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A Short and Snappy Guide to Windbreaks

Why establish windbreaks?

Because they:

— allow gardens to grow without being beaten to death,
— slow erosion,
— increase pasture and production,
— reduce stock losses,
— protect plants,
— habitat for wildlife and insects,
— manage snow,
— can provide fodder, food crops, timber or fuel,
— improve work conditions.

Windbreak components

Height, Density, Orientation, Continuity, Length

Height: Determines protected distance downwind. Wind reduction area will equal ten times the height of the tallest trees used.

Density: Use as many species as possible in your windbreak. Plant them fairly close together, in multiple rows, to form 60-80% of a solid block.

Orientation: Make it perpendicular to the direction of the wind. L U E shapes work well.

Continuity: No large gaps. If you need to put a driveway through, make sure it crosses the wind direction.

Length: Should exceed the height by 10:1.

Good plants for NZ shelterbelts (especially in coastal conditions).

Feijoa, taupata, nz flax, tarata or other pittosporums, karaka, karo, cabbage tree, pohutukawa, ngaio, toetoe.
As always, choose plants that grow well locally.

Some taller native trees that can withstand strong winds

Totara, kahikatea, pukatea, toatoa, tanekaha, tawa

Theme song for this post: Gimme Shelter – Rolling Stones. Kept playing in my head the whole time I was writing this. Think of it as a mantra for windbreaking.


Garden Diary: Winter Warmth

Sunlight on a weekend? Yayyyyy! And about bloody time. Didn’t think it would happen after the atrocious weather on Friday in Wellington, but Kapiti really has shone this weekend in it’s white and crisp winter sunlight.

I’m thrilled to report that my garden, despite excessive moisture and neglect is doing really well. Daily, we’re pulling out a wide variety of greens – collard leaves, kale, parsley, spinach, chard, herbs, celery, rocket, beetroot leaves, lettuce, mustard – for fresh and delicious meals. I’m supplementing with the odd head of broccoli, fresh fruit, organic potatoes and carrots from the supermarket. We’re still working our way through stored Jerusalem artichokes, shallots, onions and pumpkins. Quinoa, preserves and bottled cherry tomatoes are going strong.

Romanesco wonders

Last year saw some great broccoli precoce romanesco success but this year we’ve got stunners. Big solid heads with tightly formed fractal patterns that just look beautiful.


So given the gift of sunshine, I’ve weeded the vege beds around the house, which didn’t take long at all. The chickweed may be abundant but it’s easy to get out. Some of it goes into salads. It does cause issues if there’s too much growing around the veges and getting too wet – it holds the moisture and causes rot. But it does provide a nice mulch for bare soil and I felt a little guilty after pulling it all out.

To absolve myself, I invested in some peastraw pellets (pricey at $20) to put around my garlic on the north facing wall. I choose this over any other mulch because as they expand they mat together and don’t blow around. With careful placement, they aren’t in risk of rubbing up against and damaging my precious heirloom garlics.

In the last year I’ve tried to cut down on mulch use – I’m a bit iffy about it. It’s killed far more plants than it’s saved by rubbing against stems, causing rot and harbouring pests and disease. I can see how mulch works really well in tropical climates where it breaks down more readily but I’m cautious about it’s use on NZ gardens. I realise this is going against the zeitgeist, but hey, sometimes I’m a rebel.  I prefer to plant things closer together. Overplanting doesn’t work with garlic so I’m making an exception for my 3 special heirloom varieties.

I’ve got strawberries in winter!

Painting the house a much darker shade has done wonders for the side gardens. It’s trapping so much heat that’s being radiated back into the gardens. How can I tell? I have strawberries in July! Admittedly, not many but they are red, zangy and yum. They’re tiny but that’s because they’re wild strawberry plants – never big but full of flavour.

Flowering now

Borage, pineapple sage, helleborus, feverfew, calendula, marigolds, alyssum, violets, heartsease, penstemons and one single nasturtium.


It’s three days before full moon – perfect for seed-sowing. But I’m taking a break this month – instead I’m looking through my collections, checking seed catalogues and planning for sowing next month.

Planting out

More leeks and cavolo nero.


Bstds and wnkrs

There is a special place reserved in hell for people who steal from community gardens. It’s one where chilli is rubbed into the eyes and nose, while strangely-shaped vegetables are prodded into certain anatomical parts. The place reeks of manure and comfrey tea. Work involves grinding rocks into dust with your teeth.

Blenheim and Christchurch have had some media attention with thefts from community and school gardens.  And Aro Valley community gardens have just had 20 macrocarpa sleepers removed from site.

This morning’s Dominion Post takes a look at the extent of produce theft around New Zealand. And I’m disgusted that someone would go dig up a kumara crop before it was ready.  That’s just all sorts of wrong, requiring new levels of vegetable torture that I’m not prepared to think about on such a lovely sunny Saturday morning.


Ode to Summer

I just adore food. Growing it, cooking it, buying it, eating it, serving it up to friends, photographing it, talking about it, reading about it… yes, I’m obsessed. Happily!

And this, dear friends is the utter joy of summer to me – sunny days, champagne, friends and cooking food for that was growing in my garden just hours before.

Bruschetta of cherry tomatoes, chives and holy beans, on cornbread I made yesterday smothered in the delicious goodness of homemade hummus, served with a grated daikon, courgette and kohlrabi salad with sesame seeds and rice wine vinegar. All done spontaneously when friends dropped in with a bottle of very nice bubbles.

A very satisfying way to end the weekend!


Seed bank envy

I haven’t seen my kitchen table for the last couple of weeks. It’s completely covered in seed. Herb and flower seed particularly, because it hasn’t been a great growing season, in these parts, for vegetables. And I probably can’t explain the absolute joy, delight and envy I felt when seeing photos of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Bank in Petaluma, California – thanks to Bed of Spices.  If you get it, you get it… if you don’t, you’re probably not a collector.


Link salad: the Homegrown Evolution fanmail edition

Dear Erik and Kelly,

I love your blog. I was going to do a general link article to cool stuff I’ve been looking at on the interwebby thing today. But quite frankly, I didn’t get past your site. There’s simply just too much interesting information and I get trapped reading every post. I think you guys rock! And so in honour, my link salad of a post is now entirely devoted to you…

I’ve been looking for perennial vegetables to grow in our food forest so loved the article on chinese artichokes / crosne / Stachys affinisgreat pics!

Link to Eric Toensmeier video (author of Perennial Vegetables and Edible Forest Gardens) was very useful.

And you’ve gone nettle insane – harvesting, fertilisers, infusions.

I also love the fact that one of your fave veges is NZ spinach – the only NZ native to be commercially cultivated for food.

You provide great advice with good examples, such as in Seeding change:

Last year a fungal disease, late blight, infected gardens due to seedlings grown at large nurseries in the south and sold at big box retailers up and down the east coast (read more about that in an excellent editorial, You Say Tomato, I Say Agricultural Disaster). Plant seeds and you help keep your garden disease free.

I whole-heartedly agree with your summation of Avatar and was very pleased to hear I wasn’t the only person to think of Paul Stamets.

And thank you for introducing me to Lloyd Kahn who’s blog I also follow religiously.

When I grow up I want to have a cool blog like yours. Ohh and join the Women’s Land Army of course!

Your’s in all fangirl-iness,  Anna xx


Gardening for community – weekly garden sessions in Kapiti

Kapiti’s Food Forest campaigners have been getting their hands dirty with weekly working bees in Waikanae. We’ve secured the use of a greenhouse to do some nursery work. This is a great opportunity to start growing on plants that we can use when we have secured a site for the community food forest.

These weekly community gardening sessions are a great opportunity to get involved, meet some people, maybe even learn a thing or two. It will be a pretty informal affair – turn up and lend a hand and have a chat over a cup of tea.

There’s plenty to keep us busy – weeding, digging, making seed-raising mix, making compost heaps, planting seeds, propagating, transplanting etc. If you want to learn any of these skills, hands-on is a great way to do it!

If you want to come along – gmail me at loveplantlife, or leave a comment.


What summer?

Two months ago I was buying pretty summer dresses and new sunhats and dreaming of luscious long summer days of fruit, friends, decadence, sun and quite a lot of wine. It’s the typical mid-November thing to do. The problem is that I’m still dreaming, still waiting, because quite frankly – this summer has been pants!

Windy, rainy, foggy, cloudy, cold, pathetic, rubbishy – all particularly descriptive vocabulary for just how freakin sucky the weather has been over the last two months. I admit there have been a few breakouts of rather tasty weather – but they’ve been far too few for an avid gardener who would like to finally eat her tomatoes now please! I’ve had only two. It’s been my worst growing season ever. It’s enough to make a woman wanna cry.

So I’ve been keeping busy with other gardening pursuits to keep my mind off the weather.  Food forest workshops, greenhouses, weekly gardening sessions and even a touch of blogging have kept me stupidly busy when I should be reaping the rewards of my harvesting. As I hear the rain descending yet again – I’ll take the time to tell you a bit more about them.


My Artichokes are looking beautiful

I think when they’re perfectly ready I’ll make some of these for those near and dear who need them:

Artichoke and Hawthorn Bar for cholesterol

(Recipe from the BBC’s Grow Your Own Drugs – James Wong)

4 artichokes
1 litre water
475 g hawthorn berries
225 g sugar
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of 1 lime

1. Chop the artichokes, place in a saucepan, cover with the water and boil for 10 minutes, or until cooked. Remove from the heat, then leave to steep for 20 minutes. Strain into a bowl.

2. Heat the oven to 100C.

3. Place the artichoke infusion, hawthorn berries, sugar and cinnamon stick in a pan, and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, or until the mixture is soft. Take out the cinnamon stick and blend in a liquidizer with the lime juice, then pour into greased, lined baking trays to a thickness of about 1 cm.

4. Dry in the heated oven for 2-3 hours.(Check after 2 hours; you want it to be chewy but not too tough.) Leave to cool,  slice into bite-sized pieces.

Please note: If high blood cholesterol is suspected, you must see a doctor. This recipe may be used in addition to, not as a substitute for, proper medical treatment. If you are on other heart medication you don’t eat hawthorn berries. The remedy is not suitable if you are diabetic.

Storage: Keep in greaseproof paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.


Growing New Zealand Yams / Oca

Back in November on my scavenger hunt to Taranaki, I found some oca (Oxalis tuberosa) tubers sprouting. I had never seen them growing before, didn’t know a thing about them other than how tasty the little blighters are, but jumped in anyway and bought a couple of punnets. I had a newly-developed bed and so popped them in there until I worked out what to do with them. It’s only taken about six weeks, but finally I’m catching up on just what makes a little oca grow. Continue reading ‘Growing New Zealand Yams / Oca’

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August 2020

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