Karen has been lucky enough to know families in Italy, contadina or farmers, who produce everything they eat – they even grow the wheat to make their own pasta.
But Karen has adapted it to an ordinary New Zealand suburban space where she has chickens, beehives, fruits trees and a large vegetable garden, plus a nice outside area under her plum tree where she can have meals with friends, read in peace, enjoy the birds and have a place where she starts off many of her food preserving ventures. She also has a plot at the local community garden.
Welcome Karen to team of writers at kiwimana…Gary and Margaret
What is happening in the garden today?
The Spring in my garden started in August when the almond tree flowered – a beautiful covering of pure white flowers. This is the first Spring banquet for my bees when the weather is still wet and cold in Auckland. Then the plum and peach trees flower – white and pink to add to the landscape – and you can feel the life in the garden start to stir as the soil gets warmer. This is the time I start to think about planting vegetable seeds under cover or inside the house until it is warm enough for them to go outside.
I will share all those stories with you in the future but I will start with what is happening right now in my garden.
December 1 is the start of the southern hemisphere’s summer.
Harvest time has begun.
I spent time weeding my garden today and was surprised at how much produce there was. I gathered all the Swiss chard that was ready from 8 plants, 15 beetroot, some small purple potatoes and a few central sprigs of basil I picked so that the basil plant will bush out.
Swiss chard grows like a weed in our climate and although I am always using it for quiches, vegetarian lasagna and filo pastry pies, this time I thought I would pickle the pink and yellow stems and freeze the green bits. More on that later.
It is great to wake up in the morning and see that it has rained overnight. There is something magical about rainwater. The plants seem to grow overnight. My pepper plants went from 2 inches high to around 10 inches in only a few days. I had saved basil seeds in a paper bag from last year’s harvest and tossed them on a new piece of dirt on the side of my driveway. I can see the seedlings popping up along with the Italian parsley since the rain. I am going to have so many plants.
My little grandson, Darius, received some sunflower seeds in the mail around 6 weeks ago. Of course he brought them to me and I showed him how to plant them in a pot of dirt. It was wonderful to see his little eyes light up as each seed germinated and popped through the dirt. We transplanted those seedlings once they were 2 inches high, protected them from the slugs and snails with Quash and today they are almost as tall as me – twice as tall as Darius. He goes out every morning into my garden as he feeds his baby chickens and checks whether his sunflowers are “ready”. I am not quite sure what he thinks is going to happen. I suspect he thinks they will turn into strawberries and he can eat them but he will learn and soon he will see the bees scouring the flowers that will develop, gathering pollen on their legs and transporting it back to the hive to feed the larvae.
Later on, when the seeds have developed because the bees have pollinated the flowers, he will see the birds sitting on the top of the flower deftly eating the kernel of the seed and discarding the husk to return to the earth and decompose and add carbon to my garden soil. It all goes in cycles and it is fascinating to watch it all in your own back yard.
The tomatoes are setting fruit but have a way to go before they are ready. The garlic is fattening up and those sunflowers … when will they have petals?
Let’s wait and see.