STIHL SHOP Glen Eden trains volunteers!


We were fortunate to receive a grant of $1000 from Massey Matters Fund last year which enabled us to buy a Masport chipper/shredder. However, we’ve been having some issues using it, mainly because we need to mulch a lot of weed material such as kikuyu grass and we’re finding that it gets jammed up in the bottom of the machine. We bought a different bar grate but still the problems continued. This is a very valuable bit of kit for our crew so we didn’t want to damage it through our inexperience. So we contacted Graham at the STIHL SHOP Glen Eden and he agreed to come and give us a demonstration onsite. We felt this was the best option since he could then see the type of stuff that we wanted to put through it and give us advice about mixing it and also how much could be put through at once. We also had some concerns about safety even though we have ear muffs and safety glasses that we bought for our crew. Things like…how far can we push stuff down?

So, Graham came along yesterday Saturday 13 July and it was a great success. He explained how the system works and the difference between using the original grate we had and the newer bar grate. We discussed the kikuyu grass and prunings and now have a much better appreciation for how to use the machine. We realise it is a domestic system rather than industrial so we need to take care in regard to volumes as well but it’s now doing a really great job. See below for our first mulch.


The reason we bought this machine was so that we could cut things up for our compost to make it break down quicker, not to cut up branches routinely. Previously, we were doing all of this with secateurs.

We continued to use the mulcher for the rest of the morning with Nicole in control at the helm and there was no need to disassemble it to remove blockages as we had to do previously. The big pile of twigs in the centre of the garden has now vanished and our confidence has been restored!



June working bee – garlic goes in

Another brilliant fine winter day for our June working bee. Gilles took pity on the pea plants which seem to be getting eaten by birds so he covered the plot with netting. The pea plants look healthy but are growing very slowly and still haven’t made a start on climbing the stakes; we might have planted them a little late.


Gilles also repaired one of our large plots which will be used for growing potatoes. Nicole currently has two varieties chitting at home; Agria (main) and Jersey Benne (early).


Nicole got to work preparing some new raised beds, adding materials from our hot compost bays to provide bulk along with some sawdust. One was planted with garlic cloves and we will put garlic into another plot a month later as there seems to be mixed advice in regard to when to plant it. We seem to have variable results with the garlic and we’re not sure what really works!


Selina cleared out some weeds from the plots while Jacqui continued clearing weeds from the paths and spreading mulch. We have a plentiful supply at the moment, which is a great relief.


The spinach and kale continue to thrive.  Both varieties of parsley are abundant providing plenty of flavour and goodness for our volunteers’ cooking.

Our more recent seedlings; broccoli, Tat soi (Chinese cabbage), Drunken woman lettuce, celery and beetroot are progressing but at a rather slow rate. We added Quash around the Tat soi as it seemed to be getting gnawed, presumably by slugs/snails.

Herb of the month – Pineapple Sage


Salvia elegans, commonly called pineapple sage or tangerine sage, is a perennial shrub native to Mexico and Guatemala growing to 1.5m tall with tubular red flowers and an attractive scent to the leaves similar to pineapple.  It is regarded as a short-day plant because its flowering season is from Autumn onward.  With a hard frost the plant will die down to the ground and grow back the following spring.

The leaves and flowers of S. elegans are edible and the plant is extensively used in Mexican traditional medicine, especially for the treatment of anxiety, and also for lowering of blood pressure.  Scientific information about these medicinal properties is scarce although a preliminary study on mice found support for the plant potentially having antidepressant and ant anxiety properties.


Pineapple sage is one of the most preferred plants of Hummingbirds, butterflies also love it.   Plus it makes your garden look wonderful and is a wonderful flower cutting.  They are also easy to root if you want more plants.

Clip pineapple sage leaves to use in summer beverages such as herbal teas or cocktails, muddled with lime juice or chopped on fruit salad.  The red flowers are nice tossed into a green salad too.

Our water tank support is complete!


Designing and building the new water tank support has been a huge amount of work for two of our volunteers, Gilles and Mark, who have excelled themselves in their efforts on behalf of the garden. It is now complete apart from a proposed roof. It cost more than we expected for the materials (there goes the budget!) but it’s been worth it because it is strong and should last well. We’d like to thank EcoMatters again for the Humming Gardens grant of $500. We also recently raised $391 by selling goods donated by our volunteers at 2 car boot sales and this has also been put towards the water tank support as the costs to date have reached $827. The photo above shows Gilles (left) and Mark (right) on the tank support with Roy in front and Nicole on the ground to the right hand side.

The progress of the build is shown in the images below. The first part of the project involved building the base and concreting in the main posts.



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Before the tank could be lifted into position, it needed to be emptied so the pump was connected up and Gilles took pleasure in hosing down the trees in the orchard as well as the garden. We never manage to get this level of pressure with our normal hose!



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Once the tank was empty, Mark was concerned about the state of the interior of the tanks so decided to climb into it to make sure everything was free from any silt and clogging. Luckily, he was able to get out again!



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Seeing Mark, Gilles and Roy getting the water tank up onto the support was very entertaining for our other volunteers. Some were thinking that the gap between the posts was insufficient. Then the tank needed to be filled again.



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April working bee – hive of activity!

This year, our April working bee happened to be at the end of the Easter holiday week and just after Anzac Day. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. The continued warm weather means that our chilli plants are still producing well and most of the herbs are also still flourishing. The Perpetual Spinach that was planted at the Open Day/March working bee has grown very fast and is already being harvested by volunteers.


Perpetual spinach

The compost always needs a bit of attention so Olga and Nicole spent a bit of time turning it and transferring it into adjacent bins.


The hot compost heap had dried out a lot and we had two small raised gardens donated by Nicole’s son that were available. So Nicole and Olga assembled the gardens and used the dry material as a base for the gardens. Additional materials will be added in the style of a lasagne garden.


Nicole recently made contact with some tree fellers, so we were delighted to find some mulch had been delivered to our site. It won’t be long before it’s too wet to drive down to the garden so it’s great to have this large volume here for us to use for our paths.


Jacqui planted peas in the bed previously occupied by cucumbers. It had already been prepared with horse manure and we hope that we will get a good strike rate as it’s still quite warm. 3 seeds were planted at each corner of the tripods.


Karyn showed her usual expert style weeding around the perimeter of the garden to try to stem the kikuya invasion. We plan to try planting comfrey around the boundary.


As the large paving slabs are no longer needed for the water tank support, we had decided to use them to create a path between the container and the entrance to the garden. Olga decided to seize the day and get started on the task with the help of Nicole. We are intending to seat them into the ground but it was good to get them laid out so that we know where we want them. We know we’ll need some sand to do the job properly but it’s still a great improvement!



Visitors took a wander @ Woodside!

On Saturday 30 March (our regular March working bee date), we held an Open Day as part of the EcoWest Festival. Selina had provided us with an itinerary and list of tasks and all volunteers available on the day were happy to help out. Ben Cheah was using our fruit trees as demonstration for his pruning workshop so we were happy to welcome those participants to the garden as well. Ben has twice run workshops for us before and we have noticed the improvement in the health of the orchard. The citrus trees are overloaded with fruit at the moment so Ben promised not to let anyone prune those! We had lots of visitors, most of whom had a genuine interest in gardening or the benefits of community gardens. Some also had ideas to share with us and that was also appreciated. Although the weather was fine and we had put up our gazebo to protect people from the sun, it wasn’t needed as most people were happy to just “take a wander”.

Tours were provided by our guides Monique, Selina and Nicole. Refreshments were kindly provided by our volunteers, Olga, Gilles, Verena and Karyn – thanks everyone. Gilles and Karyn used materials from the garden to create their teas with Gilles making mint tea from mint and lemon balm and Karyn making rhubarb iced tea with addition of herbs such as mint, lemon balm, etc. Mark and Gilles were able to show off their efforts to date with constructing the support for the water tank, which is almost complete. Mark was in charge of getting our new Masport mulcher/shredder going and Karyn followed up by mulching some of the prunings from the workshop. Jayden also made it down to the garden with a friend and Jacqui acted as photographer for the day.

To prove that we were also working on the day, Jacqui planted some Perpetual Spinach seedlings and Selina planted the German chamomile and English chamomile lawn seedlings. We’d also like to thank those visitors who contributed to our water tank support fund (total $21.50) and Myrthe from EcoMatters for helping us to be part of EcoWest Festival 2019!

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March 2019 – composting

We continue to employ 4 methods of composting. The first is our hot compost heap, where we add weeds and kikuya grass, cover with plastic and leave it to bake in the sun to kill off the seeds, etc. The second method is using a 3 bay compost system. Material is transferred from the hot compost heap in smaller amounts into the first of the compost bays and this is then allowed to break down further before being moved twice more. Fresh material also goes into first of the compost bays but has to be cut up or mulched first. The third method is a traditional 3 stage compost bin system. Vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells are added into the first of the 3 stage compost bins along with comfrey, untreated sawdust, lawn clippings and leaves as well as manure when we have it available. Once the material has broken down enough in the first compost bin, it moves to the second one for further breakdown but no new material is added. Finally, it moves to the third bin when it is ready to be used in the garden. Our fourth method is the Earthmaker. This was donated to us by an Auckland Council staff member. It is a vertical composting system with 3 levels or tiers. New material is added to the top where it is left to break down. It is then pushed to the centre and finally to the bottom. Once it reaches the bottom, it should be ready to use in the garden but we sometimes transfer it over to the compost bins if it doesn’t look like it is ready. It does take a long time to produce usable compost but we are persevering with it although we really need more vegetable scraps and coffee grounds to make the most of this and the 3 stage compost bins. We are listed on the ShareWaste site set up by the Compost Collective and are hoping to get more contributions from neighbours through this. We have had a few people contact us but we haven’t been getting contributions regularly.

The aubergines/eggplants are producing large numbers of fruit on very small plants. The last surviving Fordhook Giant silver beet plant is living up to its name with the largest leaves we have ever seen. It seems to be thriving in its plot surrounded by herbs and flowers and hasn’t gone to seeds as its companions did. More lettuce and perpetual spinach seedlings have been planted with the white alyssum with some plastic trellis installed to try to repel the pukekos while the seedlings are small. The beans are finally starting to climb and the marigolds are outstandingly beautiful. It’s been a while since we had so many marigolds in the garden.

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Our beans are finally climbing up their support. We had to plant the seeds three times before we had any success so we’re hoping we will still manage to get some beans to eat before it gets too cold. The last cucumber plant, which is growing in the orchard, is a different variety with a prickly skin. It seems to be enjoying its vertical support and producing well.

The citrus trees in the orchard have so much fruit on them that their leaves are all yellowing. We’ve given them some citrus food and hope that will help with the yellow leaves but we’re still worried that the branches might break due to all of the weight even though we’re looking forward to a bountiful harvest!