Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Why is it, the moment you plant small vegetable seedlings, the next day they are gone, eaten by slugs and snails? Why is it, the moment your long awaited irises, get blown flat the second they all flower? Argentinean ants, what are they about, marching in columns around the garden, farming herds of scale insects and aphids as they do? What else gets my goat? The birds! In collaboration with the slugs and snails I suspect, planning attacks on various parts of the garden. The cat! Love him though I do, why does he insist on lying right where I planted my carrot seeds yesterday? Not only that, he manages to scratch a nest for himself there in the middle. Of course the birds too seem to think they must sharpen their talons amongst newly planted cuttings, leaving the topsoil all over the path.

Most recently I have been complaining about the dry, how will I keep my garden over the summer? It would seem this weekend all those worries have been allayed. Lying awake as the wind howled around the house and the rain pelted the windows, our tank is now full. A blast of rain like this though heavy may not replenish the water table as much as we may think and vigilance is still necessary especially for newly planted seeds and plants. Good staking too pays dividends; my broad beans are safe and sound stropped into their string and stake framing. So as the sun shines on the battle weary garden, all is not lost. Recently I sprayed the worst affected with scale and aphids (as much as I hate to spray, I use organic spray of garlic and pyrethrum) and the ants too seem to dislike this combo, thank goodness. As general rule though, if there is a gap in the row where the ct has made his nest, I don’t worry too much, the place is big enough for both of us and I can always throw in some lettuce in there instead. In a way my vegetable patch tends to look a bit more like an herbaceous border with blocks of plants and things a wee bit mixed up. I do try to remember where I last grew the tomatoes and rotate the crops so as not to deplete the soil of nutrients in one place and to avoid build of pests and diseases, so far so good.

One thing I am excited about is one of my ornamental passion vines Passiflora antioquiensis has buds on it. The blooms are a deep red colour and hang down on long petioles. Mine I have encouraged to grow up a pole then across the path to the top of a now dead wattle tree. The idea is to be able to walk beneath it and see the blooms hanging from above also to clothe the ugly old wattle tree. So despite the venting of the spleen there is always good reason to be optimistic in the garden!

Monday, September 05, 2005


It would seem winter is now behind us, following what everyone thought a fabulous summer, I cast a nervous eye toward the water tank. Already I have had to start watering the vegetable garden. One space beneath the pohutukawa, the soil was almost dust like. So I am now contemplating water conservation in the home and garden so we might survive without needing to buy water this summer and if rain does start to come, no problem and mulch is good for the soil structure.

On Sunday, enjoying this early spring, I joined a group of people in a new community garden. The same group of people have been running a stall at the Ostend market where people bring their excess vegetables and other produce from their gardens exchange for something they may not have. Others make a donation for the items they want. Any proceeds go towards the likes of compost and potting mix for the new garden. This group has coined the name Grow, (GRown On Waiheke). Last Sunday, tasks involved clearing the new vegetable beds, sewing seeds in the wee glasshouse, re-establishing the compost heaps and cleaning out a small tool shed. I think it was a few hours well spent with people able to work together and not only try something new, but also learn from each other. If you are interesting in being involved pop along to the market on Saturday and look out for the stall.

Other tasks under way in my garden included the cleaning the pond, no small task. To my delight I discovered I had two gold fish in the bottom! They had almost quadrupled in size in the short twelve months since I last saw them, (and that was when I introduced them to their new home!) so now I am giving them a bit of food daily in honour of their tenacity and in lieu of my neglect! Whilst here I also divided up the water plants and repotted them. All done and the extra divisions planted out in the new bog garden, I felt quite pleased with myself, I even remembered to put gravel on the top of the pots to stop the soil floating out. What I had forgotten to do, was to use garden soil instead of potting mix. Urgh! Still at least I hadn’t at this point changed the water in the pond. It is better to use garden soil as there are generally less soluble nutrients in it and therefore less to leach out into the water and turn it green. Potting mix has fertiliser in it that freely leaches out into the water; in particular nitrogen which algae particularly like. Having said all that, my pond still turns green! Even with my fountain and added plants, I suspect the pond being small and rather shallow, heats too much. This season hopefully with the addition of watercress and the water lily becoming bigger the problem will be less.