My Pride of Place - Homegrown Happiness NZ

I’m Elien, I live in Porirua which is on the outskirts of Wellington. My garden is on a terraced hill which is surrounded by houses and tall trees. This means sunlight is an issue, particularly in winter, but it’s reasonably sheltered from wind which in Wellington is no small feat. You can follow my garden journey on Instagram here

I started my garden just over three years ago, initially beginning with two raised beds. I quickly outgrew these though as once I started planting I just wanted to add more. Sunlight was also playing a part as it never stayed in one place long and the raised beds we had built that got sun in summer got nothing in winter.

In winter, sunnier parts of my vegetable garden get 1-2 hours of sun and in summer the sunniest spots get 4-6 hours. As my vegetable garden is less than 100m2, building more raised beds wasn’t a good option. Instead, I adopted a no-dig gardening method that meant I could use the entire space available. I wasn’t limited to borders and I could plant in every corner that got sun. I could create a vegetable patch anywhere just by laying newspaper or cardboard directly on the ground, then layering on compost, manure and mulch. An instant garden without any hard work. Soon my entire space became a no-dig vegetable garden.

Because of the limited sun, I have to be extra prepared when sowing and planting. Everything we want to harvest in winter has to be sown late summer as once autumn and winter come the sun hours drop so dramatically. In winter nothing in my garden grows very big but we make sure to use the entire plants when possible, leaves, stalks and all (think broccoli and cauliflower!).

In spring I start my heat-lovers extra early to give them a big enough jump start to combat the lack of sun and keep them inside until planting time. I also try and use height when I can to reach the sun and save on space with trellises and frames.

My garden is tricky but I love it. The fact that I have to put extra effort into planning how I plant and what I plant, has got me even more invested, especially since it’s actually working and we can harvest from it continuously. It’s given me hope that you don’t need a flat, sun-trap of a section to grow fresh food.

My favourite season is autumn when the bulk of the harvesting happens and I spend time preserving any excess we have to last us through winter. My favourite summer vegetables to grow are beans and pumpkins.

My top three gardening tips:

1. Plant what you love. There’s no point planting a whole bed of silverbeet if you’re not going to eat it!

2. Plant a mixture of quick growing crops and long-term ones so there’s always something to harvest. Radish, spring onions, lettuce, baby beets and turnips can fill your plate while you wait for your cauliflower.

3. Love your garden. Take the time to go in and check on it every few days. It’s so much easier to stay on top of pests, weeds and problems if you do a little, often.

Post a comment

My Pride of Place - Homegrown Happiness NZ Comments

  • Hi Elien, what an inspiring letter for anyone who is thinking about growing vegetables and think it might be to hard or don't know where to start. I have been growing veg for 45years "in a home garden" and I never tire reading stories like your. Ttfn

    Anthony Hodgson