End of November Vegetable Garden Update

Well I must say I am pretty chuffed with how the garden is going, I am now a “bio intensive” convert! The bed that got the best the plant food and also gets the best sunshine is now going gang busters, the others have various amounts of sun and whatever leftovers of garden food there was, all double dug as much as possible, these are chugging along. Slower, with more bug problems than the others. Pretty much what I have been used to seeing in the garden in the last few years with my ‘ad hock’ approach. I feel a lot better having a “method” to follow and, to be honest, far more motivated too!

Some details: Garlic has rust! I am blaming that on me over watering and it getting a tad too much shade from a tree next to the bed. Seeds for beetroot and carrots getting there, albeit quite sluggish (shadey tree, not double dug.).

Tomatoes, brassicas and silver beet in my middle, sunniest beds are big and happy.

Bed on the left is half Asparagus (I have let the weeds get too big, now I don’t know what to do with it, incase i disturb the Asparagus roots.. sigh) Right is happy Tomatoes.

Courgettes in a less than the sunniest spot, (but not too bad) are growing really well. They are planted quite close together so I will try to keep them well fed.

Courgettes and the rest of the Chard and Kale, at the end is some Oats and Peas.

After some help clearing the beds around the deck we brought some store compost and I have planted out a carbon crop of Amaranth and in the brick tubs I have Beans (thanks Kate!), herbs and Henrys Bush toms. I also put in some peas and oats down the side of the house and plan to put some more seeds down that whole length of that in the next few weeks.

Kylie clearing and double digging the bed next to the deck, everything all filled up.

I am slowly reading and watching all sorts of gardening info to try and get an initial composting/garden feeding system all setup, but for now I am using sheep pellets, weed tea, worms castings, store brought compost, and mulching with your standard pea straw. I only had enough compost for maybe one and half beds after the winter so its hardly sufficient! There will be more info on all of this as I work it all out. My mum gave me a Refractometer to help measure BRIX in your plants for Christmas, I plan on learning to use this to help me see whats working and what isn’t.

The weather has been crazy dry, keeping up with the watering has been quite hard. I hope to come up with a better system for that too. Love hand watering but some days it just takes too long.

Last but not least, the little bean thats taking up most of my time has turned one! ONE. She has only JUST started sleeping through (with some effort on our part!), if you count waking up at 5.30am as sleeping through that is…

Garden Plans

I mentioned in my last post a “research” theme in my time spent keeping a baby alive. Gardening! For some full disclosure, I have a garden primarily full of weeds. I wish I had a lovely garden where I spent hours cultivating beauty, bee/insect happy plants and delicious food. Wouldn’t that be lovely? But for me, when sleep deprived, recovering from carrying a baby, birthing a baby and feeding a baby there is so little energy left some days I wonder if I will ever do anything else ever again.

Finally, in time for Spring the little Xanthe started sleeping a little better so we have finally made it into the garden! I EVEN started some seeds! (I’m actually pretty amazed that happened.) In the last few weekends, my chooks, Kylie and I have enjoyed getting out and having a good dig. Quinn has directed and Xanthe has been swapped around to the parent not covered in dirt.

I wanted to approach the garden a little more methodically from this spring. Previously we have managed some basic vegetable growing, but its results have been pretty disappointing, which has led me to decide to give bio intensive methods a try. It involves cultivating and growing awesome soil with clever strategic composting and planting. One “double digs” the bed to help create loose nutritious soil more quickly (which is where we grab a Kylie because I managed maybe one and half beds before conking out). We also use soil tests to figure out what to feed the soil as you go.

This year we have started with the double digging, I have added what I have on hand for nutrients, sheep pellets, compost and vermicast. You can get this other stuff my plant guru’s recommend, but haven’t got around to ordering it yet. We now have a bed or two planted out, a few more ready to go and a few smaller ones ready for us to dig over for the carbon crops to the side of the house.

My main source of information and inspiration is the amazing Kay Baxter at Koanga Institute. I have huge amounts of admiration for what she and her crew are doing and wish I could just start all over again and go live there for a year back when I had no kids! Now I have little ones and we love where we are, so won’t be going anywhere. Her videos on Facebook are GOLD, I have her gardening guide and brought a few handbooks, they are all fantastic. So head on over to visit if you want to see what I’m talking about. She takes live chats (you can watch later) on Facebook too.

This summer I am focusing on just growing in the beds we already have, but by the end of this season I hope to have a better idea of how to completely re-jig the garden, so the vegetables get more sun, its easier to take care of and just grows us  food more efficiently than it has done previously.

I also want a jungle/natives garden room out front and flowers to pick for vases around the sunnier side… but thats another phase of the garden overhaul.

Side note:  I have uploaded some photos to Flickr. Embedding into the post looked weird and I don’t have time to faff! Follow this link.

Update and New Beginnings

How do I write down an update to sum up my life right now? I have tried four times and deleted all of them. Its a bit hard really. So I’ll begin it by bullet pointing.

  • New baby, Xanthe Kylie Louise Hills. Arrived 22nd November 2016. Born at home, no complications. She is incredibly delicious. Gets nibbled every day and keeps me awake at night. Quinn the son has started school (WHAT?!) in April. Love him, he is hilarious and growing up so quickly. Quite hard work at times but thats to be expected with all the changes.
  • Kylie, my love, rock and local funny man is also a zombie tired wreck who is ever hopeful he might get some… sleep at some point in his future.. possibly not in the next few months!
  • Cara – My little sister who was in an awful car accident 18th October 2015. She is in a Christchurch care and rehab facility. She is awake but needs 24 hour care, rest and gentle rehab. This is going to be a very long journey, for her, for her family and friends. We have small signs of her being still with us, but its cloudy in there and beyond hard to try and get out. We do whatever we can to help. Head injuries suck. Head injuries that would kill most people suck even more. Keep her in your thoughts and send whatever get well vibes you can.
  • Creative stuff. I painted a few pictures before I hit huge pregnant. Loved it. I have started a crochet blanket for Xanthe’s big bed. Always knitting, always sketching.
  • Food and Health. Things are tracking really well now. I have worked hard to find out what my body thrives on food wise and have been feeling the healthiest I have been in years, even when growing a baby and having no sleep. Shows how bad I got before i took back some control.
  • Garden, ticking along, quite neglected at present. With all the time spent breastfeeding I have used that time to read books and listen to podcasts, mostly about gardening and permaculture. I have been SO inspired, hoping to apply said inspiration and get in the garden soon. Many new layouts have been sketched, methods to make new beds researched… trying to get Kylie enthused to help also a daily activity… he helps, but usually to keep me happy… which I guess works well enough, I just need some other garden geeks to chew their ears off instead of Kylie!
  • I would like to be filling up this blog more. I have an itch to write, take pictures and create a space to catalogue exploits and ideas, even if largely unread… I know my family and friends read 😀

I’ll leave with some random piccies I have been taking recently. Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens

Margaret Mahy Family Playground

Xanthe Hills 6.5 months

Making Websites again…. but not by myself.

Well life’s been far from quiet as of late. I have started working again! As a contractor for Board of Design. Setting them up so that they can offer web design and development as a service. It works perfectly for me right now. It allows me to “leave the office” (well for the most part) and be mum at home in a very flexible setup. Ensuring my little man is never far from home for very long, thanks to an awesome day care, grandad and my partner (the daddy) taking some time off work to be with him too. It’s really not a huge amount of work. But it has been just enough. Which is all I am thinking about for now! I have a few very cool projects in the works. Will post up here when they are done.

But for the mean time….. I have not stopped taking pictures! Here are a few from a wee trip one weekend we all headed into town for free Tram rides…as a result this mum got some free time to play with her camera in The Christchurch Botanic Gardens. What me take photos of plants? That’s new! 😉






Christchurch Botanic Gardens


House and Garden

Well the little guy is growing and moving quite happily right now. I must confess that I don’t think I am one of the ladies that ENJOYS being pregnant. I feel a bit old lady before my time. Symptoms could be much worse too! I don’t know how some woman do this over and over. I just keep remembering to myself about the end goal. Kylie has also been very attentive so I am well looked after!

Mostly I wanted to write to show you whats been happening around our wee house for the last few months. SO MUCH.

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Getting Plastered!

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New Gate! Almost done.

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Really cannot justify missing out the recently built “Man Bench”. If we have an earthquake guess where we are hiding? Kylie is quite proud of this one. All the people that come over get shown the new construction.

Some Garden:

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Want basil and tomatos to be big NOW. I can just imagine the taste.

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Gone to seed Spinach (I eat anyway!) and lettuce.

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Its a corgette (zucchini) baby! I planted four of these plants and slugs ate three of them! I now have some happy little seedlings growing forth thanks to an old flatmate. Thanks Esther! I am looking forward to eating these soon.

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We have a few flowers in out garden – none planted by us. All here when we arrived. The white roses and lavender are EVERYWHERE. And they both smell great and flower in great abundance.

I have yet to take a photo of our red climbing rose, its gets alot of love from our visitors. The only thing we have done to our flowers this year is prune. So they are a little eaten. I am hoping in the next few years to start giving the decorative parts of our garden some love. But for now they do what they do with not alot love, but give us so much!

A few things I have let go in the last month or so:

  • I have come to ignore the weeds in the garden for my time is better spent elsewhere (for now!)
  • renovating yourself will mean it won’t be perfect and thats quite alright
  • sometimes your plants get eaten by more than just you. Just keep planting
  • stop comparing myself to other peoples house and gardens, ours is perfect however it looks! (this is a skill i need to get better at)

So many photos! This really is a small taste of what we have been up to recently. Its a rather nice reminder for me on how far we have come and how much we have achieved. (Must be showing Kylie some before and after shots!) We have actually been feeling over whelmed of late about how far we have to go, so this blog post is rather timely and has kicked me right out of it!

Growing and being eaten

Its been awhile since I posted as you can see, I have been avoiding it to tell the truth. First because I was miserable in Cambridge without Christchurch or my friends around to keep me busy. I don’t like writing when sad! Second because I was pre-occupied with good things but I kept on putting it off writing because I am useless at keeping things to myself. I am pregnant! Yes thats the big news and the pre-occupation. I believe most people now know that need to, so I can safely announce here. In the delightful spring I am growing things in the garden and (hopefully) one thing in the belly.

Speaking of the garden, its busy busy in there…


First came the seedlings. Then….

The beds are beginning

The hastily constructed beds, then….

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The slugs! Argh.

I am fighting with expensive but successful buried beer traps (slugs really like Speights). Egg shells that don’t do much at all and soda bottle cloches that my “seedlings” are growing out of! I am just going to keep adding in more seeds in cloches as they get eaten and keep putting down traps and eventually I hope to have enough plants alive to get nice and big and feed us.

This really is my first vege garden from scratch and all by myself.. previous ones have been others I have helped in. I have so far learnt: Not plant out seedlings (no matter how impatient I am) on windy days! Some seeds really do fair better when planted directly in the ground. That this garden has bugs everywhere – more than any other flat, unit or even mums place than I have seen anywhere. In one night healthy seedlings are stumps. STUMPS! Grrr. Not to mention the caterpillar invasion from last year on my bucket salad veges from the moment we moved in, in late summer. One day a few caterpillars the next I have no rocket left. Going to try “molasses spray” for the next anticipated invasion. I figure I just keep on trucking and each year I will get better at it and there might even be less bugs of some varieties? Maybe? Hopefully? I have also learnt cats love vege garden beds as littler trays, so stubbornly that the netting has to be TIGHT, or they will just walk ontop of it and pee anyway. Blighters.

One challenge this year is watering. Since our water piping system in Christchurch is still rather broken we have watering restrictions. Last year I just watered my bucket vege garden from the washing machine waste water! It works, but in the new house its all plumbed in. Not to mention the pain in the ass it is that every time it starts a spin cycle we have a bucket chain going out into the garden. This year we are planning on collecting rain water off the garage and I use big bowls in the sink every time veges are washed ect and we put that water into a big plastic tub thing to be used when needed. Thus far we still get to water gardens every other day (kinda) but I remember Chch summers harking back to childhood where we could not even do that. So if its dry summer then there will be buckets in showers, sinks and whatever to be used again on the garden! Luckily we use all eco store bio-degradable products. Mostly because I am allergic to lots chemicals, but useful now we need to re-use all our water.