Yesterday, our friends Leah and Harry called in on their way back to Tauranga Bay in the far north, after spending a weekend in Rotorua celebrating a friend’s 60th birthday. Leah and Harry run the camp at Tauranga Bay and we have gotten to know them well as we have a bach there. Leah is an avid gardener with a lovely little garden behind their house (see photo), which is footsteps from the beach. You might recall me mentioning Leah’s garden in my post on dealing with windy weather. As you can see in the photo, Harry built her a shelter belt made of black cloth around the garden, which functions as a fortress against not only the wind, (which can get quite strong being right on the coast) but also pests such as possums and rabbits. Over the years, I have given Leah lots of seeds and plants, so it feels like I have a hand in her garden, too. Every year when we spend Christmas at our bach and I see Leah’s garden, it always fills me with a sense of wonder to see everything flourishing, knowing that the plants were started from tiny seeds (sometimes harvested from our own garden, such as the sunflowers Leah grew last year) and seedlings from my nursery. Unfortunately, Leah had a terrible time with bugs this spring. The seeds she had sown from my collection germinated but the plants ended up being eaten. When I heard that they were passing through Auckland over Labour weekend, I told Leah to stop by and pick up some plants so she could try again. I put together three boxes of plants containing tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumber, capsicum, corn, leeks, spring onions, marigolds, celery, lettuce, spinach and silverbeet. We also gave Leah some produce from the garden (cabbage, carrots and broad beans), as well as some seeds (including the incredible Queensland Blue from Yates). It’s still not too late to start zucchini, cucumbers, corn, pumpkins, squash and beans from seed but act quickly!
Leah’s garden is a good example of how productive a small patch can be. Last summer, she grew corn, tomatoes, squash, capsicum, sunflowers, zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkin and watermelon. I’ve already written a blog post about how to make the best use of the space that you have. My involvement in Leah’s garden led me to notice the following things about smaller gardens:
· As the NZ Gardener magazine once wisely said, large gardens are lovely but they are a lot of work. Aside from propagating seedlings, weeding, watering and caring for plants, don’t underestimate the time involved in harvesting and utilising produce. A smaller garden is perfect for a busy, working person or a small household
· There are no real limitations on what you can grow. Remember you’re just keeping things on a smaller scale. Aim to plant a variety of veggies that your family enjoys eating. Instead of growing rows of potatoes, planting just a couple of seed potatoes should provide you with enough spuds for your Christmas table. Even though Leah’s garden is small, she still has room for a few creeping plants like pumpkins, squash and melons
· Look into the concept of square foot gardening to maximise your space
· If your garden bed is small, you don’t necessarily have to have tons of plants in containers to compensate for this. Leah doesn’t have a single plant in a pot!
· Try to grow veggies vertically so they take up less ground space
· Don’t forget to plant some flowers to attract the bees and beneficial insects. Leah loves growing sunflowers. This year, I’ve given her some marigolds, which help repel pests
· Just because you have a small plot, it doesn’t mean that you’re limited to six-cell punnets in garden centres. You can still start plants from seed, like Leah does. You’ll probably find that a packet of seeds lasts several years and I doubt you’ll need to buy in bulk like I do!
· Even in a small space, it’s still possible to practice crop rotation. This is a good idea to prevent diseases
· It may be possible to set up a simple irrigation system with a soaker hose, saving you valuable time otherwise spent watering the garden
· Don’t put plants too close together. Brassicas need a wide berth or they won’t form a head
· If you don’t want to do a veggie garden over winter, consider planting a cover crop to replenish the soil
From my garden to yours, Anita