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

Working bee #2 – soil in, plants in

This blog records what’s happening in our garden in some detail, for future reference – a garden diary. We will also keep an old fashioned log book to scribble notes in too. this means some duplication, but it’s probably worth it to share what we’re learning and have a back up.

Today (Sunday) we had our second working bee. The four beds we’d built in June and in the intervening weeks we’d been getting them ready to be filled with the help of Hannah Zwartz, the Council’s Green Gardener. Leaves, twigs and branches went in the bottom. We’d wanted to put lawn clippings too but these are in short supply in winter – Holly managed to rustle up a few wheelbarrow loads though. The next layer was horse manure. This Yvonne, Ben, Holly & kids, Chris and I collected from the field by the Stables on the Park (Queen Elizabeth Park that is) with the operator Mandy’s permission – a heaped trailer load which was split between the beds. The next layer was topsoil and peat 50/50 (delivered by M2PP from the Expressway earthworks) with 8kg lime and 5kg blood and bone between the four. We laid soak hoses in this layer too. The top 10-15cm was Paranui Organic Compost that the owners Jacinta and Glen had kindly donated and delivered.

Finally, we actually planted something! Anna Butterworth of Loveplantlife gave us seeds and Diane Turner gardener extraordinaire brought seedlings, more seeds and some welcome advice. Here’s what went where. (We should give the beds better names, but from now we’ll call them 1 – 4 with the west-most being 1).

Bed 1 – Lupins and Mustard seed mix, garlic cloves and mizuna seedlings around the edge
Bed 2 – Diane’s broad beads north half, Anna’s broad beans south half. Silverbeet and kale seedlings around the edge.
Bed 3 – Anna’s broad beans north half, snow peas south half, phcelia everywhere, parsley, silverbeet and kale around the edge.
Bed 4 – Phacelia, snow peas and kale seedlings.

Some of these we just expect to dig in later to enrich the soil. We’ll see what happens! As we were finishing the rain that had been threatening us all day arrived, and we went to Yvonne’s for afternoon tea and a chat. It was a fine day’s work.

More photos here.