So here we are up north! Years and years ago I dreamed of coming to the Far North to create an edible garden; a mini food forest of all the fruit and nut trees I love to eat, and of course enough veggies and herbs to feed an army. At times since that idea came to mind some 12 years ago I never actually thought I’d make it up here. Yikes I can’t believe we have our own Lifestyle garden and better still I can take you on the journey as I whip it into shape!
My garden space is about to be pretty much empty for a while when I master the Little Yellow Digger we’ve borrowed from my cousin up the road. Perfect timing really as it will pass the time so I am not tempted to plant ‘out of season’ and risk shocking my shrubs. The Little Yellow Digger will make way for an edible and companion haven to teach from. Before we left Auckland my sketch pad was a mix of drawings and plant lists to be sure I was right ready to stab the spade when we arrived mid December. Friends suggested that I wait until I’ve lived here a while before making set planting plans. Raised eyebrows was enough of a reply thank you very much. I only need to spend a half hour in a garden to work out what needs to go where and since this property has been on my vision board for what seems like forever, then I already knew exactly where the plum, pear and pine nut would go. Our pre-digger garden is a clay soil and Yucca dominant site which runs as a fence around the whole property! Other than the Yucca fetish there are too many – 50 at least, Agaves and many, many, many blue agapanthus. What were the previous owners thinking? A Yucca fence? Every time you cut a limb off those things they respond like Grey hairs on a head… 10 more will show up!
Relying on water that comes off the roof into our (what looks like to me – no offence hubby) small tank is testing my nerves. I hear it rains a lot here, but I think Summer is going to be long and dry. I want the most abundant produce. Wellington you rained so much and without metered water we were lazy to say the least. I had been guilty of leaving the hose on all day at times. I cringe as I share that. Watering for too long is enough to give heart palpitations in Auckland. The cost of water is scary down there. Kerikeri Lifestyle farm… we need to chat to our urban friends about how to conserve water without being ridiculous about it. When a girls gotta water her garden, she’s gotta water her garden; but there are some tips that will help conserve a reasonable amount.
One of the focus’ of my garden is being strict to timing of when is best for everything to go in. As much as I have been excited about getting the garden planted, I have also got to be realistic about not creating a rod for my back or in this case a desert in my mirage during the height of summer. Much of my Auckland garden plants and all of my home made compost came up on the delivery truck from Auckland. I know! I tell you, I have a serious plant passion that only a garden reader will appreciate. No wonder my husband of 14 years doesn’t like gardening; he’s the one who has had to move the soil, compost and worms around from place to place that we rented and home to home that we renovated in the years before being Auckland bound. This organic matter will certainly help to retain moisture in the garden and provide great nutrition to the plants; however I don’t want to tempt fate with getting the garden in too soon and struggling against drought potential. The semi shaded area behind our house is providing a perfect nursery as I wait.
When I’m not using that digger I will be spending time prepping lengths of drainage pipe that I will bury vertically in the ground 40cm deep and next to each of the planted fruit trees. With the top of the pipe poking just above ground, it means I can water direct to the root system rather than wasting water to be evaporated in the heat. This method is a wonderful way to encourage roots of trees to grow deeply rather than head to shallow ground in thirst. The top 20 cm of earth is quite warm; especially in the winterless north so deep watering every four days in the morning will be a must.
I don’t know about you, but as much as I would LIKE to garden all day at home, it is not a realistic way to pass the day. With time restrictions, comes the need to be a little clever about how I will get water quickly on mass to each of the many fruiting shrubs and trees. At a local Palmers, I’ll be sure to buy the black PVC irrigation tube and rigid risers. These prongs with drippers on the end fit nicely inside the drainage pipe to direct supply water to the base of the plant. One thing I will do (learned from experience, having done something similar before) is be sure to peg each side of the rigid riser so it stays put inside the drainage pipe. The flexible PVC irrigation tube is ideal for curving where you need it to go, but this can cause the watering risers to knock out of where they are supposed to be.
Just before leaving Auckland I found an abandoned 1000 Litre water tank which is perfect for taking a water feed off what will be our health therapist’s room which will back on to the stone fruit trees. When elevated into position the gravity fed water tank will be ideal to prepare the irrigation system in the same way as I will for the planting near the house.
Of course with smart watering comes smart mulching without question in the veggie garden. When I was cruising the internet looking for water saving ideas a long time ago I found a great pic of an empty plant pot submerged in the soil to the planting level. The pot became a direct watering well that fed the veggies roots rather than wasting on top of the garden to evaporate in the hot sun. I like this idea especially as it gives me reason to nip to the garden centre to stock up on more plants… I need the empty pots dear!