Archive for 'Container Gardening'

Finally, Fungi

Posted 20 April 2012 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Food, fungi, Gardening, Growing Food, Seagarden | Comments Off on Finally, Fungi

Having a blast with mushrooms, grown from Parkvale’s GYObuckets. Amazed at how they went from fuzzy white mycelium to tiny pin-head fruiting bodies to mushrooms as big as my hands in just a few days. They are just delicious, enjoyed so far sauteed, scrambled with eggs and as the star of mushroom fried rice (alongside the last of the peppers).

Looking forward to mycologist Alison Stringer’s Fungal Foray through the Otari-Wilton Bush on Sunday, 22 April. Hope to learn what will flourish on the floor of the fernery.

Here are some other mushroom resources:

Sweet as Wheatgrass

Posted 01 April 2012 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on Sweet as Wheatgrass

For months, I looked for wheatgrass seeds among the seed packets and the bags of seeds-for-sprouting at the organic grocer. I started to suspect they were not stocking the seeds in order to promote the expensive flats of already growing wheatgrass. Eventually, I asked the woman at checkout why they didn’t stock them, and she looked at me incredulously: “Wheatgrass is just the baby stage of wheat, which you can find whole in the bulk section.” Of course! I had no idea.

What a delicious paradox that wheat, which gets blamed for a vast array of ills, is the very same plant that in grass form is touted as the elixir of all health and life. In any case, it’s incredibly easy to grow outside and well suited to vertical planters. Spread a dense mat of organic whole wheat seeds across the soil and just cover with a little more soil. Water extensively, then daily, and watch as it sprouts in a couple of days and is ready for harvest in eight.

Happy Birthday Orchard

Happy Birthday Orchard

Posted 07 January 2011 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Seagarden, Seasons, Vegetables | Comments Off on Happy Birthday Orchard
brandywine tomato

Hard to believe it was just one year ago the Seagarden orchard was planted. Especially the magical bean-stalkish tamarillo trees. Almost everything made it through the first year on our extreme coast and quite a few have thrived. Here’s what’s notable in the garden this week, starting with the first ripe tomato. And what a punk fruit it is, with stitches and a hammer and sickle emerging from its ripe red flesh. It was, quite simply, the best tomato I’ve ever tasted, and that’s adjusting for bias because it’s the first one I’ve ever grown from seed to plate. With a name like ‘brandywine’ I thought it would be more explosive on the palette than the palate, but I was happily surprised by the reverse.

Growing Nutella and Candyfloss

Growing Nutella and Candyfloss

Posted 16 December 2010 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Flowers, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on Growing Nutella and Candyfloss

welcome the new class of exotics This week, I am so excited to welcome an infusion of exotic plants (all from Subtropica): inga bean, chocolate gardenia, vanilla passionfruit, Chinese ginger, galangal and a dwarf date palm. I feel a bit like Willy Wonka composing a fantasy garden of candyfloss (inga bean) and nutella mangosteens (chocolate gardenia). Let’s see how they grow!

Ginger Chinese (Zingiber officinale var. sinensis) This is very similar to the ginger you buy in the shops. It has pungent yellow roots and is fairly easily grown outdoors, in a semi shaded position. Non invasive. A great plant for the vege garden.

Ginger Galangal – Red (Alpinia galanga) Also known as Thai ginger, this pretty plant has aromatic roots that are used extensively in Thai cooking. It will grow well outdoors in NZ in a frost-free spot with adequate moisture and semi-shade. The flowers have a red tinge, hence the name.

Inga Bean (Inga Edulis) A highly ornamental tree with huge bean pods up to 15 cm, containing candyfloss-like edible pulp. Leguminous tree. Ripens June-July. Will bear three years from seed. Beautiful white pohutukawa like flowers in January and February.

Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebellenii) This very attractive small palm has graceful, arching,deep green fronds. In its native Laos it produces small black edible fruits that resemble dates. It may be harder to get it to fruit here, but it will be an attractive addition to any subtropical garden.

Chocolate Gardenia (Atractocarpus fitzalani) Also known as yellow mangosteen, this Australian native has small, highly scented flowers followed by medium-sized sweet orange fruit, that I am told tastes like Nutella. It comes from the more tropical north, but will grow in a warm sheltered situation here. If the conditions are not warm enough, it won’t fruit but will still produce flowers. Not frost tolerant.

Passionfruit Vanilla (Passiflora antioquiensis) A really special passionfruit, the ripe fruit are long with a yellow skin when ripe and a very sweet, rich aromatic pulp. My favourite. The vines have narrow dark green leaves and a reddish stem. Non-invasive. The flowers are being beautiful large tropical looking scarlet flowers growing to 10-12 cm across and with purple blue centres. Flowers appear Spring and Autumn.

Summer Comes Alive

Summer Comes Alive

Posted 09 December 2010 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Flowers, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Seagarden, Seasons, Uncategorized, Vegetables | Comments Off on Summer Comes Alive
first tomatoes

Summer has truly come alive. The first tomatoes, brandywine, are plumping up on the vine, and everything’s growing in full and lush.

Loving the fire-like blossoms on the native harakeke (phormium). For the last few days, a new drama has unfolded in the meditation garden outside my office: a blackbird smacks down a large stick insect and proceeds to wrestle it into submission. So far, the blackbird has won every match.

The vertical gardens are a delight this season. The strawberries (chandler, elsanta, gaviota) are doing exceptionally well and sending out runners to the tiers below. I’m still enjoying excellent strawberries from the patch that was planted before I arrived on the scene, but I have read that the plants weaken after a few years and succumb to pests and diseases.

Happy I interspersed lettuce with edible violas in the vertical planters – they’re visually delightful, and the flowers are lovely on salads and dishes. Also happy to see the potatoes planted in the bases are thriving. Will the new nutty celery succeed? Time will tell.

First Day of Spring in the Seagarden

First Day of Spring in the Seagarden

Posted 01 September 2010 | By | Categories: Animals, Container Gardening, Flowers, Gardening, Plants, Seagarden, Seasons | Comments Off on First Day of Spring in the Seagarden

September 1 is the first day of Spring in New Zealand. That’s still hard to wrap my Northern hemisphere-raised head around, but the garden’s been sending signs for a couple of weeks that it’s so. The nights are still cold, but each morning brightens a little earlier, accompanied by the sound of tui birds. Here are some more clues:

3 aeonium
Aeonium Schwarzkopf has provided a trio of synchronized swimming coneheads in daisy bathing caps for us to admire. Let us celebrate the combination of plum and chartreuse, wherever we may find it in nature. Where else can you find it in nature? If you can think of anywhere, let me know in comments.

blueberry blossoms
Blueberry bushes blossoming. Some have pink buds, some have white buds. Even the plants that looked too meagre to flourish are budding.

Clivia Miniata about to bloom
A Clivia Miniata blossom is springing up from the fernery floor. While normally a hardy plant, these were transplanted last year to make way for the tree ferns, and didn’t show much growth afterwards. Happy to see they’re going to make it after all.

Orchid Training
A splendid gift orchid is training dormant ones to revive. All 5 of the dormant phalaenopsis orchids have green leafy bases, but two have dead-looking stems, while three have green stems with buds.

Almond Blossoms
Almond is the first orchard tree to bloom, but I see buds developing on the apricot, nectarine, cherry, orange and apple trees too.

Sarracenia Blossom Sarracenia purpurea, also known as the purple pitcher plant or the side-saddle flower, shot up a foot-high stem in a week, and proceeded to open its lovely blossom yesterday. Pitcher plants derive their nutrition from insects that find their way into the pitchers, filled with liquid digestive enzymes. Does the fluid smell sweet to the insects? I can’t detect an odor, but spiders seem to know what’s going on. A few enterprising arachnids have spun webs across several pitchers, aspiring to intercept the catch. It’s a micro-jungle in here.

Speaking of fauna, I am pleased to note the presence of many earthworms in the composter and a whole universe of creatures in the vegetable patches. Excited to come across this introduction to New Zealand’s giant springtails (Collembola) and look forward to seeing them in the garden. Also, I’m finding this Guide to New Zealand Soil Invertebrates by Massey helpful for identifying the creatures I run across, as well as those that run across me.

What are your favorite signs of Spring?

Tropical Tuesday

Tropical Tuesday

Posted 10 February 2010 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Food, Gardening, Health, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on Tropical Tuesday

Coffee and bananas are staples — essentials — on my shopping list, papaya and passionfruit whenever in season. But usually, I’m referring to the end produce, not the plant. Today, all four plants found their way into my home.

Is there any scent that puts your heart more at ease than roasting coffee beans? Not for me… that’s the fragrance that wafted through the air of my family’s business across from the Folger’s plant in downtown Kansas City when I was growing up. Apparently though, the scent of flowering coffee resembles jasmine so much that it was first described as Jasminium arabica. And it’s recommended as a plant whose fragrance drifts or wafts on the air. Oh how little I know about my favorite first daily drink (or drug, if you insist). Looking forward to getting to know you in a whole new way, coffee!

Banana plants make gorgeous indoor ornamentals even if they never fruit, but I love the idea of cultivating options beyond the corporate banana monoculture. The passionflower vine twining up the pergola in my NYC Skygarden delighted me with its abundant purple blooms. It was sold as an annual but kept going for years. This golden passionfruit vine aka sweet granadilla looked so beautiful with healthy heart shaped leaves in the store, I hope it can thrive here in the windy Seagarden.

Juicy ripe papayas are divine pleasures, and the green fruits make great som tam (a spicy Thai salad). Alas, the Hawaiian papayas sold in the US are genetically modified and the New Zealand stores are filled with irradiated imports from Australia. Excited to see if they will grow here — the leaves and aroma of the plant itself are lovely regardless.

hibiscusflowermandevilla white fantasyTopping off this tropical Tuesday, my parents arrived bearing flowering mandevilla and hibiscus flower plants.

All of today’s additions will enjoy the comforts of container living, moving indoors or out depending on season and Seatoun weather. If you have any secrets for cultivating any of these exotic beauties outside their native environments, I welcome your suggestions.

  • If you like the scent of roasting coffee wafting over you, Wellington is your town! Cafe L’affare is a delightful cafe (with great daily specials) built around the roaster: 27 College St, Wellington, New Zealand 04 385 9748. Mojo Coffee just opened a new roastery and headquarters at Shed 13 on the Wellington Waterfront. What are your favorites?
Windowfarms NYC

Windowfarms NYC

Posted 19 April 2009 | By | Categories: Art, Container Gardening, Vegetables | Comments Off on Windowfarms NYC


windowfarms.jpg
Britta Riley and Rebecca Bray have set out to start a window farms craze in NYC. They are creating several different designs for suspended, hydroponic, modular, low-energy, high-yield light-augmented window farms using low-impact or recycled local materials. They are calling for participants to build a window farm and grow your own food at home in a collaborative design project.http://windowfarms.org/

This project fits within a larger context of their collaborative work: “crowdsourced R&Diy solutions for environmental issues. Our inspiration for community involvement derives from concepts of local production (think of the coming network of 3D multi-material printers), mass customization, and crowdsourcing. We envision the DIY aspect, not as a nostalgia-inducing hobby or a compromise during hard financial times, but as a futuristic infrastructure-light alternative to big R&D. Instead of waiting for products and services to be developed by industry, local social networks develop solutions for themselves by dividing scientists’ breakthrough findings into actionable local steps.”

Crowdsourcing local solutions to environmental problems. Wikis and instructables aren’t enough – develop tools to help people build on what other have started.