So if the title doesn't give this post away, I will make it clear that this post is about gardening. It isn't exactly a dinner party but it is about growing our own food with the idea of being able to share it with others. Neither of us have any gardening experience and our knowledge has literally come from my mother and the internet. This adventure all started when one weekend Dylan and his Dad constructed a rather long vegetable box by the fence. It was sitting staring at us for a few more weeks before we rummaged up the courage to fill it with more than just our hopes and dreams.
With little more research than a google search of ‘can we use newspaper as a weed mat? We dove right in come Canterbury Anniversary Weekend.
Quick disclaimer, this may in fact be a very boring tale with updates that are greyer than your Nana’s boiled broccoli. On the off chance though there are budding (ha) young gardeners out there who like us have no idea what they are doing and can’t be bothered reading some hefty volume from the mid nineties then this could be the blog post for you.
We started off figuring out how much in the way of volume we would need of soil. HxWxD in metres of our planter box got us the volume in metres squared. Then a quick division by 100 got us the number of litres of soil we required. Bunnings had a special on their potting mix so it worked out cheaper to fill the car with bags of potting mix rather than getting a trailer load of soil. The other benefit of doing this is that any excess soil you have can be kept fresh as a daisy in the garage for when you find yourself wanting to plant out a pot or something. We also knew that compost and sheep pallets were required for nutritious soil. For our 14 bags of potting mix we got 2 bags of compost and 12kg of sheep poop. This probably isn’t the correct ratio but meh, she’ll be right.
Before we started laying down the classy weed mat and sheep poop, Dylan broke up the gravelly clay-like soil that was laying at the bottom of our planters. This went into the compost wheelie bin even though rocks probably weren't the most compostable.. whoops.
Google told us that 6-8 sheets of newspaper would work a treat in terms of weed matting. I like how newspaper can break down, it re-uses something we were otherwise going to throw out and its far cheaper than getting proper weed matting that gets weeds growing through it anyway.
It was then time for the potting mix – we lay down sixish bags across the planter followed by the compost then followed by another six bags (we had two spare in the end). Using our hands we sort of mixed it up together to create a healthy mix of soil. We finished off by scattering the sheep pallets over the top and working them in a bit too.
Now I know it looks like Dylan is doing all the work but for the record I am taking photos using soil covered gardening gloves. It was 100% a team effort. Except the digging up gravel part. We only had one spade so I graciously let Dylan do that task...
We grossly over purchased on the plant front. Six packs of seedlings at Bunnings were on special and so most of our plants we got for a steal at $1.59 per punnet. As a result we ended up with twelve of a lot of things. We ignored the spacing requirements on the labels of most of our plants – we figured if things got too big then they would just be forced to be friends with each other or we could move them if they got really cranky about it.
Top tip: if you can't be bothered fending off pests like aphids plant some marigolds. They naturally repel aphids, encourage bees and look rather spectacular in my opinion. You can buy a plant for 98 cents at the moment at most garden centres. You'd be silly not to.
Mummy Edmonds always says to lay out your punnets prior to planting to get an idea for layout. We did this – it still didn’t help the overcrowding. Once you roughly know where you are going to put things you need to start by planing the puniest one at a time.
Firstly dig a wee hole big enough for the seedling. Take the punnet and plunge it into a bucket of water so that the water level is just up the stem. Bubbles will come up and out of the punnet - when they stop you know its absorbed as much water as it can. This just ensures your new seedlings are well hydrated in preparation for their new home. Gently tip out the seedlings and break apart if need be and start placing them into the pre dug wee holes. Fill the gaps with soil and then placing both hands either side of the stem, palms facing down press firmly down to pack the soil in tight around the seedling. Boom - you've just planted something. Repeat until you have either planted everything or you've run out of space...
Now comes for the patient part. Waiting. I was going to write boring but actually coming home everyday and getting to see how my/our garden has grown has been a delight. I get really excited when limp seedings become lush and the good weather just feeds the garden. We threw down some snail bait to stop the snails (obvs) and on days without rain we will often give the garden a quick water once the sun is almost down (water droplets and strong direct sunlight burns delicate foliage - the droplets act as magnifying glasses that and the water just evaporates). Other than that it has been pretty low maintenance so far. I guess we will learn what needs doing when as we go. Every time it rains I now find myself laughing as I can't help but think "ooh it'll be good for the garden" - something my Mum has said for as long as I can remember.
It has been three weeks since we planted our seedlings and I cannot believe how much they have grown. I have been growing more vegetables from seed in an old egg tray, I have no idea where I will plant them but just the joy in seeing the shoot's progress is enough. I feel like I am back in biology class and its amazing.
This weekend's task is to plant some kumara shoots I got given into a bucket as instructed as well as construct an irrigation system to feed our plant babies if we are away too long. I am also in possession of some poppy, pansy and cornflower seeds so watch this space. Basically I am just fizzing at the prospect of getting to visit Bunnings Warehouse again.
Let us know how your gardens go!