Here we go again… lockdown living begins once more.
Are you planning to enjoy some time in the garden this week?
There’s something about a sudden move to Level 4 that makes it a bit tricky in terms of coping without the convenience of the garden centre down the road. This sounds awful… but I love it when home gardeners are forced to get creative and work out how our grandparents managed their gardens without all the gadgets we have available these days.
Here are some tips if you are feeling a bit stuck:
Hot compost: This is a fabulous way to give your garden a really good tidy up, cut the grass, pull out the winter weeds, and clear a few beds for spring planting. If you avoid all toxic chemical weedkillers, then you’ll be able to turn the whole lot into compost for growing your summer and autumn veggies in a few months.
No dig gardening: If you want something a little quicker than waiting for compost to cook, then a no-dig garden bed could be fun. Hugelkultur is my favourite method, and I’ve used shallow hugelkultur beds in school gardens with a bit of aged chicken manure and biodynamic compost to give the soil a nice boost.
This topic is probably the next Blue Borage online course to be written. For now, you could do the Hugelkultur course, which includes some video tours of all the old Titirangi home garden beds.
Plan your spring garden beds: What’s the saying about measure thrice and cut once? Time spent planning is never a waste. I’ve got you covered with garden planning in the Foodscaping course, which is about to get a few Suburban Homestead Garden Planner downloads added to it.
The tasks are quite different to anything I’ve seen in gardening books and magazines— the process began with how I worked with my clients to help them tap into what their personal dream garden might look like. Everyone is different, and even if you have 20,000 pins on Pinterest boards, I doubt you’ll ever see anything that perfectly matches your ideal garden. Instead, this 10 step process could result in an action plan that you can take to a landscaper to build as soon as we are out of lockdown. You might even have the compost cooking, the seeds on their way, and all the planning and construction done by the end of spring!
Get into gardening by the moon: Initially this can be pretty hit and miss, or take a lot of planning. Ways I help people get into this mindset are (a) through my weekend gardening by the moon email, with tips on what’s most relevant in your garden for Saturday/Sunday, and (b) an online subscription where I examine a whole month at once, with both digital and analog options for you to copy or mimic.
Order seeds: It’s so exciting to get a package of seeds in the mail. Even if the seed companies are in lockdown, placing an order now will ensure your request will get bundled up as soon as they all reopen.
The online course Grow from Seed is my recommendation here, with tips on all the tools you will want to track down. Something that’s unique about my approach is that I’m not a commercial grower — everything is home scale. Also, I show you how to use a few special biodynamic methods.
With my in-person workshops postponed for a bit, it’s time to bring back online coaching. I’ve cleared spots in my calendar for one-off sessions and have limited spaces for VIP month long consulting — this would be perfect if you have a few projects you’re working on, or you want the sense of a garden coach at the other end of a text message or email. Perhaps your regular garden maintenance company is unable to visit, and you’re keen to get stuck into the garden yourself for a bit?
I’ll be using Voxer for this coaching, which is a walkie talkie style application. You can leave messages any time of the day, and I’ll check them in my office hours, and get back to you with suggestions and resources to work with.
Here are the links for these two options:
Tips for the beginner gardener: Soil, Water, Plants
We are not quite in spring, so even though the weather is warming up, it’s not yet time to go crazy planting everything.
How’s your soil looking? If you are an organic gardener avoiding all chemical fertilisers, then you do need to pay attention to how your plants are growing, and consider adding a good amount of compost at least once a year. Can you start making more compost? I’m noticing more and more people cancelling their garden waste collections: both to save money and to start using the resource that is green waste to enhance their garden in a more circular way.
Some people swear by bokashi for bringing life into their garden beds, others use compost teas or biodynamic preparations. I’m using in ground worm farms in my container gardens as a means of creating a self-fertilising ecosystem, which has the added bonus of transforming food waste into worm castings. A new method I’m still just learning about is using plants themselves to feed the soil — apparently the right blend and density of edible crops will continuously build up the vitality of your soil. It feels like people in the regenerative farming movement are slowly unraveling 100 years of misinformation from the scientific community about how to grow healthy food.
My approach to working with the soil is from a biodynamic perspective, and while I don’t have the soil science degree to communicate the exact processes, I can feel by how my gardens respond that this is the right way for me to be working.
I’m predicting a bit of a stressful summer ahead for gardeners wanting to water by hose, and I recommend to my clients to investigate some form of rain water harvesting right now, while we are getting a bit of rain. Every drop will help, and if you are renting or otherwise unable to install a sophisticated system, then putting all your buckets out on a rainy day is better than nothing. My advice is to only plant as much as you are able to water in summer.
What to plant in Auckland in August
I’m a seed sower, so my timeline is a little different to gardeners who purchase ready grown seedlings. Here’s my seed sowing list for the next few weeks. I sow my seeds in the ascending moon phase, which next falls in the period 2nd-15th September:
Peas, carrots & beetroot (directly into the garden), potatoes, broccoli & cauliflower, kohlrabi, dill, coriander, lettuce & other salad greens like endive, rocket, mesclun mix, Asian greens (bok choy, mizuna, pak choy, misome, tatsoi)
The list of flowers is a little longer:
All the marigolds of various colours, sweet peas, cosmos, aquilegia, cornflower, hollyhocks, zinnias, foxgloves, poppies, and all my summer/autumn bulbs: dahlias, lilies and gladioli. It feels really weird planting summer flowering bulbs when the freesias are not quite in flower, but it’s so easy to forget if you don’t get onto it before the busy time begins.
Beneficial Weeds & Herbs to grow all year round
I have a handy list of companion plants that I like to see growing all year round in my clients’ gardens. Things like dandelions, clover and yarrow are every bit as important to me as lettuce, basil and beans. Send an email if you’d like me to send you this pdf file to use as your own checklist: email@example.com
What I’m not planting yet — it is still winter, right?
I’m not planting the following, even though the temptation is to get in early and prove I can win against nature… perhaps next year, with a greenhouse I’ll try some early tomatoes under cover, but for now these seeds are in my ‘not yet’ storage boxes: tomatoes, basil, corn, chilli peppers, capsicum, pumpkin, eggplant, cucumbers, courgettes, beans, sunflowers, nasturtiums, shiso, mitsuba, edamame. watermelon.
It’s funny looking at this list and realising I need to make sure I save enough space for all of these goodies.
Want to learn more about how to transform your garden weeds into compost? Here’s another article on that topic.
Wishing you the best of gardening weather throughout lockdown.
Ideas for innovative edible gardening solutions using biodynamic methods to make ‘soil with soul’ is what New Zealand needs right now. To see the full range of online courses go to https://blueborage.teachable.com/courses or get in touch by email at firstname.lastname@example.org