Come for a ramble at Woodside!


Walk down the long driveway next to the sign, across a large field and the garden is behind the large trees. Wear gumboots or other sturdy shoes.,+Massey,+Auckland+0614/@-36.8573608,174.6122618,18.25z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x6d0d4023e185c2a5:0xa467fea84a0e8ada!8m2!3d-36.8572389!4d174.6131074

Garden update – June 2020

Now that we are at Level 1, we are all free to work in the garden together and can be more relaxed about social distancing since we are a team and contact tracing will be easy if needed. The broccoli that was planted early in the season has excelled and is probably the best crop we have ever grown, probably due to the warmer weather. We normally always grow crops like broccoli and cauliflower from autumn to winter to avoid the issues with white cabbage butterflies and it’s not usually as warm. Strangely, we also didn’t get any caterpillar infestation; maybe the birds have been getting them!

Karyn has excelled herself with growing seedlings this season, which are all now planted and growing well apart from the ones that have been attacked by snails or birds. The parsnips have been protected by plastic bottles while they gain some strength.

The Drunken woman lettuces, parsley and celery that Nicole grew are also now growing well.

The rocket, planted in excess by Jacqui due to a seed packet malfunction, continues to supply plenty of high quality salad greens to the volunteers.

Orchard update – June 2020


During the COVID-19 lockdown, we planted a pawpaw tree donated by a friend and two tamarillo trees grown from seed by Karyn, one of our volunteers. All are doing very well. Whitefly is continuing to be a bit of a problem for the tamarillo trees but we’ve given them some organic spray and are hoping that the colder months will eliminate the bugs.

The flower on the largest of the Abyssinian banana plants continues to grow longer and longer and now has the sign of fruit up at the top of the flower. The next largest is now also flowering. We’ve heard that the plants die after flowering but are hoping they will survive as they bring a hint of grandeur to the garden.

The citrus trees are producing well. The mandarin tree was pruned back by Jacqui even though it was fruiting, because it looked like the branches would break due to the heavy burden of fruit. The mandarins are better than ever and more easy-peel than they have been previously. The lime tree continues to produce well and the fruit is proving very popular with volunteers.

Both varieties of grapefruit have fruited prolifically once more and we’re just waiting now for them to ripen. It’s best to let them ripen on the tree as they take a long time if picked too early.

The artichoke plants are growing fast and the herbs are recovering now that we are getting more rain. It’s nice to see the lavender and rosemary flowering again…

Kumara sees the light of day at last


We’ve been keeping an eye on the kumara plot but its been showing very few signs of yellowing leaves, which we had been told was an indication that it was ready to harvest. Regular bandicoot checks had indicated they might still need longer but Nicole finally decided it was time to excavate the plot and find the buried treasure. The handsome specimen shown above was the largest and is obviously the result of multiple tubers.

We’ve realised that checking along the sides of the plot might not be the best indicator of what is going on but we were delighted with the haul this time, which was far superior to our last effort where we had quite a lot of long thin objects that may have been roots or tubers. These all had the characteristic purple skin we expect.


Kumara harvest

Some of the citrus trees in the orchard have been starting to get yellow leaves, particularly the mandarin tree. So, the mandarin tree got a serious haircut from Jacqui. This entailed also removing some of the fruit but we know from last year that it tends to get large numbers of very small fruit which is too much for the tree to bear so trimming it now should help it to be able to grow larger fruit and lessen the risk of damaged branches. All trees got a dose of epsom salts, followed by later application of blood and bone, citrus food and an application of seaweed. Hopefully, this cocktail will help them to produce healthy fruit.


The small lemon tree was pruned slightly to remove branches that looked diseased or dead. It’s had no fruit so far or any sign of flowers which is a bit disappointing but perhaps just needs more regular feeding. The lime tree, which is the same age, has been producing well this year in spite of its small stature.

The large Abyssinian banana plant that has been flowering for a while continues on with the flower getting longer and longer. It’s attracting bees and ants and is very impressive. Now, the second largest Abyssinian banana plant has also started to produce a flower. We’ll be very sad to see these beautiful plants as they are quite majestic. The other two in the orchard are far smaller even though and were only slightly smaller when they were planted.

The fruiting banana pups are growing well so we might even get bananas again this year.


In the garden, the passionfruit plant is having a second surge of flowering with more fruit coming than earlier in the year. The accidental Cape gooseberry plant is also flourishing.

Lockdown garden; it’s flourishing!


We’ve had to be very cautious during the Level 4 lockdown but due to the efforts of our volunteers and the brilliant fine weather, the garden has continued to flourish. An early start to the day on Anzac Day with the “Stand for Dawn” at 6am, meant an early start at the garden seemed like a good idea.

The cucumbers did get overtaken somewhat by powdery mildew so we took two of the plants out but left the beans as they had started flowering again.ANZAC_beans

These dwarf long green beans are probably the best we have ever grown, very juicy and tender. The other two cucumbers are almost finished now but are also supporting the grey crown pumpkin which has strayed over into their plot as pumpkins are wont to do so they will be left for at least one more week. The pumpkins also have powdery mildew so it won’t be long before we need to pull those out too.

The two types of artichokes are thriving, each planted in its own tyre.

The broccoli and onions that Nicole planted are thriving, so far no sign of white cabbage butterfly caterpillars on the broccoli, which is a relief as we thought this might be an issue with the continuing fine weather. We usually plant these a bit later. We have more seedlings coming soon including more broccoli and cauliflower.

It may not have been the best idea to sprinkle an entire packet of rocket seed in one plot, but it is living up to its name and growing vigorously; delicious in salads. One of the capsicum plants is having a second round of flowering so its been allowed to live on and is being supported by a large number of self-sown marigolds as well as basil plants.

Just before the lockdown, we managed to buy a couple of thyme seedlings so they have now joined the herb selection in the orchard. Hopefully, they will both do well as we only have one other very small plant in the garden.

Herb of the month – Sweet Basil


Sweet basil

Basil is a warm, spicy annual herb of the family Lamiaceae (mints) and is a native to India.  It is a tender herbaceous plant with a central taproot and produces small, white flowers which emerge from atop the stem.  Once flowering begins further foliage production stops on that stem; if you wish to prevent this simply pinch off any flowering stems before they fully mature.  Furthermore picking the leaves off the Basil plant helps promote growth, largely because the plant responds by converting pairs of leaflets next to the topmost leaves into new stems.  I suggest pinching some of the stems to encourage leaf production and leaving some to bloom for the purpose of decoration, pollination and/or seed collection.

Basil can be propagated reliably from cuttings with the stems of short cuttings when suspended for several weeks in water until roots develop.  Basil fares best in a well-drained and sunny location.  If its leaves have wilted from lack of water it is recommended to water thoroughly in a sunny location.  Yellow leaves at the base of the plant indicate it has been stressed, often due to over watering or you may need to adjust its nutrient intake.  Basil is recommended as a companion plant to tomato, with claims it deters pests and improves the flavour of tomatoes (although double-blind taste tests have revealed that when Basil is planted adjacent to them the taste is not significantly affected).

Medicinally Basil (leaves and flowers) provides great benefits to both the mind and body, due to its high linalool content.  Basil can be used to aid stomach spasms, loss of appetite, intestinal gas, some kidney conditions, fluid retention, head colds, warts, worm infections, blood circulation and is said to promote breast milk flow.  Basil is also known to provide a feeling of focus, calmness and centeredness; apply essential oil of Basil to the temples and back of the neck.  It is recommended to dilute with a carrier oil, and when combined with Geranium and Wild Orange is said to make for quite the uplifting experience.

Interestingly there are many rituals and beliefs associated with Basil.  Folklore suggests the Jewish consumed Basil to add strength whilst fasting.  Holy Basil (also known as Tulsi) is highly revered in Hinduism and in India is often placed in the mouth of the dying to ensure they reach God.  The ancient Egyptians and Greeks believed it would open the gates of heaven for a person passing on.  Holy basil, not surprisingly, also has significance in the Greek Orthodox Church, where it is used to sprinkle holy water.

Bee in the basil

Bee in the basil

DIY face shield – a gardener’s invention


One of our garden volunteers, Gilles, has created his own protective face shield to use when going to the supermarket or at the garden if anyone else is present. He took an old plastic bucket handle and attached it to a sheet transparent plastic, making holes for the handle to go through and securing it with bulldog clips at the sides.

We know that many gardeners will have old buckets where the handles have become permanently detached so have decided to share this new invention online. Please see the close-up photos below to find out how to make it.

Broad beans (left plot below) and rocket (right plot below) were planted today next to the asparagus. Hopefully, they will do well. We will also plant more green manure crops such as blue lupin, oats and mustard to help our garden soil improve over the winter months. We had several volunteers come unexpectedly today but everyone was desperate to get out into the sunshine and work in the garden. We managed to keep a very wide separation (> 3 metres!) between people and had the soap and water hand washing station set up by the bath as well.


The lime tree has quite a few fruit ready to harvest – see below.


Woodside solitary garden – thanks COVID-19


The Level 4 lockdown started at midnight on Wednesday 25 March. With this comes the need for us to change from a “community garden” to a “solitary garden” as we have to work on our own at the garden for the next 4 weeks at least. This is something that all of our volunteers know and understand though it is hard because the social aspects of community gardens are very important.

What we have to do now is focus on taking care of the garden and also use it as a chance for us to get outside doing something safe and productive, which is good for our mental health. It’s likely that volunteers will bring their children to the garden to play while they work and we welcome that as long as they do not play with any children from outside their homes. We all know that we must keep a distance of at least 2 metres away from anyone outside our “bubble”.

We have instigated the following measures to help keep our volunteers safe and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Some volunteers will probably decide not to come to the garden at all during the lockdown period and this is fine.

  • No one should come to work at the garden if they are unwell even if they don’t think that they have COVID-19.
  • Any coughing/sneezing should be into an elbow or a tissue that is subsequently discarded in our rubbish bin. The bin can be opened by using a branch/twig.
  • Only one person should be working at the garden at a time unless they are in the same bubble, i.e. from the same household. We appreciate that at times there may be a slight overlap (we aren’t putting a roster in place) and if that happens, volunteers must maintain a distance of at least 2 metres from each other.
  • Volunteers should bring their own tools from home if possible, i.e. we are minimising tool-sharing. If volunteers don’t have their own tools, they can tie a ribbon or tag around tools belonging to the garden and only use these tools. No one else will use these labelled tools.
  • The ends of tools or branches should be used to lift up covers that other people may have touched such as the covers on the compost bins/bays.
  • Hand sanitizer is available in the storage container and people should clean their hands before and after leaving the garden (they can bring their own hand sanitizer also). There are also disposable gloves in the storage container that volunteers can use if they want to.
  • Bleach solution is at the garden (outside) and paper towels so that volunteers can clean the handles of the storage container and the padlock, before and after opening. The bleach solution can also be used to clean the tool handles and wheel barrow handles. Volunteers will only access the container if necessary, e.g. to use the wheelbarrow or tools.
  • When entering the gates at the garden, all volunteers should try to use an elbow to unlock and lock the gates.
  • If the watering cans are needed, the handles should be sprayed with bleach before and after use. Fortunately, it is now raining frequently so it’s only the new seedlings that will need to be watered.
  • The most important thing is to try to keep hands clean. If wearing gardening gloves, it’s important to remember that virus can remain on the fabric so they need to be treated as contaminated if any shared surfaces are touched. It’s easier to clean your hands. Hand hygiene is imperative.

The garden has been flourishing over the last month and we’ve just started to plant some winter crops. Nicole and Monique planted broccoli and onions. The broccoli have been given a bit of protection from the snail invasion but we need to make sure they don’t dry out. Both of these beds were not affected by the recent water issues.

Both test plots have been doing well with large numbers of beans, long green cucumbers and the best apple cucumbers we have ever grown. We’re wondering if the late start for the apple cucumbers contributed to their success. Both plots have been similarly productive but now Plot 1 has succumbed to the powdery mildew so we will probably have to pull that out soon. It’s very hard to avoid this when we need to water the plants but then have very hot dry days. We’ve given up on the milk powder spray that we used to use before.

Our passionfruit plant has become re-energised and is flowering again. It already has a couple of fruit coming; maybe because of the long summer we are having.

The pumpkins that Monique grew are looking amazing and so far have resisted the powdery mildew from their cucumber neighbours. Really looking forward to trying the pumpkins…

We tried to buy some more seedlings last week but the garden centres were almost completely barren of vegetable seedlings because people were rushing in to buy them to start their own gardens due to COVID-19. We hope that those people who are starting gardening for the first time, will enjoy it and keep on doing it after this crisis is over. We managed to get some artichoke plants which we have successfully grown before. One is a globe artichoke and the other 3 are a different variety that has edible stalks. We have grown the globe artichoke before and it was so beautiful that we didn’t harvest it while it was still edible but let it go to flower. They have been planted in tyres in the orchard together with white and purple alyssum. Some of our volunteers are now going to try growing from seed.

EcoFest West/Neighbours Day 2020 – cancelled

Woodside Community Garden ramble is now cancelled.


Massey Garden Ramble V2

The bioassay experiment begins…

After the disaster at the garden at the start of the year, we investigated options for testing the plant material to see if it’s possible to determine whether the substance that was put into our water was something like Round-up (glyphosate). We were told by several experts that it’s hard to test plant material and that if we had a sample of the original contaminated water, it would be much easier but by the time we realised there was a problem, the bath had been refilled many times. We experimented with the remaining water ourselves by applying it to a few areas of kikuyu grass and there was no effect but this was expected as any active ingredient would have been highly diluted. We have now sent plant samples away for testing and are now waiting on results.

In the meantime, we decided to follow the advice of an expert (thanks Jeff Cameron!) who we were put into contact with by Ben Cheah from the Soil and Health Association. After much discussion, Jeff suggested that we try doing a “bioassay”, which involves growing some indicator plants to see if the soil was OK or not. The crops suggested to us were beans, corn, radish and cucumbers. We decided to go ahead with cucumber and beans as they were two of our favourite crops and both were lost after the disaster. We decided to use 2 plots for testing; one which was the first and most badly affected plot (cucumbers) and one that had not received any of the contaminated water as a control.

The same amount of sheep pellets were added to both plots before planting. Marigolds were planted to add some pest deterrent and colour. The left-hand side photo below is the affected test plot (Plot 1) and the right-hand side plot is the control plot which was not watered as it was covered at the time and had no crops (Plot 2).

The plants in both plots were well watered over the following week and then mulch was added on 26 January around all of the plants to keep moisture in. The photos below show the two plots.

After the second week, both plots are still looking very similar. All of the plants are flourishing. The only issue noted was that the long green cucumber plant in Plot 2 (control) had a bit of mildew. This is probably from volunteers watering the leaves at night so everyone was reminded about the need to avoid watering the leaves in the evening.

The dwarf green beans and marigolds are also looking healthy so we are feeling very encouraged about the status of our soil. It seems likely that it has not been adversely affected. The photos below from Saturday 1 February show Plot 1 (affected plot) on the left-hand side and Plot 2 (control) on the right-hand side. Click on the image to see a larger version…