WIC Gardening Update - 31 October 2012

Posted 11 years, 7 months ago by Kathryn Mercer - WIC Project Manager    0 comments

Hi and kumusta

One of WIC's aims is to give you the skills and knowledge to be self reliant in your gardening. It is great to hear stories of people putting the thrifty skills for getting new plants for free into action, like Phil at the Grandview Community Garden sharing his spare lettuce seedlings with the other gardeners, Ismet saving seed and Ma'ara getting some free grape prunings from another gardener, which he cut up and is growing  into new plants.

Here's a reminder of some of the ways you can get very cheap or free plants:

  • Allow your best plant to go to seed and save seed to plant next season*
  • Get seed/plants through various web sites distributing free things, eg Ooooby – WIC or FreeCycle & Barter  or a regional gardening group: place a request (say what town you live in) or respond to an offer of plants/seeds
  • Friends (perhaps someone you met through WIC or a gardening club) and neighbours – ask if you can have a cutting or seed if the plant is flowering (they have the right to say 'no', but many are happy to share surplus)
  • Foraging seed from public parks - except from Hamilton Gardens in Cobham Drive
  • Seed swaps, such as at the HOGs monthly meeting, or virtual ones like the NZ Seed and Plant Exchange or Seed Savers NZ on Facebook
  • If you have to buy, buy seeds rather than vegetables or seedlings - seeds are much cheaper.  Put aside 50c per week from what you would have spent on vegetables at the supermarket and you will have $26 per year to spend on buying seeds - that's enough to buy at least 10 packets of seeds. Most seed packets contain much more seed than one family can use, so swap the excess seeds with other gardeners for greater diversity in your garden! For example, you can get a packet of lettuce seed for less than $2 at the Warehouse, some contain 500 seeds! Why not purchase your seeds with a group of friends: many seed specialists like Kings and Egmont Seeds offer have large packets of seeds that work out cheaper, and/or give you bonus seeds for bulk orders.

* Clare says that saving seeds from carrots, onions, brassicas and cucurbits needs isolation, netting and culling as they cross with wild types, so the new plants will not be like their parent plants.  A cucumber crossed with a pumpkin is not nice!  However, if you have plenty of space and enjoy experimenting, some of us do save seed from brassicas - for example I grew a very pretty pink-veined 'cabbage' for a few years that was a cross between my frilly kale and cabbage plants! 

When getting free things from Ooooby and neighbours/friends, it is good to offer something in exchange, like a jar of preserves, some surplus fruit/veg from your garden, or another kind of cutting or seeds.

Next year WIC will not be sending out free seeds - so keep putting the thrifty gardening skills you've learned into practice!  If people donate surplus seeds, plants, etc to WIC, we will continue to pass these on.  We will sometimes provide seeds, plants and cuttings as part of our workshops.  As always, you are welcome to bring spare plants to share or swap to any of our gardening or workshop sessions.

Now is a good time for sowing lettuce, celery, spinach, spring onions, carrots, silverbeet, parsley, beetroot, leeks, beans and peas directly in your garden.  Keep sowing seeds of the tender summer vegetables, like tomatoes, in pots and punnets to plant out when the nights are a bit warmer.  Plant seeds in punnets where you can see and protect them so they don't get eaten by snails or birds.
What are you are harvesting and sowing at the moment?  We would love to know!  Feel free to add photographs of your garden to Ooooby. 
The warmer, drier weather means you will need to water your pot plants and punnets more frequently - if they are in a sunny spot and are not mulched, they may need watering every day.   

Get rewarded for weeding your garden!

Weedbusters wants to hear what you've been doing to 'spring clean' your garden.  Everyone who registers here during October 2012 ie today, and tells Weedbusters (in 300 words or less) what you have done to make your place a weedfree space, will receive a copy of the ‘Plant Me Instead’ booklet for the Waikato, a copy of the ‘Weedbusting’ booklet, and is automatically entered into the draw for one of four Gardening New Zealand gift cards loaded with $250!

Reminder: Every Child a Gardener - Supporting Food Gardening in Schools

There will be a meeting on Friday 2 November at 12 noon at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Corner of River Road and Te Aroha Street, Hamilton to discuss how best to support school gardens to teach every child in the Hamilton how to grow vegetables. The meeting will be in the Mary Bryant room.

Anyone who might be interested in being part of this vision is welcome to go to the meeting.  Please bring a plate of food along for a shared lunch. Tea and coffee will be provided.  For more information contact Anne Overton, ph 027 520 8653.

Reminder: Hot Composting & Feeding the Soil with WIC

Hot composting turns organic waste into rich compost that you can use to improve your soil and feed your plants, while saving you money on rubbish dumping fees.  It is also great exercise! Hot composting kills seeds and most diseases.

When: Friday 2 November, 5:30 pm - 7 pm

Where: Grandview Community Garden. Entrance to the garden is through the gate opposite 183 Grandview Road - look for the WIC flag. Park your bike by the shed, or take bus route 8 (Frankton), or park on Grandview Road.

NB: A few people have got mixed up and thought the Grandview Community Garden was in Glenview: it is not - Grandview is next to Nawton.  (Hopefully it is closer than you'd thought!)  

Any questions? Contact Clare (ph 021 0387623) or Tim (ph 021 2243109), the WIC Community Garden Mentors.

Reminder: Newcomers Network movie night: Grow Your Own

The film Grow Your Own is about a British allotment (a type of community garden) which includes some garden plots looked after by refugee families.  There is a movie trailer here.

Bring a gold coin donation and a plate of food to share.

RSVP Contact admin.newcomers@wmrc.org.nz or ring the Migrant Centre (ph 853 2192) to let them know you are coming.

When: Friday, 2 October. Doors open at 6:45pm and the movie will begin at 7:00pm. (The DVD “The Lorax” will be showing in the next room for the kids.)

Reminder: HOGs Garden Visits with a back yard chicken theme

Hamilton Organic Gardeners have 2 garden visits planned for Saturday 3 November: you are welcome to go to one or both.  

The first, at 11:30 am, is at Joy and David's suburban garden in Claudelands.   They grow a wide range of interesting plants (including bananas), harvest rainwater, use a worm bin and make their own liquid fertilisers.  Their chickens help them in the garden.  People are welcome to bring their own lunch and if the weather permits they will light their home made pizza oven!

At 1:30 pm the second visit is to Wendee and Mitch’s lifestyle block garden, Whatawhata.  They have a diverse garden but are keen to learn more.

Free, but koha appreciated.

For more information see the HOGs blog and email hamiltonorganicgardeners “at” gmail.com to book and find out where to meet.

Reminder: Free Cooking Class - Wontons

Learn how to make healthy wontons with Stephanie (Taiwan) on Saturday 3rd November from 10 am to 12 pm at the Migrant Resource Centre, Boundary Road, Hamilton.

No bookings required.  This workshop is being organised by NZ Ethnic Social Services Waikato ph (07) 839 4688.

Reminder: A Gathering of Scarecrows

Scarecrows were a traditional method of keeping birds away from the crops.  At this free event you can:

  • bring a scarecrow and enter the competition 
  • vote for your favourite scarecrow!

While you are there, see what they have growing in the food gardens at this time of year.

When: Sunday 4 November, 11 am - 3 pm

Where: Kitchen Garden, Hamilton Gardens, Cobham Drive, Hamilton. 

Reminder: Sowing Summer Vegetables

On Tuesday November 6, 11 am - 12 noon, the WIC Community Garden Mentors will be demonstrating planting pumpkins and courgettes in the ground, and chillies, cucumbers, tomatoes in pots.  If you come to the demonstration you can also sow some tomatoes and chillis to take home. They will also be feeding the garlic and greens (leafy vegetables).  Everyone is welcome!

Where: Grandview Community Garden. Entrance to the garden is through the gate opposite 183 Grandview Road - look for the WIC flag. Walk across the grass.  Park your bike by the shed, or take bus route 8 (Frankton), or park cars on Grandview Road.

Any questions? Contact Clare (ph 021 0387623) or Tim (ph 021 2243109), the WIC Community Garden Mentors.

Hot Composting, Sowing & Feeding the Garden

This is a repeat of the hot composting workshop and the sowing summer vegetable workshop.  Learn how to feed your garden and how to plant pumpkins, courgettes, chillies, cucumbers, tomatoes.  Pot up and take home some tomato and chilli seeds if you like.

When:  Thursday 8 Nov,  5.30pm to 7pm.

Where: Grandview Community Garden. Entrance to the garden is through the gate opposite 183 Grandview Road - look for the WIC flag. Park your bike by the shed, or take bus route 8 (Frankton), or park on Grandview Road.

Any questions? Contact Clare (ph 021 0387623) or Tim (ph 021 2243109), the WIC Community Garden Mentors.

Low Cost Living Expo

Learn about living well on not very much, including affordable gifts you can make on Friday 9 November 10 am - 12 noon at the Western Community Centre, 46 Hyde Ave, Nawton, Hamilton (ph 847 4873). This popular event is free - all welcome!

Clare will be there promoting the Grandview Community Garden and helping you to plant peas in a Christmas-tree shape.  Would you be willing to help her on the WIC stand - we are looking for a volunteer?  Contact Clare on 021 0387623 or contact me if you would like to help.

Cheryl from the Hamilton Permaculture Trust will also be at the Expo with information on Time Banking. 


Last Saturday at the kumara growing workshop we learned that kumara need warm conditions and a long time to grow - at least 120 days.  Our three experts all agreed: if you are going to grow kumara this summer, you need to get on with planting them now!  You can download Beatriz's notes on how to grow kumara from Ooooby (pdf file) or contact me for a copy.

The cheapest option is to grow your own kumara cuttings from a tuber, which takes about 6 weeks.  If you haven't done this and want to buy some plants, it pays to shop around: we have seen them for sale for 50c per plant, $9 for 25 plants (so 36c each) while some places don't sell them at all. 

Stephanie told us that in Taiwan they not only eat the tubers, but they also eat the kumara leaves, stirfried, steamed, boiled, etc.  I have two of her kumara leaf recipes on Ooooby.  Wiremu said that Maori people also eat the leaves in boil ups  - a kind of pork soup.   


Peni was asking how to use the herb chives (Allium schoenoprasum).  Chives are in the same family as onions and have a mild onion flavour. It is mostly their leaves that are used. The leaves are tubular (round and hollow like a drinking straw).  Chives die back in winter, but now (as you can see in the photo of his herb garden) the grass like leaves have come up and there are pink flowers.  Cut the flowers off regularly to keep the plant producing lots of leaves - but don't waste the pretty pink flowers, they have lots of flavour and can be used in salads (great garnish on potato salad, for example). 

There are some recipes that call for Chinese chives.  Most sources say that these are what are commonly called garlic chives here in NZ (Allium tuberosum).  Garlic chives can be easily grown from seed.  Their leaves are flat.  Both the leaves and the flower buds are used in cooking - they have a mild garlic flavour.  The flower buds are usually stir fried, but I've also used them in salads or as an edible garnish on hummus and other garlic flavoured dishes.  The leaves are often used in stir fries.

The leaves of both types of chives are  mostly chopped finely and used with potatoes (as a garnish, or mixed through mash),  blended into sour cream or cream cheese to use as a dip or baked potato topping or a soup garnish, in many egg dishes eg scrambled eggs and omelettes, added into mayonnaise and in salads. 

So they are very useful herbs to have growing in your garden! They do best in full sun and like to be kept moist. 

In Season 

The gardeners at Grandview Community Garden are now picking their own peas, lettuce, carrots, broad beans, broccoli and beetroot, etc.  Phil has been making yummy fresh salads with his lettuces.  Papa has harvested beetroot - beetroot are in the same family as silverbeet, so you can eat the leaves.  The small leaves are nice in salads, while the bigger leaves are usually cooked and eaten like silverbeet or spinach. The community garden looks awesome: the Mentor's provide advice as needed, but each plot is all the gardener's own work, including clearing the ground, sowing and ongoing weeding.  Keith has decided to pass his Grandview Community Garden plot onto someone else, as he now feels he has learned enough to be confident to garden at home. 

In Hillcrest, Peni has been harvesting spinach, herbs and nasturtiums from his back yard garden - all his veges have been grown from seed!  Maoi was about to harvest her first strawberry only to find a bird had got there first!  Lyn has been harvesting fat, juicy yacon tubers - we gave some of the surplus out on Saturday at the workshop.  Another lady at the workshop shared a beautiful cauliflower, eggs and some surplus citrus fruit from her garden.  Many of us are harvesting and sharing citrus fruits - lemons, oranges, tangelos, grapefruit, lemonades...  Some of my citrus trees are flowering again - the bees love their blossom, it has a beautiful smell. 

My feijoa tree has fat flower buds: I am looking forward to eating some of the petals around Christmas time.  You can clearly see the stone and pip fruit growing - plums, peaches, apples, etc. - lots of yummy things to look forward to!  I am still harvesting miners lettuce: it is flowering at the moment.  I will allow it to drop its seed so I will have another free crop next winter. 

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)

Many of you like the herb coriander: it prefers cooler weather, so plant it during spring (now) or in autumn. Sow it directly where you want it to grow: like root vegetables, coriander doesn't like being transplanted.  Sow a few seeds every 2-3 weeks if you want a continuous supply. You can plant in full sun at the moment, but as the season progresses, sow it in part shade to keep it cool. You can eat whole plant - root, stem, leaves and seeds - the seeds have a kind of orangey flavour. For more information about growing coriander, click here.

In American English and Spanish coriander is called cilantro.  Coriander is used in curries, salads, cakes and breads.  There is an easy corn fritter recipe here which includes both fresh coriander leaves and ground coriander seeds. You can eat the fritters hot or cold.  They are great for weekend lunches, 'bring a plate' events, or in the lunch box.  Many kiwis like them served with tomato sauce (!) or chutney.  There are many more coriander recipes on the Healthy Food Guide website.  


Enjoy the fresh produce from your garden!


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