WIC Gardening Update - 7 November 2012

Posted 11 years, 7 months ago by Kathryn Mercer - WIC Project Manager    2 comments

Hi and Talofa lava

Fireworks, Fires and Fertilisers

You will have noticed lots of fireworks going off this week: we are celebrating Guy Fawkes (5 November), an event that has its roots in English history. This event has traditionally also been celebrated with bonfires: people sometimes bake potatoes or toast marshmallows (a type of sweet) in the fire.  The word 'bonfire' came from the words 'bone fire'. 

November in the northern hemisphere is autumn, and it was common to kill some of the animals that had been fattened up over the summer, preserving the meat for winter when there would be little for the animals to eat.  The bones would be burned with (untreated) wood and the ashes used as garden fertiliser.  Bones are a renewable source of the mineral phosphorous (P) and wood ash contains potassium (K).  Both minerals are essential in small amounts for healthy plants.  You can learn more about some renewable home-made fertilisers here.

Some NZ local Councils ban bonfires in towns and cities all year round.  Most (perhaps all) Councils ban bonfires over summer when plants are dry and the risk of them spreading is too great.  Fire bans are advertised on the radio, local newspapers, etc. During a 'restricted fire season', you will need a permit from the Council - this can take around a week to arrange, so plan ahead.  An 'open fire season' means you can have a bonfire and don't need a permit.

Remember: If you are on peat soil, do not have a fire where it can touch the ground - peat burns!  If you are not sure if your property is on peat soil, contact your local council and they can tell you - this service is free.    

You do not need a fire permit if you use an incinerator, pizza oven,  BBQ or cooking fire: you can use these all year around.  Even an incinerator made from a large metal drum with an air hole cut out of the bottom will help the fire burn with less smoke than a bonfire. Here's instructions for a DIY incinerator that can also be used as a patio heater.  It is made from recycled materials.

Warn your neighbours when you plan to have a fire (including smoking fish etc) - otherwise they may think your house is burning down and dial 111 to get the Fire Brigade to rescue you. You may also be able to arrange to have the fire when they are out.  Some councils will fine you if you create lots of smoke that annoys your neighbours - so don't burn green (fresh) garden waste.  Do not burn plastics, tyres, etc: these contain toxic chemicals.  The best time of day to have a fire is in the early morning when there is little wind: the smoke will go straight up without bothering your neighbours.  

Don't set up your fire under a tree.  Always make sure you have water or some other way of putting out the fire close by.  There are some good tips here.  If you have any questions about fires contact your local Council or the local Fire Service Safety Officer.

Reminder: Hot Composting, Sowing & Feeding the Garden

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.  Come along and learn hands-on how to do it.

Learn how to feed your garden and how to sow pumpkins and chillies.  You are welcome to pot up and take home some tomato and chilli seeds.  The kumara plants that we started propagating in August are now ready for planting out: people who attend can also take some kumara plants home for your back yard garden. 

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.

Reminder: Low Cost Living Expo

Learn about living well on not very much money, 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 and Stephanie will be there promoting the Grandview Community Garden and helping you to plant peas in a Christmas-tree shape to take home. 

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

Pacific Rose Bowl Festival

You probably know that roses are beautiful and smell wonderful, but did you know they are edible too? Rose hips (the seed heads) are rich in vitamin C and are used in syrups, jams, etc, while the flower petals are used for the wonderful scent they bring, eg in rosewater.  The flavour is different for different varieties. 

The annual Pacific Rose Bowl Festival features roses from all around the world and attracts around 5000 people every year.  This free event runs from 8-11 November.  See what they other edibles they have growing in Productive Gardens while you are there.

Where: Hamilton Gardens, Cobham Drive, State Highway 1, Hamilton East. 

Bringing Good Insects to the Garden

At this free WIC workshop learn how to bring beneficial (helpful) insects into your garden.  Good insects help to pollinate flowers so that plants can make fruit, and/or help to keep the number of bad insects low. 

When: Wednesday 14 November 2012, 9 to10.30 (remember to be sun smart!)

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.    

Building a Shade House

At this free WIC workshop learn hands-on how to build a shade house.   If there is time you can learn more by helping to finish tunnel house.  A shade house makes a cool, sheltered area, that stays moist longer. It is a good place to grow:

  • seedlings in trays and pots when the weather is hot
  • plants that like cooler weather 
  • plants that like shade. 

When: Saturday 17 November 2012, 9 am - 5 pm (remember to be sun smart!)

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), the WIC Community Garden Mentors.

Sowing Beans and Bringing Good Insects to the Garden

Learn how to bring beneficial (helpful) insects into the garden, and sow dwarf beans.

When: Tuesday 20 Nov 2012, 9 am to10.30 am (remember to be sun smart!)

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

November is 5+ a Day Fruit and Vegetable Month

We feel best when we eat at least 3 servings (a serving is about 1/2 cup) of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit each day.  When it comes to vegetables, more is better!  

If you take the 5+ a Day Challenge to add one more serving of fruit and veg to your diet, you could win prizes including an iPad through their Facebook page.  They have tips on how you can include more fruit and veg in your day on their web site, along with recipes.

People who eat a lot of fruit and vegetables are less likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, certain cancers and obesity - and it gives us a greater variety of tastes to enjoy!   


We had more north-westerly winds than usual for September, we had a slow start to spring, ie the soil did not warm up as fast as usual.

In some Maori traditions, the return of the bird pïpïwharauroa = shining cuckoo from the tropics is a sign of the beginning of warmer weather, ie spring.  I have been hearing its call in my garden for a couple of weeks now.  Another tradition is that if tï kouka, the cabbage tree, has lots of flowers and flowers early, we can expect a long hot summer.  You can learn more Maori weather and climate traditions here

NIWA are predicting that November to January temperatures in the Waikato are likely to be average to warmer than usual - so an average temperature of between 16.5 - 18 degrees Celsius.  We are likely to get normal or drier than normal weather, (between 164-286 mm of rain) with less soil moisture than usual. 

A hotter, drier summer is good news if you like to grow vegetables that like lots of warmth, like melons, eggplants/aubergines, etc.  But it also means that there is a greater chance that the Councils will impose watering restrictions, so make sure you mulch your garden plots well to keep them moist!  Consider setting up a rain barrel or water tank if you haven't already. 

In some parts of town bare soil is already cracking open due to the fine weather we have been having: make sure your garden is getting enough water.  Young plants need watering more often, but established plants generally only need watering once the soil is dry down to about 3 cm deep.  Do not water your garden in the hottest part of the day (10 am - 4 pm). 

Remember to be sun smart when you are outside between 10 am - 4 pm: slip slop slap and wrap - slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat and wrap on some sunglasses to protect yourself against sunburn!

Back Yard Chickens

If you missed the HOGs chicken garden trips last Saturday or want to learn more, Hamilton City Libraries holds the American book Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard by Jessi Bloom, an award winning landscape designer.  She even has tips on how to train your chickens!

Some people use feathers to line the bottom of their seed trays: it helps to stop the fine soil being washed out of the drainage holes.  They are also rich in nitrogen - important for growing leaves.

House plants

Here are a couple of space saving ideas for growing herbs and other small plants on your windowsill or in a sunny spot inside your house. 

Windowsill self-watering bottle garden: They use recycled glass bottles, but you could use plastic drink bottles too. I would make them bigger to give more soil for growing plants.

Tiered hanging pots: These would also be good hanging in a balcony.  If you are hanging them inside, be careful you don't over-water them - you don't want soggy carpet!

What's growing in your garden at the moment?

Tina's (Niue) potatoes are growing well in tyre stacks in her back yard garden this year.  She is harvesting lettuces, parsley, bok choy and silverbeet.  She is looking forward to eating beans, several types of tomatoes and garlic in the summer - they are growing well.  She is hoping to get out this weekend to plant kumara, melons and pumpkins. She will have no trouble eating at least 5+ a day!  

Now is a good time for sowing the following seeds: chillies, tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, lettuce, celery, spring onions, carrots, silverbeet, parsley, beetroot, leeks, beans and peas. 

If you live in Hamilton and want to try growing melons - plant them now! Like kumara, they don't like cold weather and need at least 120 days to mature (be ready for harvesting).


If you planted or grafted a new fruit tree over winter and it has set fruit, carefully pinch the fruit off: for the first year you want the plant to put all its strength into developing good roots rather than on trying to reproduce.

Ruby told me this week that the two apple trees she grafted at the Tree Crops Association workshop a few months ago are growing well :-)

Grapes grow well in the Waikato.  If you have a grapevine, you will have bunches of flowers/fruit forming.  Prune (cut off) the tip of the branch one leaf above the 2nd or 3rd bunch of flowers.   (You may want to keep the leaves for dolmas - see recipes below!)    

Like tomatoes, it is usual to lateral a grapevine.  This means that you take out the bud (or branch, if you've left it to grow!) that forms between the leaf and stem (also called the auxillary bud).   This helps to keep the vine a manageable size, improves air flow (helps to prevent fungal diseases), makes sure the fruit will get enough sun and makes the plant focus on producing really good fruit. 

Edible wrappings

One of the most popular take away foods in NZ are pies.  Originally, the pastry was simply a way of holding the filling together, making it easy to carry and easy to eat.  The pastry acted like a paper bag: the filling was eaten and the pastry was thrown away.   This is like using banana leaves to protect but also flavour the food cooked in it.  They are great for picnics and lunches.

Some flour-based wrappings from around the world include pancakes, stuffed dumplings or buns eg pork buns, Cornish pasties, filled tortilla (quesadilla, burrito, etc), wontons ... 

Stephanie's wonton recipe is on Ooooby here.  At her next cooking class (on Saturday the 17th) she will be teaching you how to make spring rolls - another type of wrapped food!

Some food wrappings are made from edible leaves, for example cabbage, taro, grape leaves.  You could experiment with using other large edible leaves that hold their shape when cooked, eg lettuce, okra, mallow, rainbow chard or silverbeet leaves.

Dolma comes from a Turkish word that means "stuffed," and is a savoury dish made from grape leaves around a rice filling.  They are made in many countries with various names, eg dawali, yaprak, sarmale.  Grape leaves harvested in spring are best - ie now.  There are step by step instructions with photos on how to stuff and roll grape leaves here.  There are instructions for preserving grape leaves for later use here.  There is a recipe here and here.  They can be eaten hot or cold, and are often served with a yogurt dip.

Some traditional dolma recipes take several hours to cook.  I recently made a version of dolmas in less than 15 minutes, cooking the washed grape leaves in the microwave for about 2 minutes, then stuffing them with leftover barley risotto, pouring a jar of chopped tomatoes and herbs over the top and microwaving them until cooked through - it was delicious!


If you have any doubts about the usefulness of a thick layer of mulch on your garden, look at the photo below, taken at Grandview Community Garden plot.  You cannot see the kale that was not mulched because it is smaller and covered in weeds.  The mulched kale grew better and did not have many weeds. 

Mulching slows down weeds, keeps the soil moist and feeds the soil. At the Grandview Community Garden the gardeners use well rotted woodchips as mulch.  Download a WIC information sheet (pdf) of where to get free and cheap mulch ingredients here


11 years ago
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11 years ago
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