Belladonna Bess

An edible garden in Wellington, NZ

Mulch! April 27, 2013

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 3:48 pm

11 bales of barley straw arrived yesterday. It may take me a while to use them all, but I’m planning on burying most of my garden knee deep in mulch for a bit.

Planting: more spring bulbs – crocus (Jean d’Arc, Snow Bunting, in the side garden, and Fiesta mix in a pot), Freesia (double mix, Golden Wave, Red Diamond in pots so I can have the scent inside when they are flowering), tulip (Kees Nellis, my favourite tulip because it’s so bright and cheerful, also in a pot).

Weeding: the first of my main vege beds.

Also planting: seedlings of pak choi, tat soi and celery in the bed mentioned above. Cordyline ‘Midnight Star”, along the side of the house in one of the messy areas. I’m hoping it will raise the tone a bit, the rest of that area is mostly weeds, with a couple of renga renga lilies.

Transplanting: various lettuce, NZ spinach and brassica seedlings into the same bed.

Search-and-destroying: convolvulus. I did battle with the gooseberry in order to get at the convolvulus roots. I got a good quantity dug up.

Inoculating: I planted sweet peas in the side garden (white and dark maroon, like most of the rest of that garden). They are looking rather pathetic and spindly. I realised that this may be because they are planted in compost, which will never have grown sweet peas, or any legume, before. This means no rhizobia, and no root nodules. So I grabbed a little soil from a garden where sweet peas had thrived, and sprinkled it around them. I hope that will do the trick.

Mulching: newly planted seedlings, bed with carrots and parnsips in it, under the hazelnut trees and random other bits of garden. One bale down, ten to go.

Eating: chard, kale, carrots, pears, the last of the apples and raspberries.


Drought’s broken April 20, 2013

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 1:26 pm

Ok, the drought’s broken, we get the message. Now how about it stops raining for a bit and I can get the garden in order.

Planting: last weekend I got into one of my beds, weeded it out and planted broccoli, pak choi, spring onions, rocket and spinach. There were already a few feral broccoli seedlings in there so I left them as well. The rocket seedlings were overgrown leftovers being sold cheap, all I need them to do is bolt and reseed my garden. For some reason the rocket’s disappeared from my feral collection.

Germinating: I’ve got a nice range of new lettuce varieties from the lettuces I allowed to bolt over the summer. It also looks like I have a bit of miner’s lettuce. Give it another week of warm, wet conditions and there should be all sorts sprouting up. Although possibly mostly fungi.

Sprouting: signs of life from all the lovely bulbs I planted a few weeks back. I know it’s only April, but I can’t wait for spring!

Eating: pears. Yum, yum, yum. Doyenne du comice is truly one of the most delicious fruits ever. My espalier is looking pretty good, with about 8 fruit this year. Also carrots, a few remaining zucchini, a few apples, raspberries and strawberries, a bit of chard and plenty of herbs.

Also eating: sprouts. I found the great sprout making kits I used at the Mars Desert Research Station on sale for half price (still not cheap). So I bought some and now I’m enjoying sprouts. Great to harvest some of my fresh vegetables on a day like this or a cold, dark evening without leaving the kitchen.

Gloating: I bought a half-dead Phalaenopsis orchid for $10 last spring. I haven’t always been successful with these, but I figured it was worth a try since they are normally $40 plus. Not only has it revived, it has resprouted off the old flower spike, and has a completely new flower spike as well.


Time for bulbs March 29, 2013

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 3:17 pm

Planting: Freesia “Vienna”, Freesia “Montana”, Tulip “White Dream”, Actaea simplex “Black Negligee”, Ranunculus “Fiesta Mahogany”, Narcissus ‘Paperwhite’, hyachinth ‘Carnegie’, Fritaillaria camschatsensis, Fritillaria meleagris, Narsiccus ‘Thaila’, Leptinella ‘Platt’s Black’, Euphorbia glauca, white alyssum, white pansies. Bulbs aren’t in urgent need of water, and I have enough from the bucket in the shower to keep the rest alive.

Eating: lots over the last few months, although not as much vege diversity as usual. Zucchini obviously, lots of apples, tomatoes and capsicum from pots (I froze several kilos of tomatos, plus my own pasta and pizza sauces). And I was extremely excited to find 3 hazelnuts on the ground while weeding under my hazelnut trees. They tasted like any other hazelnuts, but the satisfaction improved them a lot. I wasn’t sure whether I’d managed to get any pollinated so now I know I can. Rasperries are going again. Very small strawberries due to the lack of water, but it’s like they crammed a full size strawberry of flavour in one miniature berry. The apples too, although they are a slightly more normal size.


Welcome bees! November 23, 2012

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 11:19 am

Eating: broad beans

Picking: sweet peas (feral ones, all lilac in colour but with a lovely scent)

Weeding: not enough. It’s got totally out of control.

Procrastinating: I’m so far behind. Everything is just an awful mess right now. I barely know where to start.

Spotting: a REAL BEE. I’m so excited! I’ve lived here since 2006 and I have never seen a bee in my garden. It isn’t that I haven’t looked. I spend hours in the garden looking at the creepy crawlies. I’ve seen hundreds of the flies that pretend to be bees and every time when I look closely they have little fly antennae and not bee antennae. But this one…. yes that really is a real bee.

I know there are some beekeepers that live in Khandallah, but they are a fair hike away and their bees obviously didn’t get as far as me. But either there are some newer, closer beekeepers, or their bees finally figured out that I have a garden full of lovely bee flowers all year round just waiting for them to find me.

Welcome bees!


Gardening weather October 13, 2012

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 5:50 pm

After a couple of vile days, the weather cleared enough this afternoon to do a little gardening.

Planting: shallots, garlic, California red onions (yes, I know I’m rather late with all this), white foxgloves, hellebores and a Pimelea.

Clearing: weeding is too mild a term for what I’ve been doing.

Discovering: I still have an oregano plant, a surprisingly large pizza thyme and some strawberries on my overgrown weedy bank between the two grapevines.

Transplanting: I finally found a spot for my very robust orange day lily. It’s been by the path near the front door for as long as I’ve had this house, and it’s thrived on the neglect. But not even I think that orange day lilies and salmon-pink roses make a good colour combination. Since I can’t move the vicarious rose, I found a new home for the day lily on a sunny and dry bank. It looks like the perfect spot to me.

Anticipating: the potatoes growing out of one of my compost bins look so healthy, I’m thinking I’ve got a good chance of new potatoes for Christmas.


Sprung! October 8, 2012

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 5:47 pm

OK, it’s definitely spring now. I spend a great weekend in the garden – I had a load of compost delivered and was finally able to start planting the ornamental area down the side of my house. It’s not really a good environment for edibles, so I’m focusing on ornamentals, especially interesting and scented ones.

Sowing (in pots): celery, dwarf beans (3 varieties), romanesco broccoli

Germinating: carrots, including the white carrot that I saved seed from last summer. It was a good carrot, growing big without getting tough, from Koanga, but germination was poor. But the saved seed looks very successful. The only one where germination looks possibly dodgy was the purple carrot which was about 3 years after its expiry date.

Anticipating: broad beans. “Dwarf early green” has some pods.

Flowering: I’ve still got weird and wonderful daffodils.

Eating: the last of my yams (made a yam curry – as authentic as Tandoori chicken pizza since oca is Andean and I made a south Indian-style curry. But tasted good – the sour oca tasted great with the coconut milk). Silverbeet. Lettuce, miner’s lettuce, and broccoli and calendula flowers.

Apologising: I should really put some pictures up. I’ve been so lazy lately.

And from last weekend…

Pruning: my Cape gooseberry. It spends the winter protecting my little lemon from frost, then gets a good prune come spring.

Planting: Italian honeysuckle (yes a non-invasive one), 3 native clematis cultivars, a Podophyllum, daphne, Viburnum x burkwoodii, 3 dark red Heuchera, 2 different forms of Metrosideros carminea (the shrubby version and the climber), several rengarenga lilies (with more to go) and two hellebores. I’ve probably forgotten something, and there’s still a bit more to plant.



Daylight savings October 1, 2012

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 9:16 pm

On the one hand, I don’t like getting up an hour earlier. On the other, I can do gardening after work – yay!

Sowing: zucchini, spaghetti squash, hybrid spaghetti squash, cucumber, basil, various tomato varieties. All in posts in my mini-greenhouse.

Also sowing: parsnip (last weekend), carrots, radish, beetroot (the week before).

Germinating: radish only so far.

Wondering: if many of my seeds will germinate. I notice a lot of my seed packets have past their best before dates. Worth a try, should still be time to get more of some if they don’t come up.

And an update from the weekend…

Tying: my pear espaliers and my Candace grape.

Pruning: a bit of belated pruning on my pear espaliers and my apples.

Blossoming: both pears. I’ve cut every blossom off Buerre Bosc, it’s far too small to be allowed to fruit. But Doyenne du Comice is a couple of years older and much bigger, and successfully produced a fruit last year. So I can let that have a few more fruit this year.

Breaking: my Blush Babe is the most advanced, but all the apples apart from Adore are now at budbreak. Adore is in the coldest spot and is the latest season apple. Blush Babe is planted about 30 cm in front (i.e. to the north) of my big black compost bins. So it’s probably got just a bit of a microclimate.

Setting: my gooseberry is already setting fruit.

Fruiting: my northern highbush blueberries are actually fruiting. I’ve eaten two fruit. Just amazingly delicious.

Weeding: a big job right now. The vegetable and berry gardens are ok (although far from perfect), but the area on the bank is quite out of control. I’m working on it, but it’s slow.


Garden production costs September 16, 2012

Filed under: Garden,Living below the line — belladonnabess @ 12:05 pm
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Is anyone else using homegrown vegetables in the “Live below the line” challenge?

I eat my own vegetables year-round, with a few notable exceptions, and I don’t want to change that for the live below the line challenge. But how do I calculate my production costs?

There are a whole lot of complex factors to account for:

  • whole garden or just vegetables?
  • over what time period – I could do average spending over weeks, months or years (if I could be bothered to dig up the receipts and calculate)?
  • do I add costs like fixing the boundary retaining wall?
  • what about my time?
  • all vegetables – from seedlings, seeds and self-sown or saved?
  • what about weeds from my garden?
  • what about the plastic mesh that keeps off the blackbirds and holds the mulch in place?

I’ve come to conclusion that seems reasonable to me. It will allow me to eat an average amount from my garden over the week and will ensure I have plenty of vitamins.

I really have two season in the garden. The “summer” garden (which runs from November/December-April/May) is abundant, with a great variety but also quite significant inputs. I grow seeds in pots in a mini-greenhouse, I use a cloche and bought mulch and sometimes compost. I buy a wide range of seeds and I also buy in seedlings of various things like capsicum, chili and some tomato and zucchini varieties. I use sheep manure pellets and rok fertiliser. I also grow things in pots (tomatoes for example which are better potted in a wet summer).

“Winter” is different. From about late May until about October – I still grow a mix of seeds, seeds and ferals, but I don’t tend to pot up my own seedlings, the winter stuff is direct sow. I have a higher reliance on feral things like the brassicas, yams, chard, lettuce, miner’s lettuce, chickweed, lamb’s lettuce, puha. I have carrots from seed and leeks and kale from seedlings. I use a little rok and some sheep manure pellets, but the mulch is largely just newspaper (and the re-used plastic mesh). I harvest my own slow compost (mostly made from weeds) in winter and use that.

So winter inputs are minimal. But so is the variety. Some leeks and carrots (but not lots), chard, kale, yams, potatoes (early winter only), broccoli (pretty much finished now), a bit of celery, weedy greens. Oh and endless parsley! I could probably do more but this is all I ended up with.

This is the garden I’ll have for the challenge. And so I decided to cost only this season and do a week’s average. I think it’s fair to leave out all the fruit, ornamentals, and landscaping, since before I did all that work, I still had a typical cheap vege garden for my own vegetables. If I was poor (but still had a patch of earth) then I would be growing and living on my vegetables, just without the neat edging, paths, fruit trees, spring bulbs and unusual plant collection. That’s just what I do.

So what I’ve spent on the winter vegetables is about $24 on seedlings (leeks, some different lettuce, celery, brassicas), and probaby no more than $5 on nutrient inputs and a few carrot seeds. Say $30 total. Yams, chard, most of the brassicas and greens were saved seed or self-sown.

So I think for somewhere around $1.25-$1.50 I can eat a leek or two (small), a few carrots, a few sticks of celery (all I’ve got left) and a good quantity of leafy greens. I’ll have to buy onions if I want them, but that seems reasonable to me.

Anyone else have any thoughts on production costs? Have I missed anything out?


Hiatus and hijack September 10, 2012

Filed under: Garden,Living below the line — belladonnabess @ 6:24 pm

It’s the blog that has been in hiatus, not my garden.

Buying: for the whole year, the only vegetables I’ve bought are some sweetcorn (I just can’t grow it), onions (can’t grow enough), garlic and some okra – I wish I could grow it, but Wellington just isn’t tropical enough!

Eating: for the whole year – leeks, red onions, carrots and chard of every shade, broccoli, kale, oca, potatoes, beans, celery, cavolo nero, kohlrabi, zucchini, a few rather pathetic tomatoes (wet summer), capsicum, lettuce, Jerusalem artichoke, choko leaves (I haven’t got any fruit yet), rhubarb, apples (about 25 from my little trees), pear (singular!), raspberrries, strawberries, boysenberries, gooseberries, passionfruit (P. antioquiensis, two of them!), and I think some other things I can’t remember right now. Also a bunch of weeds like miner’s lettuce, chickweed etc and herbs like parsley.

Growing: right now I’ve got carrots, leeks, chard, broccoli, kale, lettuce, kohlrabi and a wide selection of weeds. Broad beans are flowering and there are still some yams in the ground.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to hijack my blog to talk about the “live below the line challenge”.


Summer…sort of January 28, 2012

Filed under: Garden,Photos — belladonnabess @ 3:41 pm

Planting: leek seedlings (last week), Berlicum carrot and Choigga beetroot seeds (today). I read somewhere that it is a good idea to plant a punnet of seedlings every week through summer to keep you in veges through the autumn and winter, so I’m having a go at that approach.

Eating: zucchini, potatoes, beans, zucchini, tomatoes (so far just one or two cherry tomatoes), carrots, celery, lettuce, zucchini, raspberries (summer crop is nearly over), strawberries, Cape gooseberries, zucchini, zucchini and then for a change zucchini. Lucky I like zucchinis.

Enjoying: my Dalmatian beans. I’ve got quite a few this year, they seem to be doing well. I’m not cooking them, just eating them raw straight from the garden. It seems a shame to cook them and lose the pretty purple spots.

Wondering: what happened to my spaghetti squash? I saved seed, and mostly got short, stubby zucchini. Still, they are really nice-tastings ones. Clearly, spaghetti squash cross with zucchini.

Anticipating: apples. There are about 20  hanging off the trees in my miniature orchard. Unfortunately with every northwest gale, another one or two blow off the trees. So it is a race between them ripening and being blown off the trees. I tasted my first bought apples this season from the farmer’s market, and was reminded just how good fresh apples are. I can’t wait for my own!


Oh, in case this post doesn’t fully convey the abundance of zucchini I have right now, here’s a picture of a zucchini (it’s a small Zephyr, probably my favourite variety).


And here is the reason for the abundance. I planted a row (and got some bonus plants from what I thought were spaghetti squash). I realise normal people plant one or two plants, and a row of zucchini is probably excessive, but I like them. And I like having spare to share.

And here’s the whole garden, with the row of zucchini towards the back. This was taken in December. Everything’s just grown bigger and lusher since then, as we have a had a good downpour at least once a week. Not a great summer, but at least I haven’t needed to water anything.