My Pride of Place - Laura's Kiwi Country Garden

My name is Laura and we live in Te Akau, a small rural community 50km north west of Hamilton. We have various gardens spread over our property including a 4.5m x 4m in-ground garden for vegetables, two raised beds for herbs and berries and a 6m x 3m polytunnel for heat loving summer crops and year-round warm growing conditions.

 

Our gardening philosophy since we began in 2013 has always been, if there’s not enough room, we’ll add another garden! We started with just the in-ground garden and have converted more lawn and dead space into gardens each year.

The polytunnel is one of my favourite places to grow things - our strawberry plants do extremely well and we are able to grow things all year round that wouldn’t be possible outdoors. This year the peppers and chillies have been the showstoppers - the conditions are perfect for them and because they don’t get frosted, they will continue to produce until early winter. During autumn and winter we will grow brassicas, carrots, beetroot and lettuces.

A big thing for us is utilising dead space and turning it into workable garden. This season we planted pumpkins and melons down the bank at the back of our section and they have been able to really spread out! During winter we throw our grass clippings down there and over the year they break down and provide the perfect growing environment for pumpkins.

 

Although we are in a warmer part of the country, we are coastal and are a good month or so behind areas only slightly further inland to us. Because of this, we have learnt to hold back on planting out summer crops too early.

While Labour Weekend is a popular time, I didn’t plant any tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers or beans in our outside garden until mid-late November. While I was dying to get going, I knew from previous years it was worth the wait! They have thrived as by the time I planted them out, the weather and soil had warmed up enough for them to take off immediately. For us it is all about trial and error and keeping track. We try new things each year and write down what works and what doesn’t so that we know for next time.

 

For me, there is nothing more relaxing than getting out in the garden over summer evenings after our daughter is in bed and just pottering! Late summer and early autumn are my favourite times of year in the garden, as all the hard work - raising seedlings, taking care of them, planting them out, remembering to water over summer - is paying off. This year I have been really into preserving the extra food from the garden. We have frozen several kilos of beans, cherry tomatoes and grated zucchini, bottled gherkins and diced tomatoes and tried a few different refrigerator pickle recipes. I love that we can then rely on the produce from our summer garden all year round.

I have a couple of flexi tubs on the front porch that I have turned into planters. They retain water really well and are a super cost effective way to create new gardens, especially if you are short on space. 

Check out Laura's Feijoa Crumble Slice recipe here 

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My Pride of Place - Laura's Kiwi Country Garden Comments

  • Hi just wondering what you put into your planter boxes? I heard you should put sand in the base first, is this the best idea?

    Faith

    • Hi Faith, Laura let us know that she put down weed mat to start with (so helpful for keeping out weeds!) a layer of topsoil then added some compost and topped the beds up with more topsoil. She always adds a good layer of compost before planting anything new and will often dig through some sheep pellets also. 

      Tui Team

  • Thanks Laura for sharing your experience. I am trying different things every year. This year tomato and cucumber did not work but we also got bumper crops for green chillies, beans and celery. Could you please share more information about your polytunnel? How is it going to work in summer when it is very hot inside?

    Naresh

    • Hi Naresh, in my few years gardening I have definitely found that some years are just better for certain crops than others with no explanation! Last year we had a terrible year for beans and cucumbers and this year they have done really well! It's always worth trying again the next year. It's taken me a couple of years to work out what does well in the polytunnel at different times of year, for example when it is really hot over summer peppers and chillies do incredibly well, as do strawberries, but I don't bother anymore with things like cucumbers or zucchini in there as it's too hot for them. Lettuces also do well but they go to seed quite quickly. Now that it's cooling down I plant brassicas in there as they are protected from the pesky white butterflies and I will be able to keep growing those, carrots, lettuces and more all winter. I am a big fan of trial and error - I will try almost anything and if it works, great! If not, I'll try something different next time. Happy gardening!

       

      Tui Team