love that red rake!

Here are the grasses in closeup, in their cosy pea-straw mulch.

closeup of new grass & mulch

Below the first hugelkultur, parsley, thyme, bergamot, galangal and nasturtiums flourish.

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O yay to all of this. I’m very happy that our garden, the neighbour’s garden and other bits of the zigzag are all safer than they were, more welcoming for bees. And for other insects, some of them also pollinators.

But I’m also sad.

I know now that research shows that even organic honey contains glyphosate and that bees are attracted to flowers that contain neonics (obvious really, humans too are attracted to substances that affect their neurons). And when I see no bees around, I think ‘Did Wellington City Council’s glyphosate spray affect them?’.

One still and sunny bee-filled morning, not long ago, the council used the spray on patches of old man’s beard, within 100 metres of where these photos were taken. How many bees were harmed, as they flew past on the way to our flowers?

This is what the dying old man’s beard looks like.

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It could have been removed by hand. It’s tough going but I’ve done it.

And yesterday, on the far side of some dying old man’s beard, I saw lots of bees on winter kowhai.

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And I wondered, was that kowhai bought from a plant shop that sells neonic-treated  trees? Do the bees prefer these blooms to ours because they provide a neonic buzz?

That’s when I began to feel sad. Providing a sanctuary for bees is complicated.

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Water & #Bee-Loved Plants on the Zigzag (1)

my watering cans
my watering cans

We’re in high summer. Here, south of the equator, that means day after day of gusts of warm and drying wind from the north. And, this year, lots of sunshine.

On the public zigzag, I don’t use a hose.  And won’t. Because I’m experimenting. Some of the experiments are about sun. I watch the arc of the sun and how that’s changed before and after solstice. Will the sunny spot where I have tomatoes provide six hours of sun a day right through the ripening period?

Some of it’s about plant choice. Natives. And as many bee-loved herbs as I can manage, to grow and self-seed in perpetuity, as a bee haven. Parsley and borage have already self-seeded here and there and  a  volunteer poppy is about to flower. To feed passersby, I’ve planted silver beet (very hardy), cape gooseberries (ditto) and tomatoes (because I like eating them too).

Some of the experiments are about water. Which plants will become more stressed than others, because they always need lots of water? (Or for other reasons.)

I want the zigzag gardens I care for to be self-sufficient, so they need only a big cleanup now and then.  So most of my planting’s been done with minimal ongoing plant support–into organic compost, and then an initial watering. Then mulch, or weed matting with mulch on top in some places. The single phacelia and some tiny parsley the only exceptions. On the less sunny side of the zigzag, where there’s lots of humus, I just popped the baby plants straight in.

I absolutely don’t want anyone to have to water out there. That’s why we started the two hugelkulturs. I liked the idea that it was possible – within a larger garden area – to establish individual gardens that don’t require irrigation or fertiliser.

So how are the plants doing during  these hot and windy days? To my surprise, among all that humus, and shaded by  trees, the plants on the less sunny side of the zigzag aren’t flourishing and appear to be  heat-stressed. Just as well the completed hugelkulturs will be there (eventually, everything takes a while).

on the dry side
on the dry side, with hugelkultur under development at top left

On the sunnier side, where harakeke (flax) surrounds them, plants are healthy, green and growing fast. I’m especially surprised that the tomatoes are flourishing without any added water.  Some now have fruit.

on the other side of the track

We put the hugelkulturs on the shady side of the zigzag  because that’s where there was wood to bury – the essential component of hugelkultur. It looks like we chose the right place.  (I’m still wondering how people establish hugelkulturs in a desert, where there’s no starter wood.)

Now I’m considering how to support the plants on that dry side. I refuse to drag the hose out there, on principle. Fingers crossed it will rain soon. Otherwise I’ll go to and fro with the big watering can. Anyway, will add more mulch.

Florence Ribbed Courgettes & Hanging Tomatoes

Alongside the bee-loved plants, vegetables grow apace.

The Kings Seeds Florence Ribbed courgette is a stunner. Here are babies on some of my seedlings transplanted to a Lower Hutt garden.

Fancourgette

And this is looking down into one of the four plantings in my back garden.

Florence couregettes

Some of the flowers are HUGE, but they don’t seem to attract bees. On the biggest plant, some courgettes rot at the ends as they grow. (When I harvest I slash off any rotten bits. And all the courgettes have been good to eat.)

The plants that travelled up the coast to Kapiti are doing the best of all. Look at this monster that grew there, over just a few days while the owners were away.

comparative courgettes
That big one is 14 1/2 inches long.

The two in the middle came from Kapiti, too, along with an excellent recipe for courgette and feta fritters. Those on the far right are the largest so far from my plantings here.

And, at last, I hung some tomato plants upside down, after transplanting them and  keeping them ‘right’ way up for some days without watering, so they would establish their roots.

tomato

The bigger one, in the foreground,  is a Cherokee Purple, the smaller a little rescue Black From Tula. I’m intrigued that both tomatoes are still trying to grow upwards. See how that stem curves in the middle, towards the top of the pic?

And the compost sure holds the water. When we first hung them up even though I didn’t water them, for DAYS water dripped out via the Black From Tula, which hangs a little lower.   So I put a pot of marjoram underneath, to catch the drips.

The contrast with this lovely row is considerable, isn’t it?

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But I’m doing my best. Learning heaps.

Meanwhile, out on the zigzag, more tomatoes, silver beet and the parsley are growing well. Though something’s nibbling at one of the silver beet plants. A slug? A snail? A bird?

silver beet slightly eaten

Perhaps not snails. The other day,  a guy leant on the rail above the  cape gooseberries, next to the silver beet. He gazed at them for quite a while, without saying a thing.

cape gooseberries doing well
cape gooseberries

Eventually I said–

‘Are you wondering what they are?’

‘No,’ he said. ‘They’re cape gooseberries. I had some and snails ate them.’

So I’ve decided that if snails aren’t eating these gooseberries, it’s unlikely they’re around to eat the silver beet, either.

Anyway, I hope that guy will return, to eat some cape gooseberries when they ripen.They’re flowering now. I don’t think they need bees for pollination.

And then, after claiming yesterday that the bumbles are interested only in lavender, poppies and borage, today I saw one dancing among these flowers. Nothing left in the poppies, it seemed, so she tried the yellow calendulas and the cornflowers on the right.

all of them