My journey, renting and feeding my family
Southland NZ. After being forced to move house and area twice in the last year and a bit, my family and I are grateful to have found a rental house with a few fruit trees, a long term agreement and great landlords that let me have some freedom in developing the area that once was a garden.
About 5 months ago we moved in, the house smelt like dog for a while and although a big tidy up was done before we moved, there was still lots of cleaning up to do.
Garden beds and hothouse full of dog bones, broken glass, plastic and meal bits.
Off I went digging and sifting rubbish from dirt for a few weeks.
As I emptied a bed I would fill the bottom with matured sheep manure I got free from family. About a 4 inch layer then top back up with the dirt I had sifted.
That took a good few weeks doing a wee bit each day.
Also while doing this I have started setting my plans out:
What will we eat and where will things go?
My goal for this garden is to feed my family as quickly as possible, as much as possible and as cost free as possible.
Another goal is to learn gardening limits for my own curious brain and have crops ready to harvest each week so we don’t have heaps ready one week, and nothing the next week.
Started from seeds
I brought a lot of seed packets not this spring just been but the last and have just used those this season and some other seeds and cloves I had saved. I start from seed with 6 pack trays I have collected over the years for starting most plants, and use dirt from the beds.
Every few weeks I think what space will I need to fill soon and what seeds do I have that do ok this time of year.
Raised garden beds
I built raised garden beds out of recycled timber which we had moved with us, and got a strawberry bed and a garlic bed sorted firstly, as I started my garlics in pots because we were moving. The new garlic bed has sorted out the soggy spot of the yard now and garlics have been doing well.
Half pulled now and in-between garlic rows i have planted red onions to harvest later (and trying to get one onion to give me more seed to save money next round)
Also, as I pulled garlics out, I have transplanted leeks and beetroot into the bed for autumn and winter food.
I put 3-4 seeds in each square of the 6-pack. So I can have a few pullings from one growing space over a few weeks. I lay cardboard, then sheep poo, then dirt and scooped up bamboo matter from another part of the garden to cover as a mulch.
And I covered my strawberries with recycled chicken netting, some PVC pipe I found and a few 2×1 bits of wood to nail sides down – to keep the birds off.
Carrots and radishes
Over a month and a bit I spaced out 4 rows of carrots and radishes, mixed together. The radishes help spread the carrot seed just that bit more and the radishes can be harvested early on and the carrots later on. Today we are just finishing off the last few radishes and starting to pull the first carrots.
This season’s experiment
After reading about the three sisters, a way of companion planting. I wanted to do it. But with more variety.
What I ended up with: corn, gherkins, cucumber, yellow beans, zucchini, peas, butternut pumpkin, and another pumpkin, sunflowers and 2 capsicums, and a wild flower.
Planted before christmas, I’m pushing these guys to their limits, in a 3 x 0.5m area.
Planted over a few weeks to spread harvest, I planted things very close together here, and while most things are doing well, I noticed a few plants are struggling.
Next time I will do more corn and less pumpkin/zucchini. And a bit more space for all.
My 2nd try at brassicas caged. We harvested potatoes from here at Christmas. We always have white butterfly trouble here in Southland, so I fixed up a netted cage I found and hope this will keep butterflies and caterpillars out, they massacred my 1st try in hothouse, it’s missing panels, so it was only a matter of time really! But I did get 1 jar of relish out of the 8 brassicas. If the cage won’t keep them out, I will only be able to grow them in the tunnel house, under lock..
Started another bed here with potatoes on the left for autumn trying a no dig style, added big dry weeds, some sheep poo and extra dirt.
Also, where my walk way will be, there is a bountiful ball of asparagus that fed us well after a month of living here, I will wait for winter before I move this. And my pumpkins are all tangled up in it.
The semi glass house.
Seedlings started at the end of path through summer.
Tomatoes, capsicums, basil, spring onions, thyme, lettuce, gherkins, silverbeet, kale, puha(sow thistle) one beetroot and lettuce seeding.
I found a great way to have loads of leafy greens any day of the week by planting short lines of what you want to eat.
I had here 1 line of lettuce – 8ish plants, 1 and a half line of puha, about 14 plants, and half a line of kale, 4 plants.
Each row about 6inch apart.
Picking and grow style. We could get 2 feeds per row per week easily from half a meter line for our sized family.
Coming up next
Right now I’m up to sorting out the tunnel house for more winter crops and finding space for more herbs I’ve inherited, getting more peas in down my half empty fence line. And more planning on what to do over winter. Lots of harvesting, eating and making of relish and jam, more cleaning up other areas of yard. Working on making a 3 bin compost system.
We have a worm farm with red worms and tiger worms i get a good bucket of worm juice every week or 2 from them and they get some of our food scraps and our used coffee grounds and some water varying on the outside temp.
It has a corrugated iron lid to keep birds and weather off. we dry egg shells out and crush it, sprinkling around plants that slugs like as a deterrent and some go into the worm farm sometimes.
And while the comfrey is growing well, I have been making tea from it in 20l buckets. I trim my comfrey, what ever falls over the garden boarder gets diced up put in the bucket, weighed down with a few bricked then filled with water, my reading tells me it’s ready in 6 weeks but I had one bucket done (with very hot weather) in two weeks.
Our 8+ foot sunflower
We also have a tractor tire of yams growing for winter, and herbs and leafy greens in pots.
I set up an extra water tank to catch rain from my garage to get through the dry weeks. And sure needed it!
No chemicals – and almost nothing from the stores.
I haven’t used any chemicals or store brought products here, apart from packets of seed.
I’ve used salt vinegar and hot water spray on my drive way to clear up some weeds. And I tried to save my brassicas with Baking soda but I burnt the leaves! I suggest if you do use baking soda for white butterfly invasion, mix it 50/50 with flour so you don’t accidentally do what I did!
We have 2 chickens on the other side of the house they get our excess of leafy greens and the kids feed them bugs they find (and grain and mash), in exchange they give us eggs daily and their poop is going into a compost bin we have started for next years top ups.
In the last 2months and maybe more now we have only store brought 2 bags of carrots and a bag of onions for a young family of 5.
I am grateful we are able to do this and grateful things have provided for us well in late spring and summer and a southland drought! May my learnings and mahi (work) provide for us through each changing season. And best wishes to you all!