Belladonna Bess

An edible garden in Wellington, NZ

An optimist’s garden July 31, 2009

Filed under: Garden,Photos — belladonnabess @ 11:19 pm

Eating: silverbeet, celery (with peanut butter, yum. When I first heard of that combination I was dubious, but it’s just so good, especially with my rather strongly-flavoured celery rather than the watery stuff you can buy)

Flowering: Muscari (grape hyacinth). A childhood favourite, my grandmother always had lots of them.

Finishing: the edge of the garden against my south fence.

Moving: my Miho mandarin. I planted it 7 months ago but it never looked happy. It’s now in the back corner of the garden, nice winter sun, no frost and also one of the most sheltered areas. Hopefully it won’t be too annoyed at being dug up and moved.

Planting: a Silverhill mandarin. I’ve planted it next to Miho in the warm corner. Both varieties are cold-tolerant satsuma types, but I think I need to give them every chance, as Wellington isn’t what you would call a natural citrus-growing area.

Also planting: the Passiflora antioquiensis that I’ve had in a pot for 2 1/2 years. I’m not entirely sure it is still alive, as it is really frost sensitive and has died back completely. But anyone who tries to grow citrus and passionfruit in Wellington must be an eternal optimist, so I’ve planted it between the mandarins and am hoping for the best. I also planted a couple of forget-me-nots that sprouted in a pot, and some swan plants that got completely munched but looked like they might be hanging in there.

Bagging: lots of weeds. I’m not quite sure what to do with the weeds like buttercup that I am digging up. I know that mulching for months won’t kill it. If I put it in the compost I’m sure it will just keep growing. So I’m experimenting with solarisation. I’m putting it in old compost bags and hoping that a few months in the sun will kill it. I know it is an effective technique, but most of those recommending it come from Australia. It might not work in Wellington.

I’ve got dark-coloured bags – I don’t like buying bagged compost much, but I have little choice due to not having enough homemade and not having the access to buy a trailerload easily. But there is one brand that comes in a dark green bag, and dark bags should heat up more. So the plastic bags will get a second life as weed control.

If it actually works.

Acquiring: I got given some more raspberries – another variety so I can continue my collection (and it is getting to be a collection now) – and a hazelnut, which looks to be in need of a prune. Not sure what to do with it as the spot isn’t ready and probably won’t be for another 6 months or more, but you know – free plants.

Flaming: the skies to the west.

I think that’s about it really. I pinned down the old cocoa sacks on the bank near where I planted the mandarins. Hopefully they will supress the weeds a bit. I did a little tidying. The weather was reasonably good, with a northerly not strong enough to cause any problems, and the occasional moment of sun. I was working in the garden until 5.45pm.


Hanging out for spring July 29, 2009

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 9:28 pm

Eating: purple broccoli. I don’t have a lot, but I got home in daylight and managed to find enough for dinner.

Gloating: I’ve got a daffodil! I know it isn’t spring yet, but that single bloom still makes me feel a whole lot better.

Dreading: of course spring brings northwesterly gales, and that is what they are predicting for the weekend.


A day better spent inside July 25, 2009

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 10:02 pm

Despite the sun, today was horribly cold. There was a freezing northerly wind and my garden was not a very pleasant place to be. Of course, I was gardening most of the day anyway, but I think I would have enjoyed the day more if I had windows and walls between me and the weather.

Planting: dwarf nectarine (Garden Delight), in the middle of my herb garden. Apple Polka, in front of one of the ugly concrete posts. I had some really nice apples I bought at the market earlier this year, so I went back and asked the stallholder what the variety was. I was really surprised to find that it was the columnar apple Polka. Also planting more spring bulbs, Centaurea montana and Geranium phaeum around the two apple trees. None of them are edible, but they are nicer things to have around apple trees than either grass or bare soil.

Staking: my apple trees.

Mulching: my apple trees in a weird mix of alpaca fibre, cocoa husks, stones and coffee grounds. It all makes sense really.

Extending: the garden against the south fence (mostly so I could plant my apple in it).

Weeding: the area around the catnip cage.

Tidying: the very weedy bank in the corner of the garden. I’m not quite sure what to do with it, as the drop is a bit too much for me to terrace using the plastic edging. I’ve tried pinning one of the old cocoa husk sacks to it, and I may plant it in something that can creep over the bank. Strawberries might be possible, although it isn’t the sunniest area in summer.

Waiting: I’m not sure I will be able to start the pear espaliers this year, all the ones for sale seem to be too big. I may end up growing lots of peas and beans there in the meantime.

This is what it looked like today. Fortunately the camera doesn’t convey the temperature. It actually looks rather warm, although my still-frozen feet beg to differ.


Wellington weather is like this all the time…

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 12:10 am

Yeah, right.

Wiring: the first two rows of wires for espaliers and vines.

Planting: grapes (Albany Surprise, Candice), apple (Initial).

Buying: lots. Apium prostratum, Lepidium oleraceum, Rorippa divaricata, apple Polka (a columnar apple), two dwarf nectarines (no idea how well they will fruit in Wellington but I do have a very warm sunny spot), grape (Candice).

The three natives were a surprise, not something I expected to see. All are edible, so I suppose that’s why such otherwise obscure plants were in an ordinary garden centre. Apium prostratum is common enough in the wild, but the other two are endangered species that are only recently (this decade, as far as I know) in cultivation. They grow well enough if protected from goats and various brassica pests, so I hope they will do ok in my garden.

Wondering: where I’m going to fit the dwaft nectarines, since they were a bit of an impulse buy. I have enough space, I just have to make sure they get a really good spot.

Scraping: ice off my car window, at 10.30pm in Karori. A frosty night, but I’m not sure whether I will have a frost here, since I’m much warmer.

Flowering: daffodil and crocus. Just opening now. It’s definitely still winter, but some of my bulbs seem determined to hurry spring along. Yay!

Reburying: Jersey Benne, again. Good thing I did, since I’m expecting frost.

Eating: broccoli (still getting the occasional small head), silverbeet, land cress, rocket, miner’s lettuce, chickweed. Mmmm, weeds.


Seven months ago… July 21, 2009

Filed under: Garden,Photos — belladonnabess @ 11:05 pm

Remembering: I’ve made quite a bit of progress. This is how my garden looked early last summer.

The middle picture shows the digger that helped with the construction of my new retaining wall.

The last picture shows my side of the finished wall, with the mostly empty garden. My garden ends at the fence posts.

I’ll have to take some photos to show what it looks like now. It’s a bit stark, since it’s the middle of winter, but there are actually plants in it other than the weedy lawn.


Northwest gales July 20, 2009

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 10:12 pm

Mulching: large rocks. That says it all really.


What on earth was that? July 18, 2009

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 10:53 pm

I woke at 2am to the soung of strong winds and flying newspapers. I was expecting rain and so didn’t water down the mulch. Instead of rain I got unexpected strong winds. I still don’t know whether they were northerly or southerly – if they were southerly they must have been really strong since my garden is pretty sheltered from the south.

The cardboard from the heat pump box – a huge piece 1 m wide and about 4 m long – had been blown off the garden and was against the fence. There was a lot of newspaper around my garden and probably half the neighbourhood.

Still, the predicted horrible weekend was actually sunny and if you got a sheltered spot, the sun felt quite warm today.

Learning: ignore the weather forecast. Even if rain is predicted, water down the mulch.

Mulching: more pea straw over the newspaper and cardboard.

Watering: I don’t plan on making the same mistake twice.

Eating: celery, silverbeet, various herbs.

Planting: raspberries (Autumn Bliss and Qualicon). Spring bulbs under the raspberries and other soft fruit – obviously it is a little late, but these were reduced to clear (75% off) and the condition looked ok. A pink-flowered strawberry in the herb garden. Possibly the wrong place but I have several plants now.

Weeding: wall pellitory and veldt grass from around the matipo stump.

Transplanting: feral parsley. It’s so big and rampant that I thought I’d plant some around the matipo stump, in the possibly vain hope that it smothers the weeds.

Noticing: the the NZ spinach I planted in the autumn is doing ok. I hope that it might reach weed-smothering dimensions at some stage, but it has some way to go.

Progressing: I think that the end is in sight for the hard construction and digging work.

Aching: again