June 2021 working bee

View of the garden

So far, the frost hasn’t affected the garden interior or the orchard but we know the frosts of winter are on their way. Citrus trees are as productive as usual with so much fruit that it’s caused a bit of damage to the trees due to the excess weight. Mandarins continue to improve as the tree ages, much easier to peel than the first few crops. They are now 10 years old. The grapefruit is ripening slowly though one teenage boy was recently spotted attempting to eat a green one! Not a nice experience but a bit of confusion over the huge size of the fruit was to blame. If it’s this big, it must be ready to eat. The aloe vera is providing some lovely colour in the garden (along with the pineapple sage shown in the photo above) and we were delighted to see tauhou (silvereyes) drinking nectar from the flowers, something we haven’t seen before.

Aloe vera with grapefruit trees behind

Nicole got to work planting garlic while Monique worked on the compost in the bays. Karyn put her attention to filling up one of the cleared plots and Gilles started installing the letterbox, which has been missing since the fence was rebuilt. Jacqui concentrated on her favourite task…weeding. Plenty of time for contemplation during this task.

Nicole has been given some teepees by Janelle from Triangle Park Teaching Garden. We are very grateful for this contribution. Can’t wait to start using them, most likely for crops like snow peas but maybe our passionfruit would like one! We made sure to take a break for a cup of tea from our labours before people needed to start leaving. Gilles made his own with a sprig of thyme. Fortunately, no rain meant a nice dry seat to sit on…

Gilles, Nicole and Monique enjoy a nice hot cup of herbal tea

Still plenty of lettuce, kale and parsley to harvest. Beetroot and cabbage seedlings surviving but it’ll be a long time until they are ready to eat. Probably should have planted the beetroot a little earlier when the weather was warmer. They are also at risk of being washed away when we get heavy rain.

We’re suffering a bit with weed infestation of the paths though Gilles usually makes this his main task for the day. We didn’t manage to get any mulch delivered before winter and now it’s too wet for any trucks to come down to our site. However, so far we haven’t had any problems with the paths flooding so apart from the weeds flourishing, there aren’t any ill effects for the garden. We are under pressure to make maximum amounts of compost though as our garden does tend to sink a bit in winter and we are always needing to top up the beds with soil.

May 2021 working bee

Spring onions, brussel sprouts, celery, kale, broadleaf parsley

Crops at the garden are growing well though we always need to remind ourselves that progress is much slower in winter! We harvested three excellent kumara from the single accidental plant. While we were disappointed there weren’t more (only enough for 3 people to have one!), we were very impressed by the size and quality. Probably the best crop we have had in terms of size and being easily identified as kumara. In the past, there have been a few where we weren’t sure if they were really kumara or just roots that might be going to turn into kumara.

We also harvested the yacon which we had been growing for quite a while in large pots and had just started flowering. They were huge and large in number. Now our volunteers just need to research what to do with them. Raw, they are quite nice and crispy, reminiscent of the texture and taste of apple. Monique tried making sauce out of them and said it was OK and possibly could be a replacement for apple sauce.

Gilles worked on the new bays which will be used to store materials like lawn clippings, mulch and seaweed as we need more space in the original ones to make compost. Karyn harvested her favourite comfrey to use around the garden as mulch and protect the soil around the young plants from drying out too much.

We often use circles cut from plastic soft drink bottles to help protect the seedlings from slugs/snails. Adding compost when planting also can have unexpected negative effects on the survival of the seedlings as birds come in to grab the worms, thereby uprooting the plants. So, we did lose a few broccoli/cauliflower seedlings due to this and will in future put the rings around to deter birds as well. They aren’t always our friends!

The lettuce, endive, kale and parsley (broad leaf/parsley and triple-curled) are ready to eat now and the silver beet continues to thrive. So, it’s a feast of greens at the moment rather than the multi-coloured produce we have in summer.

Project Comfrey Border

By Karyn Abrahamse, May 2021

Hey guys, Karyn here!  Lover of Comfrey and all things organic including our wonderful Woodside Road Community Garden.  I promised Jacqui I would do a write up on my latest garden venture and am making the most of the latest Covid lockdown to just that. So let’s get this party started!

Project Comfrey Border began in 2018.  It kicked off one Saturday as I was pulling out the endless barrage of Kikuyu grass along our garden fence line.  All year long this grass would grow through the plastic fencing then onto our pathways and into our garden plots.  I was spending a significant number of hours battling this pestilent grass.  We needed a solution, fast!

One day while Selina and I were visiting the Pt Chevalier Community Garden I got chatting to one of the volunteers about their Kikuyu.  She said that just pulling out the grass was definitely not the solution.  Kikuyu grass is from East Africa and has stout runners and rhizomes; it is regarded as one of the most vigorous of all the grasses.  Myself along with many can totally vouch for this!  This was no battle I was going to win on my own, I needed help!  She suggested I try the obstruction method they use, this involves using a competitor plant to compete against the grass.  And this is where Comfrey comes into play.  Comfrey aside from dying back quite a bit over the winter months is a vigorous plant too.   The herbaceous plant has large tap roots that are able to sustain it during winter so when come spring arrives so too does the Comfrey and more often than not abundantly so.

I decided to border one line of the garden first, this was going to be the project trial run.  The availability of plants for dividing out allowed for roughly 2m of Comfrey border planting at one time, that and the state of my back!  Comfrey dividing, trench digging, planting out and filling in with mulch would take me about 1-2 hours per 2m of border.  I had managed to complete the initial fence line over the spring and I was feeling very pleased with my efforts.  My Comfrey army line was performing well and keeping the Kikuyu at bay.  So, I continued to work until the entire garden border was compete.  In total the project took me 2 years to complete.  Check out my photos below!

Look how lush the comfrey border is!

You can see from this shot below how the comfrey is inhibiting the grass.

The final photo below is of my final Comfrey border effort which I planted out at the beginning of summer.  I knew it was a bit of a risk as the weather was warming, but I really wanted the border complete before the end of year!  Unfortunately, this resulted in some of the young plants not surviving along with slower growth of survivors.  But no big deal as I will just fill in areas of the border that are looking a bit on the thin side once the weather decides to cool.

Neighbours Day garden ramble 2021

On 27th March the volunteers at Woodside Community garden hosted a Neighbours Day plant swap and garden ramble.

We had been tending and tidying the garden plots in anticipation of the day, the garden and orchard had been weeded, materials were gathered for the mulcher and compost demonstrations and our resident baker baked a selection of delectable delights to tempt the tastebuds.

We were there early to hoist the gazebos to prepare for any weather but as luck would have it, we were treated to a glorious West Auckland day.

We had been raising plants and harvesting seeds from both the Community Garden and our personal gardens and we were happy to be able to share with our many visitors from Woodside Road and the local area, some joked that they were glad they didn’t have far to walk home as they were loaded down with goodies.

Our local MP Hon Phil Twyford popped by and we were happy to show him that the plants he donated a couple of years ago were still producing. He got to speak with many of his constituents and he was happy to smile for some selfies.

The last visit of the day was a van load of volunteers from Triangle Park Teaching Garden, the ideas and gardening tips were flowing between both groups of enthusiastic gardeners.

Thank you to Community Waitakere, Henderson Massey Local Board and Neighbours Day Aotearoa we were grateful for your support in making the day such a success. Thank you also to all our Woodside Community Garden volunteers and our visitors for sharing such a lovely day.

Massey garden ramble 2021!

Summer crops at their peak…

It’s been a very hot dry summer and we’ve had to put a call out for additional volunteers to help water the garden due to the lack of rain. It’s interesting that summer crops are the ones that need the most water but it’s the time where rain is the scarcest. Of course we know that plants like tomatoes, chillies and capsicums can manage with less water and really love the hot sun but our cucumbers, melons, squash and courgettes need regular watering. The hot dry weather has also brought with it the dreaded powdery mildew but in Auckland, this is impossible to avoid. We planted the corn in tight blocks this time and it seems to be flourishing. Hopefully, there will be enough pollination with the closer planting as in past years we have sometimes had cobs with only a few kernels. Of course the birds managed to savage the first cob but the others are so far intact and ripening slowly. As in past years, we have quite a few runaway pumpkins, most of which are self-sown and seem to be grey crown. They are getting huge so we will start harvesting them soon, maybe even at our working bee on Saturday 27 February. We did plant 2 butternut plants, which were grown from New World Little Gardens and they are going OK although their location in the orchard means that sometimes the watering crew forget to water them. Birds started to help themselves to our tomatoes so Gilles put netting around them and that has been very successful. It’s been worth keeping up with pinching out the laterals because this has resulted in excellent fruit this season and we don’t have the usual problem of trying to stake extended branches which often end up breaking. As usual, the marigolds, calendula and nasturtium bring pops of colour to the garden and also help in defending our crops from unwanted pests while encouraging our bees.

The photos below show some of the fruit/vegetables in more detail. As mentioned above, the tomatoes are particularly good this year. The first corn was harvested and was a little bit over-ripe. This was a plant that was grown from a New World Little Garden pack so was a bit older and probably needed to be harvested a bit earlier. Bees have been just loving the sunflowers and the other plants including the small capsicums, which look like chillies (!) are benefiting from their presence. Silver beet is booming and the basil, which we planted in multiple plots, is plentiful, some now flowering and helping with attracting bees. The figs and feijoas both look like they will have good crops this year.

We decided to grow some scarlet runner beans up the tamarillo trees in the orchard as they didn’t do well after the winter frosts but looked like they could be good supports for the beans. Strangely, we only have one giant bean so far and of course, we don’t want to harvest it!

Our “forest of sunflowers” has been a striking feature of the garden this year as we had 3 plots containing these beautiful giants. It’s always sad when they start drooping but it’s not the end because birds enjoy the seeds, bees take the pollen and we also can harvest the seeds for roasting or to sow next season.

Sunflowers raise their heads to the sun

It’s 2021 at last!

The garden and orchard are both flourishing and our summer hours are continuing with Monique and Nicole there on Wednesday evenings from 6:30pm -7:30pm and Jacqui and Gilles on Saturday mornings. Karyn, Selina and Olga come when they can and we have a few new recruits who have just started. Roy is kept busy with filling the water tank and maintaining the orchard. Our monthly working bees continue on the last Saturday of the month from 9am -11am; all welcome including visitors. We are also keen to receive vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and eggshells for our compost if anyone has these available and is willing to drop them off. The photos below show different views of the garden.

Plenty of water and sun have meant that the seedlings we planted last year have all been thriving. Tomatoes and cucumbers are fruiting and the first sunflowers have appeared. The corn is looking handsome and one already has a flower. Melons and some pumpkins also have fruit on the vines although the butternut pumpkin that was planted later is still getting going. We were a bit slow with growing the capsicums but they are looking good now and the Turkish capsicums planted alongside are also advancing daily. Basil and marigolds are helping to fill the gaps in the plots along with nasturtium and calendula, which also provide beautiful colour. Asparagus has gone to fern and yacon is in leaf again, we have yet to see the flowers. Kale is getting a bit of unwanted attention from snails but looking good. The early potato crop was harvested prior to Christmas and the main crop harvested last week.

The orchard is generally going well too. Roy has taken over mowing duties from Mark, who moved to the deep south last year with his family, and it’s all looking very tidy which we hope will keep our neighbours happy. The big Abyssinian banana flowers have almost dropped off completely and we have banana pups growing in the grass as well as a few in an adjacent plot. The thornless blackberry has plenty of fruit although they haven’t yet gone black and the courgettes are producing as per usual. The citrus and feijoas have lots of fruit on the trees and the apples and pears are abundant although we know that people take these too early so let’s see if the fruit manages to stay on the trees long enough to be edible. The plums were also taken too early again so we’re thinking about how to communicate to visitors that they need to wait until they are ready to eat; maybe some signage would help, something like “try one before picking more”. There seems to be a lack of knowledge about fruit and when to harvest it. These plums also don’t ripen well off the tree. We find the best time to start eating them is when the birds start!

The tamarillo trees lost all of their leaves over winter and it seems that it may be too cold for them in this location. In the meantime, we are growing beans up them as it seems a shame to waste the opportunity to use their trunks as a support. The pawpaw also lost all of its leaves but they have now come back though we’re a little unsure of what the future holds for this tree too. Rhubarb was moved under the fruit trees in the hope that a little more shade will be beneficial.

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.


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…