WIC gardening update for 26 July 2012

Posted 11 years, 11 months ago by Kathryn Mercer - WIC Project Manager    0 comments

Kia ora (it is Maori language week = Te Wiki o te Reo Māori) and kia orana (a Cook Island Maori greeting – you can tell the languages are related!)

If you want to go to our WIC workshops but:

  • need transport
  • need a translator

please contact me and we will do our best to fix this. (The sooner you let us know, the more likely it is that we can help.)

Learn about Lawn mower and wheelbarrow maintenance at Grandview Community Garden,  Thursday 26th July  10am to 12 pm. Join us to lend a hand fixing the lawnmower and wheelbarrow. We will also be available to help you with the next stage of your garden plot. New garden members welcome.

Wear shoes or boots and warm clothing, we will be working outside.

Where: Grandview Community Garden. Park on the road opposite 183 Grandview Rd and walk across the grass.

More information? Ask Clare and Tim, WIC Community Garden Mentors, ph 021 0387623 or 021 2243109


Reminder: free cooking class at the Migrant Centre in Boundary Road on Saturday 28th July, 10-12 am.  Contact Waikato Ethnic Family Services for more information – ph 839 4688.


Reminder: Contact me if you would like to go to the free WIC Pruning and productive backyard garden visit, Saturday 28 July 2-4 pm.  Come along and see:

  • a slide show showing how Peter McNaughton designed and developed the garden
  • a pruning demonstration
  • tour the garden. 

They produce most of their own fruit and vegetables.  Come along and ask lots of questions!  Peter’s private garden is in Hamilton East - contact me to find out where to meet. 


Reminder: Locavore’s Pruning your own Fruit Trees workshop Saturday July 28th near Cambridge or Saturday 4th August, 9am to 1pm. $48 per person. To book contact Alison or Burton, ph (07) 823 4154 or email info@locavore.co.nz.


Thursday 2 August 10 am – 12 noon, Tim will be continuing to work on the tunnel house at Grandview Community Garden, you are welcome to go and look or lend a hand.  More information? Ask Clare and Tim, WIC Community Garden Mentors, ph 021 0387623 021 2243109.


WWOOF = Willing Workers On Organic Farms.  WWOOFing is about an educational and cultural exchange.  It gives volunteers the opportunity live with families and get hands-on experience with organic practices including cooking and preserving, wine, cheese and bread making, companion planting, worm farming, composting and more.  WWOOFers help out the hosts for 4-5 hours per day in exchange for 3 meals and accommodation.  A few places will take families.  So if you want to learn more around organic gardening, consider WWOOFing on your next holiday…

Chicken’s are like WWOOFers that cluck: they can turn your compost, do pest control, pull and eat weeds, make fertiliser and eggs. Even if you have a dog or cat, you can still keep hens.  Some of you have asked WIC to run a workshop on keeping chickens, so...

Get started with backyard chickens:

Join Clare on a free WIC workshop/ field trip to two established backyard food gardens that involve egg-laying hens:

  • Learn what hens need
  • Learn legal and health aspects of chicken keeping
  • Discuss hen breeds suitable for backyards
  • Where to get hens
  • Discuss hens' nutrition and housing needs
  • Look at two different chicken enclosures and note the pros and cons of each type
  • See how hens can be useful in a food garden.

When: Saturday 4 August 2:30 pm - 4 pm

Contact me to book your place and find out where to meet!

Last week I got to look after my neighbour's hens.  I found it gave me extra motivation to get out in the garden with my headlamp after work, harvesting slugs, snails and weeds for the chickens to eat.  The chickens turned them into manure for our compost heap and into eggs. We were getting 3-4 very fresh eggs per day – yum!   


Thursday 9 August, 10 am – 12 noon, at Grandview Community Garden we will be setting up the water harvesting system. Anyone is welcome to join in, learn and help.  More information? Ask Clare and Tim, WIC Community Garden Mentors, ph 021 0387623 021 2243109.


If you live in the Nawton and Crawshaw area, sign up to be one of the 100 homes getting free fruit trees on the Western Community Centre website! People with Community Services Cards will be given first preference, but it is surprising how few people apply for this kind of thing – so even if you don’t have a card but want some trees, I encourage you to go ahead and apply. You don’t have to own your own home.  Housing New Zealand encourages people to plant gardens on their properties.  If you have a private landlord, it is good to ask permission first. For more information visit or ring the Western Community Centre – 46 Hyde Ave, Nawton, ph 847 4873. 


South Waikato Pacific Islands Community Services are planning a similar fruit tree planting project in a Tokoroa neighbourhood – awesome!


Can you help? Grandview Community Garden is looking for a window for the shed, to fit a gap of around 1100 mm square (can be smaller).  Contact Tim or Clare if you can help, WIC Community Garden Mentors, ph 021 0387623 or 021 2243109.


Paul from Te Aroha has given WIC some yacon corms (the part used to grow new plants) to give away: there are some at the Migrant Centre and some here at K’aute Pasifika Services.  If you can’t get to either place and would like some to plant, contact me 834-1482 and I will try and get some delivered. Yacon (Polymnia sonchifolia) is also called yakon, Peruvian ground apple, Bolivian sunroot and sweet root.  Yacon contains inulin which tastes sweet but cannot be digested, it is a very low calorie food, great for diabetics and people who like sweet things but who are trying to lose weight!


I love the way WIC gives us the chance to learn about new foods from other cultural traditions!  I visited the container garden of Evo, from Niue.  She pointed out what they call polo fua (Solanum nigrum), which is called black nightshade in English or raupeti in Maori.  In Niuean tradition nightshade leaves are cooked and eaten: she particularly likes them baked with chicken.  In NZ we also have a native small-flowered nightshade (Solanum nodiflorum previously called Solanum americanum) which is eaten by Maori like spinach.  Like most Pakeha I had been taught that these two plants are poisonous weeds!

Robin Slaughter from the NZ National Poisons Centre says that many people get confused between deadly nightshade (which is poisonous, as the name says) and black nightshade (Atropa belladonna).  To tell the two plants apart, look at the flowers: black nightshade has star-shaped, white flowers while deadly nightshade has purple, bell-shaped flowers. Deadly nightshade is very rare in New Zealand.  As with many plants, the unripe fruit (ie green) of the black and small-flowered nightshade is toxic.  The ripe fruit (black-coloured) are edible.

Andrew Crowe in his Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of New Zealand has more information on how black and small-flowered nightshade is traditionally eaten (page 72-73) – both Hamilton City Libraries and South Waikato District Libraries hold this book. He reports that black nightshade is eaten in many countries such as parts of Africa, China, Greece, West Indies and El Salvador.  The Maori Women’s Welfare League published recipes for raupeti jam.  Nightshade is in the same family (Solanum) as tomatoes, eggplant/aubergine/brinjal and potato. 

Other native members of the Solanum plant family also traditionally eaten by Maori are Solanum laciniatum and Solanum aviculare, which look very similar and called by the same Maori name: poroporo. The ripe berries of poroporo are eaten – if you can get to them before the birds! Ripe berries are yellowish-orange and look like mini-tamarillos (and yes, tamarillos are also in the Solanum family). Poroporo fruit can be eaten raw or cooked.  The unripe berries are toxic, some say the leaves are too.  It is an attractive shrub with pale violet flowers. 


I overheard some people talking about the high price of broccoli at the moment ($3 per head), so I am pleased to have some growing well in my garden.  Broccoli is a brassica.  Cut off the head of broccoli (broccoli flower buds) but leave the plant growing: it will produce more heads as it tries to produce seed. 

Soti made us some beautiful broccoli soup for lunch at our last workshop.  Broccoli can be eaten raw in salads, blanched (= put in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then drain it and rinse under cold water), steamed, micro-waved, boiled or stir-fried.  Even when cooked, it should still be a bit crisp.  Eat the stems too – if they are fat, peel the outer skin off as it can be stringy. (Put the peelings in your compost or feed them to the chickens!)  

Sprouted broccoli seeds are very healthy and give a nice crunch to salads. Make sure the seed has not been treated with chemicals like fungicide - use seeds from the food (rather than gardening) section of the shop, or labelled 'for sprouting' or better yet use seeds that you have saved from your own plants. 

Many seeds can be sprouted and eaten in salads and stir fries.  You can sprout seeds in your kitchen all year round – so a good way to grow veggies if you are too much of a wuss to garden outside in winter ;-)  There is a video showing you how to sprout seeds here

The only equipment you need is a jar with either: a mesh lid, a strainer or piece of clean loose-weave cloth (eg net curtain fabric).

  1. Put ½ cup of seeds in the jar and cover with at least 2 cups of water (4 x as much as the seeds).
  2. Cover with the lid/strainer/cloth and leave the seeds to soak overnight.
  3. Pour the water off - drain well.
  4. Keep on the kitchen bench (room temperature).
  5. Rinse the seeds once a day.
  6. Eat after 3-5 days - the sprout should be at least as long as the seed.

You can keep the sprouts in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, but the fresher the better.


As usual you can get reminded about gardening events next Monday 7:30 pm on K’aute Pasifika Services’ Community Radio program, or listen on demand (download a podcast) through the Community Radio web site.

Ka kite anō


WIC Gardening Update - 19 July 2012

Posted 11 years, 11 months ago by Kathryn Mercer - WIC Project Manager    0 comments

Hello & Hola

Aren’t the frosts and fog beautiful?!  (Cold, but beautiful).

Our WIC workshops are hands-on (learn by doing) – or demonstrations, so even if your English is very limited, you can still learn.


Reminder: in Tokoroa on 19 July 11-1pm, Tim will be demonstrating planting fruit trees and making hot compost at the SWPICS garden.  For more information contact Tim ph 021 2243109 or SWPICS ph (07) 8860010.


Talking about cooking classes, Stephanie (Taiwan), one of our keen WIC gardeners, is also an experienced cooking tutor.  She will be running fortnightly cooking classes at the Migrant Centre in Boundary Road on Saturday mornings in association with Waikato Ethnic Social Services.  The first class is tentatively on the Saturday 28th July, 10-12 am.  (More information next week!)

The Indian cooking class I mentioned last week has been postponed.  I will let you know when it starts up again.


Reminder: WIC Workshop: Creating warmth: building a tunnel house. On this Saturday 21 July 2012  Community Garden Mentor Tim is leading a free hands-on workshop at Grandview Community Garden, 9-3 pm.  Not only will we be building the garden’s tunnel house  from recycled materials, we will have pictures and ideas for other forms of shelter you can build for your plants, such as green houses, cold frames and cloches.  Join us to lend a hand, ask questions and share ideas.  

Bring: hand tools (if you have them), ideas and enthusiasm. Wear shoes or boots and warm clothing, We will be working outside.

Where: Grandview Community Garden. Park on the road opposite 183 Grandview Rd and walk across the grass.  All welcome!

Clare and Tim WIC Community Garden Mentors ph 021 0387623   021 2243109

Some locals who plant by the moon will already be starting to get ready for spring by sowing tomato, capsicum and eggplant seeds on Sunday the 22 July in a tunnel house or similar (but if you don’t have a tunnel house, don’t plant your spring seeds yet!)  If your glass house/tunnel house/cold frame is not insulated, throw a piece of carpet over it on frosty nights.  If you have room, fill some old milk bottles with water and put them inside the green house/cold frame as well – they will absorb heat during the day and slowly release the warmth during the night, ie act as a heat sink. 

The rain water tanks for Grandview are arrived yesterday!  We will be using one of the water tanks as a heat sink in the tunnel house.  The tanks were paid for out of an HCC Envirofund grant and should make the garden self sufficient for water.  We will be running a workshop on being water-wise in the garden later in the year.


Reminder: Marcia Meehan’s is running a Natural Beekeeping/Topbar Bee Hive workshop on Saturday 21 July 2012 – there will be a course fee.  Check out her webpage for more information.


Free WIC workshop: Pruning and productive back yard garden visit, Saturday 28 July 2-4 pm, rain or shine.  This workshop will be led by Peter McNaughton, who writes a column for the Weekend Gardener magazine.  Peter was an orchardist before moving to the suburban garden we will visit.  Come along and see:

  • a slide show showing how he designed and developed the garden
  • a pruning demonstration
  • tour the garden. 

They produce most of their own fruit and vegetables.  They use composting, liquid fertilisers and herbal ley under the fruit trees.  They built a green house from mostly recycled materials and collect the rain water from it to water their garden.  They also used to keep bees.  Come along and ask lots of questions!

Peter’s private garden is in Hamilton East - contact me to find out where to meet. 

If you can’t go to Peter’s demonstration, here are some other ways to learn about Pruning:

  • Locavore’s Pruning your own Fruit Trees– a fully hands on, practical workshop When: Saturday July 28th near Cambridge or Saturday 4th August, 9am to 1pm. $48 per person. Download a flier with more detail from WIC’s Ooooby Comment Wall.  To book contact Alison or Burton, ph (07) 823 4154 or email info@locavore.co.nz 
  • The Tree Crops Association Waikato Branch will also run its annual pruning day next month out towards Otorohanga. 
  • If none of these dates suit you, Dennis at the Kitchen Garden at Hamilton Gardens is very happy to answer your pruning (and other gardening) questions. You can usually catch him in the morning on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday, or email him and set up a time to meet: Dennis.Travaglia@wintec.ac.nz
  • The Ooooby Pruning group has some good tips. If you join Ooooby and the group you can ask questions or share what you know.
  • Your local public library has many books on pruning that you can borrow - ask a librarian if you need help to find them - Hamilton City Libraries, South Waikato District Libraries
  • You can download a free pruning information sheet (pdf) from the NZ Gardener magazine web site. 


Can you help? Grandview Community Garden is looking for:

  • some paint for a couple of shelves: do you have any left over you could spare?
  • someone who is good with a hammer, there are a few more nails that need hammering into the shed at the community garden. 

If you can help, contact Tim or Clare WIC Community Garden Mentors ph 021 0387623 or 021 2243109.


If you are very busy and struggle to find time to garden, you may find it more practical to grow perennials – plants that grow for many years. They require less time to take care of them than annuals and still provide you with yummy, healthy, fresh food.  Trees and shrubs are perennials, as are many herbs.  If you don’t have much room, look out for Ballerina (or pole) apple varieties for narrow spaces – they grow less than 5 m tall and only about 30 cm wide. 

If you move house a lot, or don’t have much room, there are many perennial plants that you can grow in pots.  For example strawberries (will last 2 yrs), blueberries, guavas, some types of dwarf fruit trees (including the Ballerina types), bay trees, olives, lemon grass ... Ask at your garden centre if you are not sure.

To make a low cost large pots recycle free drums from dairy farms (like we use for making tumbling compost bins), cut in half – top to bottom for shallow rooted plants like strawberries, cut the other way for a large deep pot for a tree like a lemon.


We could not have asked for better weather for the orchard planting last Saturday: fine but cool and overcast, with the promise of rain the next day.  The Grandview Community Gardeners had made suggestions about what to fruit trees plant. We planted out a persimmon, two apples (one early and one mid-season), two varieties of mandarins and two Apollo feijoas (a self-fertile variety).  In spring we will also plant a lime tree and a hedge of red and yellow guavas (another workshop to look forward to!) The edible-hedge will act as a shelter belt for the garden, protecting it from the worst of the southerly winds.

With this selection of trees, the orchard should provide fruit all year round for the gardeners in years to come – most of the trees that were planted should outlive us!

One of the trees we planted was an apple variety called Monty’s Surprise.  It is a heritage variety which has particularly high levels of cancer preventing substances. The Monty’s Surprise fruit are huge – one apple has weighed in at 1 kg!  The fruit ripen about April is crisp and tart and can be used as an eating or cooking apple.


Preparation for the GCG fruit tree planting started by cutting down the long grass etc using a scythe.  This is an alternative to a weedeater or line trimmer or lawnmower. Using it has a gentle side-to-side rhythm which can be quite soothing/meditative.

Our bodies are made to move!  One of the downsides of labour saving devices like line trimmers and motorised lawnmowers is not only do they reduce the amount of exercise we get - leading to sickness or spending money and time on a gym(what was that about being labour saving?!) - they also take fuel or electricity to run (ongoing costs to you and the environment), and they’re noisy. 

There are a number of countries where the tradition of singing in the garden while we work, especially as a group, has died out.  Some of us think this is to do with the introduction of labour saving devices like tractors, motorised lawnmowers, weedeaters, etc, which create lots of noise.  Sad really: singing is good for our mental health and can be a wonderful expression of culture.  I’d rather listen to my neighbour sing than hear their lawnmower – well, if their voice isn’t too bad! J


At the Grandview Community Garden, gardeners are already producing so much organic matter for composting that they have started a cold heap in addition to the hot composting they’ve been doing in tyre stacks. Gardeners heap up weeds which are then covered in thick black plastic – this makes it hot, dark and moist. The weeds will rot down fairly fast.

Alison Worth featured compost in her Friday gardening column in the Waikato Times last week (July 15, p.14) – if you missed it, you can read it at the public library – the central library in Garden Place is open 7 days a week and until 8 pm most week nights. Newspapers are kept on the top floor.

This is a great time of year to be spreading your compost followed by a layer of mulch on your gardens and around your fruit trees.  A total layer of 20 cm deep will feed your garden and keep weeds down.  Keep the mulch a little back from the base of your trees – the heat of the mulch can cook through the bark, causing ring-barking: this will kill the tree.


Do you have prickles in your lawn in summer?  This is the time of year to control the plant that is most likely to cause them: it is called Onehunga weed (see photos on the Massey University weed database - use the 'click here' link).  Controlling Onehunga weed requires no chemicals and no action! Clare recommends not mowing your lawn in July and August (the time when growth slowest).  The grass grows up and shades out the weed, killing it.   Now that’s the kind of weeding I like!


I took a home-grown leek to the WIC display at the Aere Ki Mua Sports Day – it was a new vegetable to some of you.  Leeks are a mild-flavoured member of the onion family and grow well in our winter gardens.  Nourish’s Meatless Monday recipe this week is for a leek and Jerusalem artichoke soup – one of many variations on the traditional leek and potato soup. Make a big pot – it often tastes even better reheated the next day.  Jerusalem artichokes are ready to harvest as you need them over winter, and if you are like me you may have some potatoes in storage that you grew over the summer.  As one of my work mates said today, it is so satisfying to see something grow from a tiny seed you have planted into something you can enjoy eating.

I hope you are enjoying eating some winter garden bounty too!