Tag Archives: hugelkultur

Autumn Pleasures

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Delight! The hugelkultur lives! We have visible fungi – and therefore must have more that grows around the wood we buried. I’ve been waiting and waiting for this moment.

It may not seem to have much to do with bees, but it means that the foundation for this part of the garden, the wild experimental area, is becoming better quality. So next year the flowers for the bees will also be better quality.

I don’t know if our fungi’s edible, but plan to check soon, with a fungi-grower, the Fun Gi (!), out in Lower Hutt.

As you can see, the fungi shares space with shards from the midden that we’ve been clearing for three years,  purple cauliflower seedlings, protected from birds and cats by wire netting; and tiny new land cress!

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I think it also means that we can consider some small bushes on the hugelkultur, blueberries maybe.

Visible dead wood on the zigzag is also sprouting fungi, a cherry stump on the left and a who-knows-what on the right.

It’s seed-collecting time, too. All that land cress to be winnowed from the stalks. Parsley heads to shake.

 

And seeds for more phacelia next year. So bee-loved, this one.

And then there are the bordoloi beans. Descendants of those ones that a New Zealand soldier brought back from Italy after the Second World War. Probably enough for a soup as well as to sow in spring.

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bordoloi beans ripening near the harakeke/flax

And this great round pumpkin is maturing, like others. It will be soup, too. And seeds for next year.

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And then there’s the last of the annual blooms.

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Bees and other little flying things are very happy. And so am I, doing the autumn weeding and planting. Lupins and brand beans to come.  That’ll please the bees, too. I hope: Nothing is certain.

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No Guarantees

People talk a lot as they toil up the zigzag or wander down. There are so many: mostly I tune them out. So yesterday, when someone walking up the path said ‘It’s beautiful’, I kept weeding, worrying because this year my zigzag plots don’t look as good as they did last year. And although they attracted many bees in spring, as summer progresses there are fewer.

The woman on the zigzag repeated herself.

I turned around and there she was, expensive camera in hand.

‘Thank you’, I said. ‘But this is a five-year project and I have two more years to go in this wild bit. Those plots further down are beautiful though, aren’t they?’ (And they truly are, each in a different way.)

‘It’s all beautiful’, she said, in her interesting accent (South American?), gesturing towards the houses at the edge of the zigzag and back towards the wild plot where I stood. ‘I heard that this was better than the Botanical Gardens and it’s true.’

I was gobsmacked. ‘Thank you’, I said again. ‘Are you a tourist?’

‘Yes’, she said.

‘Well, enjoy it’, I said, knowing from other tourists that they really enjoy the domestic scale of the zigzag, the historic houses as much as the gardens. ‘Because soon that house over there at no. 1 – which is older than the big brick monastery it’s next to – will be sold. And the site probably redeveloped’.

‘Whaaaaat?!’ she said. ‘That’s crazy.’

And then she left, trudging up the zigzag to her companion, leaving me in my wild zone with mixed feelings. And a couple of hours later one of those huge cruise ships sailed past. I waved, in case she was looking this way.

And thought about what’s working and what isn’t.

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Annuals like these cornflowers now self seed everywhere. I love the blue. And I’m very pleased that clover has spread, because that’s great for the soil.

And the first of my perennial hollyhocks grown from seed  have flowered, too.

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I’ve learned that honey bees and bumble bees have no interest in alyssum in this part of Wellington, whether it’s spring or summer, near fruit trees, in sun or shade. But because it spreads so well, I’m leaving it wherever it grows.

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Around the hugelkulturs, growth is good in some places. These few cavallo nero plants have done well where last year there were bordoloi beans.

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(The bordolois are doing well across the path this year.)

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This little plot grown from seeds from a well-wisher has been looking good for a while and I love the phacelia, as do the bumble bees.

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The thyme borders are terrific and much admired, particularly by those who cook. Am about to transplant some to the other side of the zigzag, down from those beans.

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But it’s not all good. Water runoff, or something harmful in it, appears to have damaged some plants, like this lavender, so I’ve spread organic biochar (it has an awful smell) under organic sawdust, after compost and other soil builders made no difference.

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I’m going to try the biochar in a couple of other places too, where there was a lot of yucky buried rubbish.

My pride-and-joys are three baby manuka trees, which I hope will give local honey bees a treat when they flower. One of them is that little spiky plant in the centre, below, surrounded by dandelions and parsley.

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Some people see this plot as a ‘mess’. For instance, as in the photo immediately below, there’s silver beet, wild sweet peas, calendula, leek seed heads and more, all mixed in together. near various native shrubs and trees.

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So I plan a sign that explains that this wilderness is for the bees (who love dandelions and calendula and clover!) and for experiments. I’ll write it on one of the tiles that fly off the monastery roof in the gales. Completely encouraged by that random visitor.

More Spring

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quince blossom above Oriental Bay

I went away. And iCloud lost all my photos, including some of an amazing beekeeper on Waiheke Island and his honeys.

And the weather’s been awful. And I’ve been busy with other work. But spring continued anyway.

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a tui in our apple blossom

The bees are back and I’m gardening when I can.

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blue borage, forget-me-not, poppies & calendula

In one part of the garden, all those open-pollinated seeds from last year grew, flowered and went to seed. Those seeds became a stunning early spring show of poppies, calendula, alyssum, borage (white and blue), night scented stock.

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night scented stock, beginning cornflowers,white borage, alyssum

And, of course, the lavender is still there.

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Out on the zigzag, new seeds have sprouted and the hollyhocks are growing.

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the growing hollyhocks, other flower seedlings, flowering geranium, some shepherd’s purse and in the background a kaka beak (just finished flowering)

This year, around the hugelkultur, I’m experimenting again, as I work with the seasonal arcs of the sun, very different than on the other side of the zigzag.

I’ve emulated the neighbours and tried pumpkins, some seedlings for me, some for them. Bees love those big yellow blossoms.

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The tin cans and other (homemade) metal circles are to deter slugs and snails, which don’t like sharp things. Also cats and birds.

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pumpkin seedlings on the hugelkultur

The wire netting helped with some new seedlings. But the birds got under this wire netting and pulled at my Biogro pots, even though the pots were buried. That killed a bean plant or two, alas. The birds scratched out almost all the coriander, too.

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climbing beans and the remains of the biogro pots the birds destroyed

And this morning, I’ll plant the very last of the pumpkins and some coriander someone gave me.

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Off up the path I go, past the bees already busy in the blossom. Into the spring(ish) day.

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After breakfast.

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.

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

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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).

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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.

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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.

Making A Bee-Friendly Public Space: Tools & Structures

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Now I’ve seen one (bumble) bee on the zigzag, more may arrive. So  I want to encourage them stay within a safe area as they feed. Is it possible?

The city council owns the zigzag. Even though it’s for pedestrians only, it’s officially a road. Quite a long stretch of road. And I’ve agreed to care for a section of it in return for the city council NOT SPRAYING in that area. A neighbour’s agreed to look after some land outside her place on the same terms. But spraying continues in other parts of the zigzag.

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‘my’ section outlined in red

Today, my priority is to try to protect bees from flowers in the SPRAY area, including the  acanthus.

Because I’ve been told that bees don’t like red and avoid geraniums, I’ve removed geraniums  from the areas where I have bee-loved flowers in bloom. Next, I’ll transplant these geraniums along the left-side red line including where it joins the the top line, on the boundary  between the  land I’ve agreed to care for and the upper part of the zigzag, where the city council will continue to spray weeds. I hope this will keep the bees safe now that they’re flying in.

I also have to protect the plants from dogs and cats. They roam  freely all over the zigzag. Some dog owners pick up their dogs’ faeces. Some don’t. No-one attempts to clean up after the cats. Dogs and cats and birds enjoy newly dug earth too. So I’m putting nets over new plants. Or a bit of chicken wire. That’s the remains of a roll of chicken wire, between my big fork and rectangular spade.

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I bought the chicken wire to make containers for weeds I’ve pulled out. Cages. Borrowed some cutters from another neighbour,  cut a rectangle, pulled the ends together and twisted the wire ends around each other.

Making cage

The cages are at various places on the zigzag now. I tucked the latest behind two tree trunks.

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Someone stole it  within 48 hours. Left the weeds behind. (Someone also stole a tomato stake.)

A second cage is already full. With some seaweed dropped on top.

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The  neighbour-with-the-cutters and I have also started a hugelkultur,  a raised garden bed filled with rotten wood, where we can grow things without fertiliser or irrigation. (There’s no water supply on the zigzag so I use a watering can, though I could also try my own garden’s hose, stretched to its limit or extended.)

The hugelkultur seems like a great way to process the zigzag’s old wood and new trimmings. This is what it’s meant to look like when complete.

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This is what it looks like now, there on the right in the background, behind the new all-wool weedmat along the geranium  boundary.

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Like everything else in the bee plan, the  hugelkultur and the plantings are going to take time.

But it’s worth it. Just found this new poster about neonics. Lost and confused? Illness and death? Not around here, I hope.

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