Tag Archives: Gardening

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.

The First Tamarillos

The First Tamarillos

Posted 23 December 2010 | By | Categories: Animals, Flowers, fungi, Gardening, Growing Food, Pest control, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on The First Tamarillos
tamarillo

Delighted to see the first tamarillos emerging like jewels from these fast-growing trees. The leaves have been attracting aphids, but they seem responsive to strong sprays of water shooting them off. I’m not sure the occasional chili pepper garlic spray did much more than the water on its own.

I’ve also harvested my first few potatoes out of the strawberry patch. The strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are all still coming through strong. The blueberries are almost ripe, and the myrtus ugni are starting to form visibly behind the flowers. Feijoas are also fattening up even while still in bloom.

The area by the front door has filled up with fragrant star jasmine, which is apparently a seductive scent for cats as well as humans. At least for the the one below, who’s been hanging out on the front step a lot lately. When I approach to say hi, the cat scats. Directly across in the fernery, the nikau palm’s looking healthy, as are the native punga tree ferns.

There are also some mysterious mushrooms in the lettuce. Does anyone recognize these fungi? I appreciate your help in comments!

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.

Seagarden Log: Weather With You

Seagarden Log: Weather With You

Posted 01 February 2010 | By | Categories: Gardening, Seagarden | Comments
    weather graph for 01.02.2010

  • The weather station is up and running (though not yet in its ultimate location) and publishing through Weather Underground. See the day in weather at right. Now where are the beautiful Mac OS Weather Station apps? The Firehouse explores the question in detail, but the answer has not yet revealed itself. Do you know?
  • It thrills me no end to be growing chile peppers — or, as they say here, capsicums. The cayenne is full of beautiful green peppers and the jalapeño is flowering. The orange capsicum has three large peppers on it and the red capsicums are beginning to flower as well. The chiles went into a delicious guacamole and a pot of green chilli that hit the spot on this cold, rainy summer day
  • It was in the red peppers and tomato area that I noticed a profusion of young weta or grasshoppers. Will get a better picture to identify the little jumpers.
  • Testing the EasyBloom Plant Sensor near the meyer lemon tree. Full review coming soon. Check out the little lemons!
  • The blueberries seem to be delighted with recent feedings of organic fertilizer for acid-loving plants and a juniper mulch, as they’ve responded with lots of new leaf and berry growth. The tamarillos are growing huge.
  • Yes, we have tomatoes! And crystal apple cucumbers! And feijoas! Today was my first glimpse of all three.
  • The Chilean guava is full of berries that sure look ripe but aren’t yet ready to release. The blackberries grow in clusters but ripen individually; the few I’ve tasted are sweeter than any I’ve had elsewhere. Oddly, the blackberry plant I purchased hasn’t shown much initiative, the fruit has all been plucked from similar vines that arrived on their own volition.
  • The potato plants springing up through the strawberry patch are growing huge, and the brussels sprouts have started to take off, though they’re getting lots of bites on the leaves as well.
  • In the vegetable garden, the arugula has all gone to seed and the spinach is headed that way. I have been reseeding with many exciting greens, but I suspect that was the last time we shall ever see such an orderly pattern of plants in that area.


Daily Om: Healing Gardens

Daily Om: Healing Gardens

Posted 08 January 2010 | By | Categories: Art, Health, Spirit | Comments Off on Daily Om: Healing Gardens

Ganesha, Saraswati, and Jallandharnath (detail), identified here as a copy of folio 1 from the Nath Purana, attributed to Amardas, c1825; opaque watercolour and gold on paper; 47 x 123 cm. Mehrangarh Museum Trust

There are very few email newsletters I remain subscribed to for long, but after many years, the DailyOm, continues to inspire me and often surprises me in addressing an issue or theme that’s top of mind. Today’s Om, Healing Gardens, particularly resonated:

Healing Gardens
Hand in Hand with Nature

Time spent in nature’s embrace is a soothing reminder of the fact that we also are products of the natural world’s ingenuity. We feel at home in a quiet forest and are comforted by the pounding surf of the seaside. In both the sunny meadow and the shaded waterfall’s grotto, stress and tension we have long retained melts away. Finding opportunities to reconnect with nature to enjoy its healing benefits can be difficult, however. Planting and tending a garden allows us to spend time with Mother Nature in a very personal and hands-on way. We work in tandem with nature while gardening—honoring the seasons, participating in the life cycle of various organisms, experiencing the unique biorhythms of our environments, and transcending all that divides us from the natural world. As we interact with the soil, we are free to be ourselves and reflect upon meditative topics. Fresh air invigorates us, while our visceral connection to the earth grounds us.

Though you may plant a garden to grow food or herbs, or for the pleasure of seeing fresh flowers in bloom, you will likely discover that the time you spend working in your plot feels somehow more significant than many of the seemingly more important tasks you perform each day. Whether your garden can be measured in feet or is a collection of plants in pots, tending it can be a highly spiritual experience. You, by necessity, develop a closer relationship with the soil, seeds, water, and sunlight. Nurturing just a single plant means cultivating a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that permit it to thrive. A true healing garden is simply one where you feel comfortable plunging your hands into the earth, lingering over seedlings and plants to observe their growth. And yes, even caressing and talking to plants. Creating beauty through the creative use of space, and giving yourself over to awe when you realize that you have worked hand in hand with nature to give birth to som! ething, is truly wonderful.

The partnership that is formed when you collaborate with Mother Nature through gardening is wonderful in that it provides you with so many opportunities to be outdoors. You will be reminded of not only your connection to the earth but also of your unique gifts that allow you to give back to the earth.

  • The image above is a detail from Ganesha, Saraswati, and Jallandharnath, identified here as a copy of folio 1 from the Nath Purana, attributed to Amardas, c1825; opaque watercolour and gold on paper; 47 x 123 cm, part of the “Garden and Cosmos” exhibition of the royal paintings of Jodhpur organised by the Arthur M Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, in collaboration with the Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur, currently on at the Art Gallery NSW in Sydney, Australia through 26 January 2010.
  • The related Divine Landscape self-guided walk pairs paintings in the exhibition with locations in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Their lotus pond takes my breath away each time I visit — it’s one of my favorite heavens on Earth.
  • The Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur, India

  • A huge inspiration for my current Seagarden is the Oberoi Rajvilas (pictured above), also from the Indian state of Rajasthan, but in Jaipur. I especially loved the flowing water throughout the property, deep blue and turquoise ceramic tiles, scent of jasmine flowers permeating the air, private bathing gardens and harmonious combination of sacred temple and secular haveli.
Remote Control Gardening

Remote Control Gardening

Posted 08 January 2010 | By | Categories: Technology | Comments Off on Remote Control Gardening

Le verdure del mio orto

I’ve been watching friends get sucked into FarmVille, a social online game that has them planting, plowing and harvesting and earning a little virtual coin. But what if those vegetables you planted in your browser were actually delivered weekly to your home? Le Verdure Del Mio Orto (‘The Vegetables from my Garden’) lets you build an organic garden from your web browser and offers weekly deliveries from ‘your farm’ in Northern Italy, between Milan and Turin. (Found via Springwise.)

Virtual gardeners first select a plot size according to how many people they’d like to feed: 30m2 is sufficient for 1–2 people and costs EUR 850 per year. Then you can select from 39 types of vegetables for your patch, with information on expected yields and harvest times displayed visually. Optional extras include herb, fruit, flower, and flavor (e.g. garlic, basil, chile peppers) beds, a photo album of the garden’s progress, organic compost, personalization, and even a scarecrow with an image of your face.

Now this is the kind of community supported agriculture I’d really love to support!

  • If you’re dreaming of growing Italian vegetables in your own garden, Franchi is a line of specialty seeds with gorgeous pomodori, melanzane, carciofi,cime di rapa and other marvelous things available at ItalianSeedsPronto.co.nz online in NZ, seedsofitaly.com in the UK and http://www.growitalian.com in the US.
  • If you’re in Wellington and want to order organic veggies grown by Frank van Steensel and Josje Neerincx of Wairarapa Eco Farms online for weekly delivery, sign up at www.simplygoodfood.co.nz.
  • If you want to learn to cook creatively with them, make Maria Pia de Razza-Klein your mentor.
  • Or if you just want to experience them at their best, eat at her trattoria (Maria Pia’s, 55-57 Mulgrave Street, Wellington, phone 04.499.5590).
Solar panel bird box

Solar panel bird box

Posted 14 November 2009 | By | Categories: Technology | Comments Off on Solar panel bird box

solar powered birdhouse It was image of a bungee bird feeder that drew us to The Balcony Gardener, but the solar powered bird box piqued our interest. Why would a bird need a solar panel? During the day, the sunlight charges a small battery, which lights up the perch on the birdhouse attracting bugs to the all-night diner for feathered friends.
solarbirdbox.jpg

Lazy veggies: Perennial Vegetables

Posted 07 August 2009 | By | Categories: Books | Comments Off on Lazy veggies: Perennial Vegetables

perennialvegetablesExcited to read Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier after reading Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools review. This is how I want to be growing:

In the gardens of paradise, all the vegetables would be perennial. No endless replanting. Just keep picking year after year. Like fruits and nuts. On earth there are more of these heavenly plants than you might think. This book rounds ’em up, with terrifically informative summaries, clear photos, and useful hints. A few of these recurring veggies are familiar — asparagus, rhubarb, artichokes — but most are exotics, so eating/cooking suggestions are given as well. I am a lazy gardener who favors perennials in our landscape garden, so I am inclined to be lazy in the food garden as well. But besides laziness, this is a great culinary adventure — all kinds of Andean root crops I’ve never hear of, and bean trees, and bush spinach — oh my! One hundred new friends. As a bonus the author takes the long-view and makes suggestions about promising varieties that amateurs could breed into better perennials. This is a fabulous book.

Save water and your plants with garden gadgets

Posted 11 July 2009 | By | Categories: Technology | Comments Off on Save water and your plants with garden gadgets

Checking out the latest garden gadgets from Love your lawn and Mother Nature

EasyBloom Plant Sensor

EasyBloom Plant Sensor

Gardeners pedal to keep water flowing at Chelsea

Posted 20 May 2009 | By | Categories: Technology | Comments Off on Gardeners pedal to keep water flowing at Chelsea

Would love to see this!

from Reuters via Scientific American By Farah Master

LONDON (Reuters) – An experimental garden that uses exercise bikes to water plants is about to make the gentle art of gardening much sweatier, its designers said on Monday.

The water-recycling garden, on display at Britain’s Chelsea Flower Show, features two static training bikes that pump water to plants — as long as someone is there to do the pedaling.

“We are going to have people cycling on the bikes throughout the show,” Gerardine Hemingway, who designed the garden with her husband Wayne, told Reuters at the world famous show in west London.

The garden was designed to promote a healthy lifestyle and the sustainable use of water by encouraging those who use it to think about where irrigation water comes from, she said.

At the show, designers sat side by side on bikes and pedaled to pump water along a circuit which irrigates a vegetable and fruit garden. Excess water flowed to a storage tank below the surface, ready to be pumped again.

The garden, which cost between 40- 50,000 pounds ($61,000) to build, features a “living wall” made of vegetables and fruits including pak choi and strawberries.

After the show, it will be transported to a community park in the town of Gateshead, northeast England.

Hemingway said children from the Gateshead community helped design and decorate the garden.

“The idea is to get the community involved in the creation of the garden so when it goes back to its permanent site in Gateshead they get full ownership over it,” Hemingway said.

(Editing by Richard Balmforth)

A Food Revolution in the Making

Posted 28 April 2009 | By | Categories: Books, Food, Gardening | Comments Off on A Food Revolution in the Making

Great ideas on relocalizing food production from Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of food, in The Huffington Post:

Today, home gardening is on the rise, but most Americans still know very little about where their food comes from, and even less about how the changes in temperature and precipitation associated with global warming may alter national food production. If you break down the fossil fuel consumption of the American economy by sector, agriculture consumes 19 percent of the total, second only to transportation. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a concentrated effort to mitigate its impact on the climate. If we want to make significant progress in reducing global warming we will need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary solar energy.

Resolarizing the food economy can support diversified farming and shorten the distance from farm to fork, shrinking the amount of fossil fuel in the American diet. A decentralized food system offers many other significant benefits: Food eaten closer to where it is grown is fresher and requires less processing, making it more nutritious, and whatever may be lost in efficiency by localizing food production is gained in resilience; regional food systems can better withstand all kinds of shocks.

Here are few examples of how we could start:

  • Provide grants to towns and cities to build year-round indoor farmers’ markets.

  • Make food-safety regulations sensitive to scale and marketplace, so that small producers selling direct off the farm or at a farmers’ market are not regulated as onerously as a multinational food manufacturer.

  • Urge The U.S.D.A. to establish a Local Meat-Inspectors Corps to serve and support the local food processors that remain.

  • Establish a Strategic Grain Reserve to prevent huge swings in commodity prices.

  • Create incentives for hospitals and universities receiving federal funds to buy fresh local produce which would vastly expand regional agriculture and improve the diet of the millions of people these institutions feed.

This isn’t just about government reform. Organizations, businesses, and even individuals like you can help advance these key initiatives and support both the revival of food local food economies and the health of our nation.

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.