Summer Vege Garden V2.0 Update

My sew-jo has been a bit lacking the last two weeks – My brain is fried and I am crawling  slowly towards a much deserved Christmas break.

Here in NZ this is the last week at work for most professionals (a few I know people who  working Monday and some others also Tuesday next week) and we come back around the 6th or 13th of January 2014 –  I’m cheating and coming back on the 21st (because the Monday is Wellington anniversary, yay). Retail obviously still operates and some other industries, but often at reduced hours. Last Christmas I met one of Nerdy Husband’s new work colleagues, freshly arrived from Los Angeles, and he was shocked at how much time everyone has off this time of year, apparently this doesn’t happen in America. I wonder what other countries don’t take a break, is it just Australia and New Zealand? What’s the deal in your country?

My sew-jo will return very shortly, trust me, Santa has something in mind that will help 😉

Therefore, because I have no sewing, I thought I’d update you all on my garden, because I am quite proud of it, here’s where we left off last:

Now it looks like this:

To my herbs, tomatoes and strawberries I have added broccoli, cucumber, chilli and bell pepper. NH bashed in my waratahs to support the tomatoes and I bought this cool expanding spiral thing for the cucumber to climb.

As soon as my strawberries began to fruit the birds were in! I added the netting last weekend as well as pea straw. My herbs are now big enough for regular use and spinach has appeared but for some reason no carrots yet, I suspect last years seeds may be duds.

Keeping the rosemary, bay and cranberry company in the side garden I have added a blueberry bush (my choice), a raspberry bush (NH’s choice) and a lavender bush. At the bottom right of this photo you can also see a small cat nip plant. NH slipped this in the trolley while were at Palmers, especially for Harri, who has discovered that “helping” in the garden is just as much fun as “helping” in the sewing studio. Those broccoli leaves are so much fun to hide in and jump out at unsuspecting humans! She rolls on the cat nip (I am surprised it has managed to actually survive her attentions) and munches on the leaves. It doesn’t last long because an insect will fly past and then she is off. Currently her favourite to bring me are ridiculously large cicadas – as in the size of my thumb – I never knew they got that big!

While weeding last weekend I noticed a weed that looked suspiciously like a tomato plant. It was a surprising find given that I never planted any tomato seeds…then I noticed another, and another…and on it went until I had counted 15 rogue tomatoes!

So where did they come from? From last years crop of Moneymakers most likely. You might remember that I spread the dirt from my old bed over this area to smooth it out and I can only guess that some of last years plants dropped tomatoes that broke down and left their seeds dormant until this year. I’m really excited about my accidental find! I relocated a few plants for me and potted the rest to give away to family and friends. 

This year I bought Beefeater tomatoes so now I have two varieties and I think at the end of the season I will try to keep some seeds and have a go at growing BOTH next year – If I can do it accidentally it can’t be that difficult right?!

Another addition to my garden has been plant markers. Finally! It took me ages to decide what I wanted to do, initially I was thinking about buying some old spoons to hammer flat and letter punch but then I saw some painted rocks online somewhere and was sold. One weekend while out and about I convinced Geologist Husband to help me appropriate some. I cleaned each stone thoroughly and then painted my text and image using acrylic paint. I’ve made about 6 and have quite a few more to go but I’ll get there 🙂

Ok last pic promise:

This is my new  seed raising mini “glass house”, thanks to Subway, perfectly fits my recycled plastic cup planters, neat huh? 😉

Vege Garden 2.0 Update

Remember my brief garden update last month?

Well, three weekends ago, things got serious!

First, we filled up our van with all the tree hackings and went to the tip – we dropped it all off in the green area for a reduced fee, yay!

Then we zoomed out to Mitre 10 Mega, or as Nerdy Hubby refers to it: The Mega Man Store, and bought 16 (yes: SIXTEEN!) Macrocarpa sleepers.

Vans are awesome!

They smelled fantastic, the sleepers, not the van. The van smells like mountain biking! 😉

Macrocarpa is an ecologically NZ grown hardwood naturally resistant to rot, fungus and insect attack so requires no chemical treatment.

A popular cheaper alternative is H4 treated pine, however it can potentially leach the treatment chemicals (CCA – Chromated copper arsenate < how nasty does that sound?!) into the soil and therefore your plants.

If you do go for the cheaper option of a treated timber you could line the inside of your beds with polythene sheeting.

Once we got the sleepers home we stacked them in the garage to dry out (which made the garage smell fantastic too!) and got to work.

So this is the “before shot” – Last years herbs have been going nuts in the old crusty bed that was existing when we bought the house.

This is the perfect position for a vege garden, on the south side of our section, it gets a lot of sun, is close to the kitchen door and the fences provide as much wind sheltering as is possible in Wellington.

Step one: Destroy the old raised bed. With Demolition Hubby’s help it did not take long:

We spread the dirt left behind over the area to flatten out a few dips.

Don’t worry, I saved last year’s strawberries!

You might be able to tell from the pictures that the section slopes down to the corner. I originally intended to just build 1 level of sleepers and plop them straight down on the ground and fill them with dirt but I was overruled by Surveyor Hubby.

“No, that will look sh*t. We’ll build them two sleepers high and dig them in level.”

So I marked out my beds with string and we began by digging a trench:

The initial plan was to get both beds built and in on Saturday and then on Sunday we would fill them with dirt and plants. However as we began to level one side for the first bed we discovered a little knob of concrete. Thinking that is was just a little bit of run off from when they poured the concrete path we ignored it until it prevented us from levelling the beds.

If I wanted a proper job it would have to be dug out. How big could it be?

So we dug, and dug, and dug…and DUG!

And dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and dug!

You get the point…

The small bit of concrete turned out to be a huge chunk, roughly ‘T’ shaped, it was not connected to the concrete path at all and had a short length of timber post through it.

We dug all around it and underneath as much as possible hoping to extract it easily but a combination of wet clay and sheer weight of the block was against us. Just as we were thinking of giving up we thought we saw it move, just a tiny bit!

Out came a heavy chain but we needed more oompf – physics came to our rescue, fulcrums and levers in the form of a spare wheel and one of the macrocarpa sleepers!

It took a ridiculous amount of effort but eventually it was free!

Exhausted Hubby estimated the weight at about 70kgs. We have no idea why it was buried under our lawn but the aggregate looks contemporary with the path and retaining walls on our section. Perhaps this area was once terraced and this is all that was left after they smoothed it off? Or, while setting up the section for construction, did someone misread a plan and make a boo boo and then bury their mistake?

After that effort we were stuffed, Exhausted Hubby announced there would be no more garden work that weekend and I had to agree. With rain forecast for the week we filled back in our big hole and collapsed inside.

On Sunday I ached EVERYWHERE. I did manage to plant some seeds though – my beans have already made an appearance.

We took the following weekend off and instead I cleaned and relocated the empty Darlek compost bins away from the house and set up the first one to begin compost making again.

Last weekend we got back into it starting with re-marking and digging the trench for the first bed. Astute Hubby appropriated a digital level from work which helped to get the first tier of sleepers more or less flat.

After checking the fit and levelness (that’s totally a word) we assembled it on the grass with long self tapping screws. The longest angled side needed one join (an off-cut from the shortest side) which we secured using a nail plate.

Dropped into its final location you can see why we needed to assemble on the grass. The right hand corner is at the highest part of the section and therefore almost completely underground while the far left corner sits on the grass and is completely exposed.

We built the second tier straight on top of the first and secured them together with more nail plates.


That was it for Saturday, I didn’t even want to think about the second bed – plus I now had an accurate view of just how huge this first bed was. I decided I would spend Sunday filling it with dirt and plants and the second bed could wait for another weekend.

On Sunday I started by filling in around the sleepers and compacting down the dirt on the outside. Then we took the handy van out for compost, lot’s and lot’s of compost…16 x 40L bags! I also grabbed some seedlings and a few shrubs and we headed home.

There’s not a lot say about filling a big hole with dirt, you just kind of do it. Adding the plants was much more fun!

The strawberries are at the smaller end so that later I can add a cover to protect them from the thieving birds. Herbs (thyme, coriander and basil) at the “front” near the path for easy regular harvest when I am cooking. Tomatoes are at the back so they can gain a little bit of protection from the wind. I will add stakes this weekend, waratahs this time since the bamboo I used last year wasn’t strong enough.

In the centre I have planted the seeds that did well for me last year: carrots, spinach and pak choi and I have some room left over.


The placement of the first bed left a larger triangle of ground than I expected. This is good, I can plant larger edible shrubs, I removed the grass and did just that.

So far I have a bay leaf bush, cranberries and a rosemary that was previously potted so looks a little stunted. I’ll add more to this eventually and, after bed #2 is constructed, I will plant lemon and lime trees at the opposite end.

So that’s it. All the seedlings are looking a little sad right now, the rain forecast for earlier this week did not eventuate so I’ve had to hand water in the evenings.

As things get more exciting I’ll keep you updated 🙂

A quick catch-up

I’m a bit shocked that it’s been a month since I last posted, that’s how quickly time has been flying by for me lately!

Work and life occasionally just become ridiculous and something has to give. I won’t bore you with details, this is a sewing blog after all but the good news is that last week I had a holiday and I am feeling super refreshed and now I feel like I am finally on top of all things so watch out world! 🙂

So, in brief, here is what I got up to these last few weeks:

I bought this sewing machine:

Barbie! And it’s wind up, it really “sews”!

I also bought this one:

Baby Singer – will post more about her soon

My newest cross stitch project is becoming recognisable:

Come to the dark side…

I worked on a vintage blouse as a combined WSBN Teal Deal/TMS Vintage Pattern project and sort of failed – Time was not on my side and also I think it will be too big but I have promised to salvage it for a second group photo shoot in November with the two other girls that missed out:

Completed night classes in NZSL 1a and enrolled in 1b – starting Oct 16th:


Got serious with planning our kitchen renovation:

Realised I had too many unfinished projects lying around so finally finished Lady Grey and then pulled out my finished Lolita Patterns Sugarplum. I made the Sugar Plum for Indie Patterns Month as a pattern tester but have only just now gotten the go ahead to show photos on my blog…so now I need to take some photos!

Evil sewing machine is evil

I flew up to Auckland for a work conference:

Look how cute my tiny room was!

Then I went on a holiday:

Ohh volcano!

I walked up a volcano!:

Mt Tongariro – Ketetahi trail. You can just see the one of the Te Maari crater vents smoking away in the background. Last year it got grumpy and spat some big rocks out, destroying the Ketetahi hut.

Finished Vogue 1250 – need to take some photos.

Worked hard to try to finish Rainbow Swallows Shirt Dress – it just needs hemming – and again, photos – the story of my sewing-life right now!

Bought some patterns – these are not all for me!:

By Hand London goodies thanks to Penny at

Then I bought some fabric – this is ALL for me!:

L to R: Black and grey geometric printed silk, some sort of lining with embossed flowers, ribbed knit, 3 meters of each, total $33.00, yeah!

Hunted through my patterns for pretty dresses for Frock-tober – Harri “helped”:

“Make this one!”

Paired some fabric with patterns and then pre washed the fabric, this caused it to rain, but I got it all dry eventually:

Pretty, pretty, pretty!

Then I traced all these patterns, I want to make ALL OF THEM!:

Camouflage Harri supervised the tracing process – it was hard work, many naps were taken:


Then she decided that my paper bin needed emptying…otherwise how else would she fit inside?:


Harri and I agreed that as a reward for all my hard work I should cut out a dress – I chose Papercut’s La Sylphide in tiny super cute owls:

Thn I remembered that I also have this dress still waiting to be sewn up – all cut out in a beautiful silk/linen blend, oops:

And finally, last weekend, because I was not in the mood for photos and daylight savings has got me dreaming about summer, I began to plan Vege Garden v2.0:

Current Vege Garden v1.0 – I have marked out the new garden space in blue twine but then I changed my mind and drew some pictures instead.

A grand plan

Getting into the details

Then I helped hack down some trees that were too close to our retaining walls. We will re-pave the lower area, a garden shed and glass house will appear sometime in the future:



I think after my new vege beds are in I will begin to investigate the possibility of having some chickens, I think I’d quite like some chickens 🙂

And that’s about it! 🙂 Phew, regular service should resume shortly, happy sewing!


Edible Garden – 1 month on

I feel like I should post some more sewing before I bombard you with more garden photos but I don’t have any sewing to share just now…

*shrug* 😉

So gardening it is 😀

I uploaded some photos to Facebook at the end of the month to share with my friends. Sometimes I completely forget about Facebook, haha. Anyway, I realised, as I looked back at my first photo and the one I took that day to share, that it had been one month since I started my little edible garden project.

I hadn’t really noticed the change since it has been quite gradual in my eyes but what a difference a month makes!

30 September 201229 October 2012

Look how great that spinach looks, we have already cut off a few outer leaves for cooking, and my little carrots are busy growing out of sight. They will need some thinning out and I have also added a second row too. I cannot wait to eat them!

I may have planted some things a bit close together because I never expected the parsley and coriander to go so mental!

And I swear I have been using both these herbs like crazy, everything is coriander flavoured in our house, it’s a good thing we like it. Eventually they will go to seed and die off. I will have to start again but before that happens I will try harvesting some to dry. Maybe I will try planting them from the seeds too. I think that only works if they are a heirloom variety, not a hybrid, I have no idea what they are or if that applies to herbs so we shall see.

The strawberries are looking delicious, but not yet ripe. I added pea straw to keep the moisture in and the fruit off the dirt. I will use some of the reclaimed chicken wire (from under the ivy) to create a bird (and husband) proof tunnel to protect them this week. The Kowhai tree has lost all its flowers now and until the Pohutukawa come into flower I don’t want my Tui and Waxeyes eyeing up my fruit as a replacement for the sweet nectar!

Last week Hoonigan Performance Enthusiast Hubby and I spent 4 days up around Taihape (pronounced tie-happy) and Hastings volunteer marshalling for TargaNZ, it was awesome! On the way back we passed through Palmerston North so that I could go visit my new favourite nursery (Awapuni) for real.

In my head I imagined a very large garden centre with lots of people potting little seedlings up and customers scrambling to buy them all and it being a very commercial experience but I was so very very wrong.

We actually missed the entrance and had to do a very quick u-turn on SH3 to drive back. A long driveway, all secret garden-like, takes you past some of the green houses and outdoor growing/potting areas before you arrive at a very residential looking building. A small room is where the plants are kept in racks and after you select your green goodies you pay by honesty box.

Yes, that’s right!

$4 per bundle or 3 for $10 and you put your money in a little letter box on the wall. I only saw one worker, through a small window. I think that is awesome! I love supporting the little guy and I was actually really pleased by what I saw. I brought three bundles of new plants home.

The next day Geologist Hubby was sent that way again for work and so he popped in, with absolutely no prompting from me at all, and bought 3 more bundles as a surprise gift. Isn’t he wonderful? He is very proud of my efforts. Ok, so there was an ulterior motive, his selection was two types of basil and gherkins. He wants to try a few pickling and spread making things and has asked me to “grow them up good” for him 🙂

So I quickly needed more garden space and Sunday morning was spent preparing my extension, but first I took care of a little business.

You’ll remember we left off here:

Well, after cleaning out the car from our trip away I found the receipt for the fail-fork and following Ana’s suggestion I attempted to return it for a refund with great success:

And now meet my new friend, Mr McGregor!

Cue more pulling out of hostas (I know what they are called now thanks to Tineke) and much forking and digging. The hosta roots have made the soil very gluggy and because it is mostly clay I used a new secret weapon:

This stuff is great! I actually bought Mr McGregor the weekend following the breakage and dug some of this Clay Breaker through with compost in the first area and this weekend I could already see a huge improvement.

So after clearing a bit more superfluous foliage I added more clay breaker and compost to my newly cleared space.

This gardening business is hard work I’ll tell you, I was pooped by the time I was ready to plant! The soil needed much more work than the first section and hopefully over time I can improve it further but for now, because I am impatient, I just stuck my seedlings in and we’ll see how they do.

So here they are, from left to right: Silverbeet (chard), Broccoli and two types of Basil (bush & sweet), across the back (because I am guessing they will climb, so I will add some sort of framing later on) are Gherkin and Cucumber. Yum!

The beans & Pak Choi will be transplanted soon and when I have more space in my rubbish bin another lot of fence attacking ivy will disappear!

The other big achievement of the weekend and this week has been compost! The home-made kind…well, not really…yet, just the beginnings.

The previous owners left 3 plastic compost bins behind, like this but black. They look fat black darleks!

I peeked in them about 2 weeks ago but whatever was in there was all dried out so the following weekend I started one of the bins off by dumping in the lawn clippings. Now I am also adding my vege scraps, shredded paper and other weed-free gardening waste to build them up.

I have done a bit of internet research but like most things I am just jumping in and seeing how it goes. I will add some “blood and bone” and start turning it over to aerate it this weekend and I guess we’ll see. Apparently adding lime with “keep it smelling sweet”, not that I intend to sniff it all that much. When that bin is full I will leave it to do its thing and start on the next one and repeat, in 4 to 6 months time the first lot should be ready.

It will be so good to get to the point where I am even making my own compost. This whole gardening thing hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I thought it would be (or as time consuming) and I am really enjoying myself. Next on the agenda will be harvesting my own seeds!

My friend E said it best, and to paraphrase her most excellent post, “I am taking back control of my survival”…it feels so good!