My Pride of Place: Claire's South Island Piece of Paradise

We love following your gardening journey's through our Facebook and Instagram channels. This week be inspired by someone else’s Pride of Place as Claire O'Donnell ( on Instagram) shares her piece of Canterbury paradise and how she grows in the varying climate. 

Follow Claire's garden journey on Instagram here:

My name is Claire and I live rurally, 20kms from Christchurch, on the Canterbury Plains. My garden is situated on an old riverbed with all-day sun. I live in a climate of frosty winters, strong NW winds in spring and cool easterly winds in the dry summers.

Three years ago I started off with a lush, green paddock, but I had bigger plans. By laying down black plastic till the twitch roots are dead, or letting the chickens scratch around, my new garden beds are formed. I then dig over the beds, removing stray ‘live’ twitch roots I then add compost and top with a pea straw for mulch. Pine logs or river stones are laid around the bed edges and the pathways are covered with a layer of pine needles. I have created a 218 square metre garden, which contributes to feeding my family, all year around. I love my garden’s flexibility because, unlike raised beds, nothing is fixed into place. I can redesign the beds or paths easily, to suit my current needs.

In my ‘outdoor supermarket’ I grow 25 different types of vegetables, herbs, berries, and wildflowers. Everything is close to the house for easy access and I like to grow crops that are “come-and-cut”. By planting once, for the coming season, you can enjoy picking a larger yield over time and pick just what you need, reducing waste. It gives you flexibility for meal choices and is a gardening time-saver. I also use a mixture of growing my own seeds and shop brought seedlings. When life is busy, planting a row of seedlings picked up at the supermarket is ‘easy-as’.

I like to use nature to solve challenges and create an ecosystem of less
chemicals. I have a slug problem because of the surrounding paddock grass, so I’ve built a lizard habitat to encourage the ‘little slug eaters’ into the garden. It’s really cool when you see one dart away.

The pea straw acts as a mulch, reducing weeds and retaining soil moisture
in summer. It also composts down, helping to contribute to healthy soil, and encourages more worms, which in-turn helps plant growth.

Last season, I experimented with a dedicated wildflower border, to encourage more wild bumblebees into the garden. The eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes and capsicums had one of the highest yields yet, and there was noticeably more ladybirds, butterflies, lacewings, and reduced aphids.

Any self-seeded (volunteer) plants, are grown-up because they tend to
grow vigorously, are healthier and more resistant to pests and disease.

My garden is my ‘me-time’ and my happy place. A moment to smell the
lavender, snack on sun-ripe tomatoes, listen to bees humming, to slow my pace and refocus. The satisfaction and joy I get from growing and eating homegrown ingredients, is happiness in a bowl. I never get tired of seeing my family digging into a delicious meal I’ve grown from scratch - well that’s just bliss.

Happy gardening everyone!

Overlooking Claire's garden beds

Overlooking Claire's garden beds

Beautiful fresh spring harvests

Beautiful fresh spring harvests

Claire's 'outdoor supermarket' includes as selection of 25 different types of veges, herbs, berries, and wildflowers.

Claire's 'outdoor supermarket' includes as selection of 25 different types of veges, herbs, berries, and wildflowers.

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My Pride of Place: Claire's South Island Piece of Paradise Comments

  • My parents used to lay 2 rows of copper wire on boards around the edge of the garden to stop slugs and snails coming over for a night's feast. Not sure if copper wire is still available but may be worth trying :)


  • Looks delicious. Do you have to kneel or use a how for weeding?

    Pamela Hancox

    • Hi Pamela, thanks for getting in touch with your lovely feedback. Claire has confirmed she usually kneels and weeds by hand. The pea straw is great at keeping weeds down. Happy spring gardening.

      Tui Team