Quick working bee 30-10-16

Scott and Yvonne blitzed the garden with some help from me on a showery Sunday, getting it ready for summer and the big bee next week (6-11-16). We had a heap of seedlings from a combination of sources – Scott and Yvonne’s green house, excess from the new Whirlwind Community Garden, and the Raumati South School Gala. We put two beds of tomatoes in, strawberries, sweet pea and others.

Getting water sorted for summer – workshop 16-10-16

Here are some pics from our water working bee. We had a great turnout and a lot got done too. It was a lovely day to be out in the garden with some friendly locals!

The topic of the day was irrigation – low water use efficient systems that would also be low maintenance over summer. Hannah and Ben from the Council brought a variety of things along to try, including terracotta pots, seep hoses and barrels. We also planted some seedlings and potted seeds, which people took home to care for, as well as potatoes in our patch. We finished up with some delicious apple cake, which Kathryn had made. There’s still a bit more work to do linking everything together and connecting other beds in.

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Rain barrels – all set up at last

On 7 August Brian Falkner from Rain Harvesting Products Ltd came down to the garden to connect up our barrels at a workshop. This was going to be held during No.8 Wire Week on 24 July, but the wild weather set things back. Anyway, the set-up was unusual as the Arts Society committee had asked us to move the barrels and their stand away from the wall, which had a number of implications.

One – the pipe from the diverter had to bridge the gap without being unsightly and a target for vandals. We solved this by putting it underground – it goes down and then up.

Two – the stand needed to be dug into the ground to give it stability, making it a lot lower than we intended. But the lower it is, the less water pressure is available. The solution was to boost the barrels up on plastic pallets, kindly provided by Brian.

Three – the barrels were meant to be strapped to the wall for safety, and apart from it could easily tip off of the stand, especially as they were now up on pallets. The fix for this was the surrounding ‘fence’ we built around the barrels last year and then finally the metal strap I put on to secure the barrels to it. Convoluted, but thankfully, sorted.

There are five 120 litre barrels (kindly provided by Group member Michael), all linked together at the bottom with regular hosepipe ‘splitter’ fittings. If the taps are open, they all fill and empty equally. This arrangement also gives us a tap at each end of the stand. Next trick will be to rig up connections across to drip-hoses in the garden beds to make watering hassle-free.

Many thanks to Brian for his help and expert advice. If you need help with this sort of thing, he’s the man to call!

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Herbs for Kapiti workshop 29 May 2016

After huge downpours on Saturday, the weather fined up for our workshop, which had some new faces in attendance – Wendy, Amy and Margaret. After introductions, Hannah showed and explained the uses of a variety of herbs including savoury, lemon balm, tansy, calendula, rosemary, sage and many more. Kawa kawa (good for tea – and breath freshener!) and mint are apparently shade tolerant, so we might plant some of those by our rainbarrels.

Hannah and the group planted out herbs in our bathtubs – these tubs were too hot and dry for our corn over the summer, but they should be well suited to herbs. We transplanted some thyme and sage into the tubs from another part of the garden too.

The other  novelty we had were some ‘yacón‘ tubers, donated to us by Moko Moris from the community garden at the Te Kura-ā-Iwi O Whakatupuranga Rua Mano in Otaki. We tried a bit – it was sweet and had a texture like watermelon, even though it looked like a kumara. San and I planted about eight pieces in the south end of out potato patch – I hope we’ll see their tall stalks come up in summer.

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Other jobs done – David transplanted the kale and mizuna growing on the paths into the raised beds, we planted more broad beans and built a frame to support them, and John expertly pruned our runner beans back for the winter. We finished off with tea and cake kindly provided by Heather – a fine effort by everyone!

And so the first season ends

The first year of our garden has gone by, and what an amazing amount we have achieved, in getting the permission and then pulling together as a community to build, plant and harvest everything in our little corner of the Matai Road Reserve. The history is (mostly) captured in the blog posts below, but for a slideshow of the highlights check out the MCGG – Chairman’s Report 2016, which I presented at our AGM on 31 March. Minutes of the meeting can be found here . I am happy to announce myself, Heather Dawson, Emma Atkins and Yvonne van Leeuwen will be serving our members again as your committee.


Hannah and Rebekah surveying our nice tidy garden on 3 April

Following the AGM, we’ve had a great great big garden clear out – the last of the tomatoes are ripening on the table, and their beds have been planted in mustard, broad beans and lupins to help improve the soil. The next to go will be the dwarf beans, that are well and truly done. Our next crop of silverbeet, spinach and cos lettuce are already ready to harvest – please help yourselves. The next event is a school holidays workshop with Hannah Zwartz on Friday 29 April. Upcoming projects this winter  include establishing a noticeboard, completing our rainbarrel installation and setting up the bathtubs as herb beds. More on all this soon.

Finally, it’s time for members to renew their subs for the coming year. Please pay your $20 into the Garden account – details here – and let our treasurer Emma know by email (efstringer@hotmail.com). We’ll issue a receipt for your records. Thanks!


First summer harvest bee, 9-12-15

After a month of rainy Wednesdays we got a good one. The new after-dinner time of 6:30 seemed to suit people too. It was great to come together on a fine evening. Some crops were ready, others need a little longer, like our garlic. We have a lot of tomatoes down, so we pinched out and tied up the larger ones of these and planted even more as we had them to hand, as well as more courgettes. The ever-resourceful Holly grabbed her lawnmower from home and we mulched the bean stalks to made compost. Excess broad beans were taken to the foodbank by Chris, who fired up a BBQ too. Next on the agenda (i.e. we need seeds or seedlings) are sunflowers, dwarf beans, basil and marigolds. If you can help supply these, please get in touch!

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Working bee #5 – Labour Day 26-10-15

An honest day’s labour on Labour Day! Chris, Michael, John, Scott and I got a lot done – disposed of a branch, built a rain barrel stand, put in two bathtubs, set-up lines for runner beans, mounted a trellis and a had a good tidy up. The water supply installed by Scott came a few days later. So we are set up for the summer. Also our rain barrels did not stay in their location for long – KACS asked for them to be changed to a freestanding arrangement 0.5m from the wall. They are not connected yet.

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Working bee #4 – more planters and the ‘no dig’ potato patch

We got stuck in again on 20 September – Holly, Wayne, their kids and ‘roped in’ parents went with Andrew and Joanne to QE Park to collect horse manure, while Chris and myself built a big planter along the fence. The Thomas’s returned  later in the morning with a full trailer load and four much more palatable sponge cakes, courtesy of Mandy at Stables On The Park, who was very happy with their efforts cleaning up her field it would seem! Then at 1pm, Chris and I had finished the planter, a more people turned up and the next stage began. We had to shift soil out of the way of where our potato patch was going to go. While we managed the get half of it into our new planter, we still had to ‘double shift’ the rest out of the way, which was a bit annoying but a good work out. The slide show below shows the sequence of building the ‘no dig’ bed, which basically involves supercharging the spuds with fertilser!

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We put in five rows with an alley to walk down. The whole thing (4 x 4 m) took only 30 minutes to do once the area was clear. There are several different varieties – I will add a ‘map’ of what is located where later.

So we’ll see how well this method works – watch this space. Thanks to Hannah Zwartz the idea (from this You-Tube video) and for all her help including bringing many of the materials.

Other achievements include planting the raspberry canes – kindly donated by Marg Sweetman – and a fine compost bin put together by Chris. Next up – a water supply, even more planters and getting the summer crops in.

A prize at the Community Awards

L to R: Scott, Jake , Yvonne, Anne and Neil at the Community Awards

L to R: Scott, Jake , Yvonne, Anne and Neil at the Community Awards

Even though we’re just starting out, our garden group was nominated in the 2015 Wellington Airport Regional Community Awards in the category ‘Heritage and Environment’. These reward the efforts of volunteers to make great things happen in their communities. Thanks to Council’s Green Gardener Hannah Zwartz for putting us forward!

The awards dinner was held on August 12 at the Paraparaumu Golf Club. Representing us was Scott and Yvonne, Neil and Anne, and myself, who slipped in on the ‘kids table’ as a I’m a Council employee that lends a hand with the formalities. We were wined and dined and got to meet and learn about the many great volunteers and their causes in the Kapiti community.

In the end we were the runner up in our category, but still received a framed certificate and a $250 cheque – although I nearly left it on the podium after accepting it with Yvonne! Don’t worry, it’s safely banked now and will be helpful for the further development of our garden – maybe for a small shed we can hang the certificate up in? Congratulations to all the other winners.


Working bee #3 – Bathtub bonanza

Our third working bee was held on 16 August. Rain was threatening but the sun was out too so there was a huge bright rainbow over Matai Road – a good omen if you believe such things! Also good to see was the plants we’d put in only 3 weeks ago were all doing well.

We had more planters to build along the fence and had put the call out for bath tubs as we thought that might be an easy way to do it. Kind offers to an appeal on the Neighbourly website netted us two, which Scott and Yvonne collected, and Holly’s connections got us a _lot_ of unwanted fence and paint as well.

The builders assembled and after surveying our raw material and scratching our heads, we arrived at a plan. Chris set about installing the bath tubs and Wayne, myself and some junior helpers set about deconstructing the fence for rebuilding into raised beds later. We agreed shipping pallets were the way to go for compost bins, but would need to score some in spring once they weren’t so in demand for firewood!

After lunch the rest of the crew arrived. Yvonne and Holly brightened up our main beds with the paint. We drilled more holes in the tubs for drainage and gardener extraordinaire Diane Turner appeared with some builders’ gravel to put in the bottom. Neil and Andrew filled them with soil, planted out garlic and leeks, and set up our small plastic composter.  Joanne and Anne neatly stacked away our newly acquired fence pailings and 2″ x 4″ for next time and Chris knocked together a great table just in time for serving afternoon tea on, including muffins and biscuits made by Tracey-Lea and Diane.

The bathtubs were pretty easy to set up which was good, but their low volume was a drawback. We have lots of soil piled up that needs to go somewhere before we can set up the potato patch, so the next order of business will be to knock out some larger planters all along the fence to put this soil into.


Our newly bright and beautiful beds

New table, bathtubs and composter

New table, bathtubs and composter