Monday, August 29, 2011

Good things take time

I was digging around amongst some old stuff and came across a few old photos. This photo was taken back in 1993 which is when we decided to extend our house. Even before the extension was built I had already determined that wherever the house ended that’s where my garden would begin. It all started with a couple of retaining walls and moving heaps of earth all by hand in a wheel barrow.

The shape the garden would eventually take was dictated very much by the sloping section and the need to get from one end to the other hence the need for steps. I decided to make a feature of the steps based on something I'd seen in the bay of Islands in the northern part of NZ. I wanted to include areas for planting which I built out of blue stone rock.

This was the first time I'd ever done anything like this so there was a lot of trial and error involved (especially building the rockery) and it was a rather slow process, but I had a pretty good idea of what I was aiming for. My theory was: Make sure the design or structure was well thought out and the rest should take care of itself.

The whole project took shape slowly over a period of 2 or 3 years. 

Fast forward 15 or so years after the planting had matured and a lawn had been laid and it was looking as good as it ever would. 

This photo was taken a couple of years ago but unfortunately since then the lawn has died off, I had to dig up the garden to underground cables to the sleepout and some of the garden rockery has fallen apart.

It was nice while it lasted. 

One thing I’ve learned is that keeping the garden looking nice is a never ending process, but I haven't got sick of it yet.

Read more about how I rebuilt the rockery here

NZ Toi Toi Bush (or is it Pampas Grass?)

The native NZ Toi toi plant is often confused with an invasive Pampas Grass (Cortaderia Selloana) which was introduced into NZ from South America. The latter can be a real problem if it takes root in your garden.

The NZ Farm News website describes it as "an 'aggressive coloniser' with some female plants able to produce millions of seeds annually, which do not require pollination to germinate."

Here is a photo of a Toi toi bush growing
beside the road somewhere in NZ.
It's a very tricky plant to handle because the grassy part of the plant is all barbed like saw blades. When we were kids we used to call it "Cutty grass". You only needed to brush past it gently to receive cuts to the skin that could also be rather itchy.

Needless to say I was not keen to tackle this big Pampas bush growing on a bank at the front of my property. But it needed to go, as every time the wind picked up the seeds were blowing everywhere which would just spread the problem further.

One day I took to it with an axe and spade. It took me several days and it made a huge mess. It was horrendously difficult and even then I was not able to completely remove the stump. As I expected, it has since grown back but this time I've chosen to just ignore it.

In the mean time new pampas bushes have sprung up in the area. One of which took root next to the footpath at the bottom of the driveway. One day the council turned up with a chain saw but rather than getting rid of it completely they just gave it a trim and left it looking like this...

I thought seeing as they'd done half the job I could try and finish it off for them. But I wasn't keen on using the axe and spade like last time. Instead I hatched a cunning plan...

I tied some rope round the base and hitched it up to my tow bar. I did try digging around it to loosen it up a bit first, but it was pretty stubborn and wasn't going to come out easily. After pulling it as hard as I could one way I turned the car around and also tried pulling it in the opposite direction...

After a bit of wheel spinning on the road along with the smell of burning rubber and a few clouds of smoke it finally gave way, much to the amusement of one of my neighbours.

Considering the effort needed to pull out a relatively small bush at ground level I'm at a bit of a loss regarding the big one that's grown back on the bank.

One day I rang a gardening expert to get some ideas. He took some strange delight in telling me I should pour petrol over it and set fire to it, which is probably not a bad idea... except for the power lines immediately above it! Not to mention all the surrounding vegetation and my house.

I've left it in the 'Too Hard' basket for now.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Unbelievable Mutant Tomatoes

These might not look like such amazing Tomatoes, but I've never known any fruit or vegetable to be quite like them. Let me explain...


To most ordinary folk the thought of eating green tomatoes is rather unappetising. That was true of me when I picked these during our tomato harvest last summer. In fact I wasn't even sure when I harvested them that they were even ripe for eating. These grew by accident after self-seeding in a couple of different places around the garden. 

Although I'd heard of a green variety I'd never actually tried them and was a bit hesitant about actually eating them. So I suggested Izumi use them for making chutney which she did. I thought they'd be good for adding a bit of volume to the chutney if nothing else. When we cut them up they looked like any other tomato except they were GREEN all the way through, and they had rather a firm texture.  

As the season came to an end and the number of red tomatoes in the kitchen dwindled to nothing these green tomatoes were all that was left so I felt obliged to use them. So I made a ham and salad sandwich but found them rather disappointing for both taste and texture and decided I didn't want any more.

These 2 remaining tomatoes have been sitting in the fruit bowl ever since, along with most other fruits you can think of – apples, kiwifruit, avocados, bananas, oranges, mandarins, mangos, and the odd pineapple (I'm sure I've missed a few).

Amazingly, after all these various fruits have come and gone, some even rotting in the fruit bowl without our notice right next to these things and they're still exactly the same as the day I picked them!


So I decided to do a little bit of research on the internet and found the following:

As already mentioned, my green tomatoes above have been sitting in our fruit bowl with all sorts of ethylene* producing fruit for more than 4 months so far – that's 120+ days – 3 times more than mentioned in the above article! Something tells me these tomatoes will still be unchanged by next summers harvest. I'm going to hold on to them and see how long they last... 

If this is the kind of food we're consuming these days it's got me worried — very worried.

(* Ethylene is a gas that many fruits give off that will hasten the ripening of other fruits and vegies. For example, apples which produce ethylene can be used to hasten the ripening of unripe kiwifruit which are ethylene sensitive)

UPDATE! One of these freakish tomatoes finally succumbed to the forces of nature in the first week of September 2011 making it about 5 months old (see picture taken 7th Sept).

However, the smaller one is still going in mid November 2011 making it more than 7 months old (This photo was taken on the 14th Nov, the most recent newspaper I could find to prove the date was already 10 days old). 
Even though it has started changing to a reddish colour, it still doesn't look very appetising.