This is my first guest post. As you will recall, mum and I host wwoofers to help us around the garden. We are hosting a lovely young girl from Lucerne in Switzerland called Merle Link, who is leaving tomorrow for the Coromandel. Merle is planning to study to become a primary school teacher. She is an extremely talented singer who performs at weddings back home (check out her YouTube channel). She asked if she can perform at mine if I ever get married in the future and I said yes without any reservations. She is truly amazing. I've asked Merle to provide her perspective on travelling in New Zealand and her vision for the future.
My name is Merle (yes it is hard to say that in English) I’m 19 years old and I’m from Switzerland. I’ve just finished school this summer and have a break of six months before I have to do a course for the university I want to go to. My mom travelled to New Zealand when she was about my age and she’s still talking about it so much she always showed me the pictures when I was younger and I fell in love with them so I decided to go see that beautiful place myself. I booked my flight around April this year and then started to plan how I want to travel and where this journey should lead me to. My brother travelled to New Zealand two years ago and he did WWOOF-ing he told me that he met some really nice people and that he learned a lot in that time. So I just found myself searching the page and immediately liking the idea of living with someone, helping them work and have a different perspective than just as a normal tourist. Because I knew that I would land in Auckland I searched for places near the city there were a few different ones and I read through their profiles and I liked the one from Anita’s garden immediately. I liked it a lot that there were many informations about them and the garden so I asked them if I could work and live with them for a week and the messages were really nice and I felt even more excited to go there than before.
I’ve helped them to plant seedlings and I helped Anita with her blog. I feel like my English really improved just from talking to them a lot and they were so nice. Now that my stay here is coming to an end I feel sad but I feel also excited for the next three months of my journey. In the first month I’ll be travelling around on the north island my next stop is Coromandel and after that I’ll go to Tauranga and then the next almost two months I’ll travel around on the south island and I’m really looking forward to see Milford Sound. I’ll leave New Zealand on the 21 of December and I know even now that I’ll miss it really bad.
Now that I’ve told you something about my journey I’m going to tell you something about my person. As I wrote I am 19 years old and for some people that might be really young to travel alone but I feel confident and glad that I am able to do that. When you think back to the time when you were 19 do you remember how it felt to realize that you’re an adult? That life is getting serious and you have to make decisions that will be important for your career or just have a huge influence in who you will be as a person? So yes I am young and I feel like that I’ve made the decision to travel alone for three month in a place that is so far away from my home will strengthen my personality and yes it kind of scares me but at the same time I am so full of happiness that I can do that on my own. When I get back home I’ll have to make a course to go to university and it takes six month until I’m done with that course. After the course university will start in September and then three years later I will be a primary teacher I’ll teach my own classes and I’ll have a huge responsibility. If I don’t take a year off I would never be able to do a journey like that again. And even if it wouldn’t have such a great influence in my personality. Hopefully this journey will make me more confident and open to foreign things I think that should be the purpose of a journey like that, it should change something in who you are and maybe change your way to look at things.
To travel is really expensive but in Switzerland the salaries are really high so I’ve earned a lot of money in a short time. As a singer I had the opportunity to sing on weddings and I think it is one of the best ways to earn money with something you love doing. Because there were only three weddings this year I had to find something else to earn some money with and there was a possibility that my school offered that you could clean the schoolhouse one week in the vacations and that’s the way I got all the money together all by myself and I’m really proud to say that because I think not many people at my age are able to say that.
I took a few pictures from the garden because photography is another thing that I really like doing and here are some of them:
And here’s a picture from me if you’re interested in what I look like:
And last but not least pictures of Lucerne where I’m living:
Mystified about how to set up and run a business? Join the club! In this series of blog posts, I will discuss my top tips for start ups. Some people like to keep all their cards close to their chest and don’t give anything away for nothing. I’ve never really been one of those people. I’m all for sharing information, which was not always possible in my previous profession as a lawyer due to client confidentiality. Law can also be extremely competitive, especially in a large commercial firm, so some people can be reluctant to help their colleagues develop both as a practitioner and in their professional career as a lawyer. During my journey as a business owner thus far, so many people I’ve met along the way have passed on some gems of advice which I have gratefully received. I’m paying it forward, as a way of giving back to the community that’s given me so much support.
There is a lot of ground to cover, so this is the second blog in a series of posts on this subject. In Part I of my top tips for start ups, I covered the subject of money. In this post, I will outline 10 more principles related to creating and running a business.
1. You don’t need a business plan
It’s perfectly fine for your business to evolve organically. Mine did. Everyone’s business unfolds differently, a bit like career progression. There are no precise steps you must follow in creating or running a start up.
2. You don’t need business qualifications in order to run a business
Don’t worry if like me, you don’t have a Commerce degree or an MBA. Some of the most successful business owners I know dropped out of school at a young age and don’t have any formal qualifications. Merv Snell of Gardn Gro is a case on point. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of education and spent many years at university, training to become a lawyer. I have great respect for others who have dedicated years of their life to tertiary study. Who isn’t in awe of Oxbridge and the Ivy League institutions? But sometimes the best education occurs outside the classroom.
3. Learn on the job
Linked to not needing business qualifications in order to create and run a start up is the idea that you can and should learn on the job. My new venture requires me to wear many different hats. I have to be able to draw on a broad knowledge base and skill set in order to run my business. I don’t have a formal qualification in horticulture. I learnt about gardening by reading books and magazines, conducting research and experimenting in my garden. I had to work hard to master a completely different subject. At times, I have to play the role of a journalist in order to write articles for my newsletter, even though I have no formal journalism qualification. Running a business is basically an exercise in PR, yet I did not study Communications. You can’t study everything at university. You need to also learn by doing and pick things up along the way.
4. Collaborate, even with competitors
It’s very short sighted to see the competition as the enemy. Collaboration is really important for business owners, especially new businesses wanting to break into an industry and make a name for themselves. Collaboration is a term that comes up again and again in a fantastic Facebook group I belong to called Girls in Business (it’s a closed group so you’ll need to either ask to join or be added by an existing member. Thank you Jessica Condor Gelinas for putting me onto this one!). But what does collaboration mean? Put simply, collaboration is where business owners work together and support each other in their respective enterprises. An example of collaboration includes promoting another reputable business or person in the same industry on your social media accounts. Chances are, they will do the same and it’s a great way of increasing your number of followers. Don’t forget that even though the field of law can be fiercely competitive, lawyers also need to collaborate. Partners in different departments often share the same clients and advise on different aspects of large cases and transactions, which can be complex and require input from specialists in different areas. Also, different offices of a firm may end up representing the same clients, who also have branches across the globe. Be community minded. Reach out to others in the same industry and partner up, work together and support each other.
5. Business development is an on-going task
Don’t expect to ever get on top of business development. Building a business is an on-going process. Your work will never be finished!
6. Contacts are key
As with the legal profession, in business, contacts are key. Network! It’s a great way to market yourself and your business. Whenever I visit garden centres, I always stop to chat to the staff. Over the years, we’ve gotten to know each other very well and know each other by name. This made it much easier for me to approach these businesses and become their brand ambassador.
Contacts can often be formed in unexpected ways. Networking doesn’t only occur when you swap business cards at a conference. In my personal experience, the closest connections are formed over time and require a bit more effort. Allow me to illustrate this. After a somewhat disappointing experience at a store I regularly shop at, I got in touch with the manager via the website and highlighted the issues arising during my encounter. The next day, he followed up with a telephone call. He apologised and said that he had rectified the issues immediately. That weekend, he came over to our house with complimentary products which I had sought during my visit but had been unable to purchase because they weren't in a good condition at the time. If that isn’t great customer service, I don’t know what is. I must have just had a freakish experience, because since then every shopping experience there has been a good one. The manager has become a close contact and we always stop and chat when we run into each other in the store. I am so impressed with both him and the business more generally. I will be promoting that business in future through my blog and social media accounts.
7. Rome wasn’t built in a day
So my cousin and her husband once told me when they heard about my start up. They’re right. By nature, we’re impatient creatures. We expect to have achieved our key milestones months, if not years ago. Empires weren’t created overnight. The Greeks and Romans toiled away for quite some time. Good things take time. Be patient. It can take some time to see the fruits of your labour. Think baby steps. Which brings me to my next point.
8. Baby steps
Linked to the old adage that Rome wasn’t built in a day, remember to take things one step at a time. Everything you do is a potential building block, a stepping stone to something else. Nothing is ever a waste, especially not education. Click here to read my thoughts on this subject.
I’ll use authoring a book as an analogy. As a friend of mine once posted on his timeline on Facebook, everyone wants to write a book, get rich and become famous overnight. But realistically, who will buy a book written by someone who isn’t very well known? If writing a book is your goal, you need to concentrate on creating a target audience first. Furthermore, sitting infront of a Word document and writing a novel is a daunting prospect, to me at least. You need to break it down into bite sized pieces. To start, you might want to consider starting a blog like me as a way of practising your writing. But before all that, it helps if you can write well to engage your readers. The ability to write well takes years and years of dedication as a student. Reading very broadly also helps a lot, as well as learning other languages. I found that studying French enriched my understanding of the English language.
While we’re on the subject, in my opinion, a blog is better than a book. In recent years, I’ve found myself not enjoying books as much as I have in the past. Books often contain boring bits. I’ve ended up skipping pages or even chapters, rather than reading from beginning to end. Times have changed and I don’t think people read as much as they used to. Whitcoulls, New Zealand’s largest book chain, nearly went into receivership a few years ago. Thanks to constant interruptions from technology, we have much shorter attention spans these days. Blog posts are short, sharp and sweet. Reading them is therefore easier to fit into a busy schedule. You can read a blog on your phone, which is convenient if you’re constantly on the move like me. You can also be selective and only dip into the topics that really interest you.
9. Go with the flow
Linked to taking things a day at a time is the concept of going with the flow. Sometimes, events can occur unexpectedly and life doesn’t always go according to plan. Like me, you may find that your career evolves in a peculiar way. Don’t try to swim against the tide. Sometimes you can’t go directly from A to B. This reminds me of a case I read when I was in law school, where a judge famously commented that the beauty of the common law is that it is a maze and not a motorway. Applying this idea to life, sometimes you might have to take a more circuitous route when working towards a goal. This brings us back to the idea of taking baby steps. You have to be able to walk before you can run. Life is an experience. Enjoy the journey!
10. Beware the law!
Businesses don’t operate in a vacuum. Don’t forget that everything we do, whether in our personal or professional lives, is governed by the law. In business dealings, contract law is important as you need to honour any agreements you enter into. Be careful what you say about others as you certainly don’t want to be sued for defamation. Intellectual property is another important field for business owners like me, who maintain an active blog and write newsletters which impart a lot of original information. Don’t forget that your work will often be protected under the umbrella of copyright. It’s sort of like the ICloud. Copyright arises naturally in the course of your work. Unlike a trademark, you don’t need to register copyright. People will need your permission before they can reproduce your work.
Watch out for my next blog in this series of posts on top tips for start ups.
Mystified about how to set up and run a business? Join the club! In this series of blog posts, I will discuss my top tips for start ups. Some people like to keep all their cards close to their chest and don’t give anything away for nothing. I’ve never really been one of those people. I’m all for sharing information, which was not always possible in my previous profession as a lawyer due to client confidentiality. Law can also be extremely competitive, especially in a large commercial firm, so some people can be reluctant to help their colleagues develop both as a practitioner and in their professional career as a lawyer. During my journey as a business owner thus far, so many people I’ve met along the way have passed on some pearls of wisdom which I have gratefully received. I’m paying it forward, as a way of giving back to the community that’s given me so much support.
There is a lot of ground I’d like to cover, so this is the first blog in a series of posts on this subject. I’d going to start by covering the topic of money, which is something that’s close to everyone’s heart. After all, we need to make a living in some way! Below I’ve set out 10 business principles related to the subject of money.
1. Income can flow from several different streams
Don’t feel that you have to derive income from solely one source. Businesses can be multi-dimensional. It’s perfectly normal to generate income from several different avenues these days. At Anita’s Garden, I have the potential to earn income through sales in my boutique plant nursery, advertising, hosting workshops, giving talks and my consulting service. My initial impression was that I was being pulled into too many different directions and it made sense for me to focus on supplying customers with just one product or service. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I might be wrong. I’m still developing and defining the nature of my business, but Anita’s Garden contains two distinctly different components. As discussed in a previous post, Anita’s Garden exists as a place, a physical organic urban homestead in Auckland which people are welcome to tour for gardening ideas and inspiration. Anita’s Garden also exists as a business which provides a range of gardening-related services. The different dimensions to my business are inextricably linked and complement each other Earning income is not necessarily a straight forward process. Hearing about or using one service can lead to a consumer considering to engage the business in other ways. That’s how marketing works. Revenue can generated more effectively when all of these elements work together in harmony.
2. It’s not just all about the money
The sole purpose of a business is not to merely make a profit. A business must exchange something of value with customers, such as supplying a product or providing a service. The primary purpose of my own enterprise is to educate people about how they can grow their own food so they can reduce their grocery bills and improve their overall health. You may find that you have many facets to your business that don’t seem to generate income directly. I spend a lot of time writing blog posts and publish a free gardening newsletter every week. I also spend a lot of time answering questions from people via email and on social media. This is very similar to a law firm. As a lawyer, not all the time you spend at the office is billable. There are many tasks you spend a lot of time on which cannot be charged to clients, such as time recording, billing, pitches to potential clients, writing newsletters and drafting presentations to existing clients on a range of legal topics. You can’t charge for everything. But on a closer analysis, some of these activities do generate income indirectly as they are classic methods of business development. These types of PR help to build a strong client base. These activities have also made me more marketable as a brand ambassador, as businesses are more likely to work with a promotor that can market their brand effectively through many different channels.
3. Deal not just in cash, but also in kind
You don’t have to execute all your business transactions in cold hard cash. Think outside the box. This is especially useful when first starting out and funds are limited. Offer to swap services with a specialist consultant in lieu of payment. If you’re acting as a brand ambassador, accept gift vouchers from the businesses you are promoting instead of money. Trading one thing for another is advantageous from a fiscal perspective.
4. Sometimes you need to spend money in order to make money
Some business owners are reluctant to give away stock for free or at promotional rates, especially in the early days. It’s true that inventory is precious and has monetary value. But you’ll find that the more you give, you the more you will receive in return. Even if you don’t believe in God, this is a fundamental principle of marketing. For example, if you run a competition, you’ll start receiving more followers and likes on your Facebook page. Social media works exponentially. It’s always slow starting out, but the more followers you have, the more other people will discover your page and then they will start following you. The rest will follow. Trust me on this one.
The exception to this principle is when it comes to advertising. This brings me to my next point.
5. The best advertising is often free
Don’t bother paying for advertising, at least in the beginning. When I first started out, I went to the effort and expense of printing flyers for my business and distributing them around our neighbourhood. This was a complete flop. I’m sure most householders didn’t even bother to read my leaflet and it went straight into the bin. Social media should be your primary marketing tool. It’s free to have a Facebook page, install Snapchat, set up an Instagram account, be on Twitter and even create a website. Make the most of all of these mediums to promote your business. They work and they're free.
6. You don’t need to invest a huge amount of capital upfront to start a business
I started from scratch. As a former lawyer, I’m risk adverse by nature. I didn’t want to assume responsibility for a bank loan which I might default on repaying if my business went pear-shaped. Start small, but think big. Click here to read my previous blog post on this subject.
7. Develop a fee structure for your business
Depending on the nature of your business, this is no easy task, especially if you’re working in an obscure industry or providing a novel service like me. The question I’m currently asking myself is what on earth do I charge for consulting on garden design and development? Figure out how to quantify your work. Are you going to charge by the hour or per project? Will you apply a standard rate or will you put a value on projects on a case by case basis? Law firms generally charge clients by the hour, which is broken down into six minute billing segments. However, this may not be the most appropriate model for your business. Even within the legal field, there has been a shift away from charging for time actually spent working on a file towards an overall budget or outcome-oriented fee structure.
8. Don’t forget to pay tax!
Remember to keep accounting records and file an annual tax return. As your business grows, you may need to hire an accountant. For now, I’m able to keep my own records, thanks to studying Accounting at school and lots of extra tuition from Dad who was a Chartered Accountant.
Be honest about your income and expenditure. It’s always tempting to understate income and overstate expenses. There are clever ways that you can minimise the amount of tax you have to pay but it’s probably best to seek professional advice first. Don’t break the law! You never know, you might end up being audited by the IRD. That’s a scary proposition for an auditor’s daughter.
9. Remember to re-invest in your business
This takes me back to the subject of Accounting, which I studied at secondary school (I had no choice in the matter, as the daughter of an accountant). To understand the principle of retained earnings, let’s consider law firms, which are often in the corporate structure of a partnership. Partners of a large commercial law firm in London might have a PEP (profit per equity partner) of £1.6 million, but I doubt they take home the entire amount. While I was working as a lawyer, I can’t exactly say that I’ve discussed this issue with the partners. But for the sake of the survival of your business, it’s not a good idea to withdraw all your profits.
Extending this principle and as stated above, if you’re given vouchers or gifts from companies, pass them on to your followers. It might be tempting to pocket promotional materials, particularly if funds are tight. Handing them down the line to your followers is great PR and will generate an even bigger client base. In doing so, you’re essentially re-investing in your business.
10. Don’t expect to jump straight from your day job into a successful, profitable business
It is totally unrealistic to expect a seamless transition from your day job to a profitable enterprise. Often people start working on a business on the side while they are employed. This is possible if you have civilised working hours, but if you are a lawyer at a large commercial firm, you will find that you simply don’t have enough spare time to pursue another avenue in parallel with your legal career. There is a solution. Dedicate yourself to your day job and try to progress as far as possible within your firm. Save hard. When you walk away from the financial security of your day job, you will at least have some funds behind you to finance your start up.
Watch out for my next blog in this series of posts on top tips for start ups.
Eggplants are one of my favourite vegetables and feature in our summer garden every year. Homegrown eggplants taste so much fresher and nicer than store bought ones. Eggplants can be very expensive in supermarkets and greengrocers, so they are a valuable addition to the home garden. Eggplants are very versatile in cooking. They don’t have a lot of flavour in themselves, but are great paired with herbs, spices and condiments such as olive oil and black cracked pepper, which really create a taste sensation in your mouth. Eggplants can be used in Italian dishes such as pizza, pasta and parmigiana, added to Indian and Asian cuisine, served grilled in sandwiches and antipasto platters or simply thrown onto the BBQ. Eggplants are a little trickier to grow than tomatoes, but they are relatively disease resistant. Armed with the right information, you’ll be picking your own fresh eggplants in no time at all.
Traditionally, eggplants can be planted outside in New Zealand by Labour Weekend, which is a long weekend with a public holiday falling on the Monday after the weekend. Labour Weekend usually falls towards the end of October. This year, Labour Weekend starts on 21 October. While it’s natural to want a head start on the season, my advice is to not be in a rush to plant out seedlings. There is often a dramatic difference between day and night time temperatures at this time of the year and the weather can still be quite temperamental. Young seedlings are particularly tender. Once they’ve been hit by a sudden cold snap or exposed to consistently low temperatures, they never really recover. It’s therefore a good idea to wait until the beginning of November to plant eggplant seedlings into your garden, when temperatures are warmer. This way, the seedlings you plant out will be a bit more established and strong enough to survive any setbacks along the way.
Sowing eggplants from seed
As mentioned above, it’s too early to think about planting eggplants outdoors. However, I wanted to write a guide to growing eggplants now because it’s not too late to start sowing them from seed. In fact, the timing is perfect. It takes about eight weeks from the time of the germination of an eggplant seed to produce a plant that is large enough to transplant outside. It’s really easy to grow eggplants from seed and it allows you to grow unusual varieties which aren’t found in garden centres.
Eggplants can be started from seed indoors in July and August. In the past, I have started eggplants as late as September and even early October, but they will produce a crop later in the season, in March and April. For a continuous supply of eggplants from January through to April, successive sowings are recommended. Eggplant seeds need warmth in order to germinate. I germinate seeds in plastic punnets filled with seed raising mix from Gardn Gro. I like Gardn Gro’s seed raising mix as it is very fine in texture, enabling seeds to push through the mixture easily as they rise to the surface. I place the punnets inside plastic incubators which you can purchase from garden centres. I then place the incubators on a heat pad indoors and spray plants with water twice daily. If you don’t have a heat pad you can also use your hot water cupboard which will also provide seedlings with a warm environment.
How to care for eggplant seedlings
For new gardeners, those who don’t wish to start their eggplant seedlings from seed or if you’ve simply left it too late, plants are available for sale in nurseries from September onwards. Palmers stock a great range of eggplant seedlings. Look out for Gellert’s grafted eggplants in store in October. These large, established eggplants are grafted onto vigorous rootstock and will bear fruit without fail. They are very easy to grow, making them ideal for beginners. Gellert’s grafted eggplants are also suitable for gardeners in more temperate zones around New Zealand characterised by shorter, cooler summers. Awapuni also sell high quality, large grade eggplant seedlings delivered direct to your door. If you order 7 or more bundles of seedlings, delivery is free.
I plan to sell a variety of different eggplant seedlings in my own boutique nursery later in the season. Keep an eye out for details in my newsletter, on Neighbourly and my Facebook page as to when they become available. During October and November, I will also circulate updated lists of available stock in my plant nursery to subscribers of my free weekly gardening newsletter. To be added to my mailing list and receive these notifications, please email me at email@example.com.
Take care to keep plants undercover until early October as eggplants are frost sensitive. The weather can be temperamental in spring and the nights are often still quite cool. From then on, start “hardening them off”. This is the process of exposing plants to the outdoors incrementally, for example, for two hours in the middle of the day for the first week, increasing to four hours per day for the next week. Continue to bring the plants indoors at night. By the third week of October, it should be safe to leave plants outdoors overnight.
If you’re planning to grow eggplants from seed, you’ll find that they come in an impressive array of shapes, colours and sizes. Traditionally, eggplants are purple and round. However, it is also possible to find yellow and white varieties which are usually smaller in size but are incredibly prolific. For yellow eggplants, try growing Golden Egg (Kings Seeds) and for white eggplants, sow White Star F1 (Yates Seeds and Kings Seeds) and Ivory F1 (Egmont Seeds).
The most reliable and traditional eggplant variety in New Zealand is Black Beauty (Italian Seeds Pronto). Black Beauty resembles the shape of eggplants found at the supermarket and is a firm favourite in my vegetable garden each summer. For something a little different, try growing the Italian varieties Prosperosa, Tonda Bianca and Violetta Lunga from Franchi Seeds. Franchi is a range of magnificent heirloom seeds imported from Italy and supplied in New Zealand by Italian Seeds Pronto, owned by my friend Gillian Hurley Gordon. Last summer, I grew all of these varieties with great success. Prosperosa is an extremely productive variety with shiny, lavender-purple skin and medium sized round fruits. Tonda Bianca is an early to mid-summer variety which produces large round white eggplants with beautiful lilac shading. Violetta Lunga produces long glossy deep purple fruits that are perfect for grilling on the BBQ.
You may have also noticed long, light purple eggplants in ethnic greengrocers in New Zealand. They are normally imported from Fiji. For reasons unbeknown to me, these Asian-style eggplants are actually easier to grow and are more vigorous than their rounded and deeper purple counterparts. My favourite Asian-type varieties include Dok F1, Asian Bride F1 (please excuse the very politically incorrect name!) and Tsakoniki. Seeds for Dok eggplant are becoming increasingly difficult to source in New Zealand, so I plan to purchase seedlings from Awapuni as I have done in previous years. This year, I am also growing Purple Comet F1 (Kings Seeds) and Ping Tung (Egmont Seeds) for the first time, so it will be interesting to see how these new varieties fare for me.
To order seeds from the Egmont Seeds range, visit http://www.egmontseeds.co.nz/.
To find stockists for Franchi Seeds or to order Franchi Seeds directly from Italian Seeds Pronto, visit http://www.italianseedspronto.co.nz/. Those living overseas can source the wonderful Franchi range through their own local distributor online (for the UK see Seeds of Italy’s website http://www.seedsofitaly.com/ and for the US see Seeds From Italy’s website http://www.growitalian.com/) or find stockists in your home country.
How to care for eggplants
Eggplants need at least 6 hours of sunshine per day, so be sure to plant seedlings in the sunniest spot in your garden. Before planting eggplant seedlings, take the time to prepare the bed properly so plants receive adequate nutrition. Dig the area over that you wish to plant your seedlings in. Mix plenty of compost and some sheep pellets into the ground. I highly recommend Gardn Gro’s Wonder Nuggets, which are 100% organic and function as an excellent fertiliser. Rake the ground so that it is nice and level. Add some tomato fertiliser to each plant’s hole at the time of planting, to give plants a strong start to life. As eggplant fruits can be heavy and weigh plants down, some support is recommended. It is a good idea to stake and tie eggplant seedlings at the time of planting to avoid injury to the roots of your plants later on.
Eggplants can also be grown in containers. It’s actually my personal preference to grow eggplants in large black pots, as I’ve never managed to grow them successfully in the ground. The truth is out! My theory is that containers are ideal for such heat-loving plants. The temperature in a pot is warmer than soil in the ground, which can still be quite cool in late October and early November, when seedlings are traditionally planted. Black also radiates the heat. Be sure to use a high quality potting mix and use fresh mixture each summer. Gardn Gro’s Premium Potting Mix is ideal as it contains a slow release fertiliser which lasts for 8-9 months, a wetting agent and trichoderma disease protection.
Be sure to water plants generously every day, preferably early in the morning or in the evening. In November and December, plants are in their most active growing phase. Liquid feed eggplants weekly to encourage the growth of healthy leaves and the formation of flowers, which will develop into fruit.
Did you know that eggplants are self-pollinating? Bush movement from the wind is sufficient for pollination. Bees are therefore not important for the pollination of chillies and capsicums. However, hand pollination can increase your potential yield. Personally, I’ve never bothered as I’ve always found myself swamped with an abundance of eggplants from January through until the end of April.
Harvesting your eggplants
Eggplants need a lot of sunshine in order to produce fruit. Be patient. Always remove fruit with a pair of scissors or secateurs rather than pulling them off the plant. Enjoy!
Lilies are my absolute favourite flower as they are simply beautiful. Lilies make excellent cut flowers as they have long stems. They look stunning in bouquets and are a popular flower for wedding arrangements. They can be scented and unscented, coloured or plain white. Lilies feature prominently in our flower garden every summer without fail.
As a novice gardener five years ago, I was a bit daunted by the prospect of growing lilies. They are so exquisitely beautiful that I assumed they would be difficult to grow. This is not the case at all. My first lily in the garden was an oriental lily called Hot Spot, which I planted in memory of my father after he passed away in 2012. To my surprise, it flowered on cue in February, producing the most beautiful speckled pink and white oriental lily with a strong perfume fragrance.
Lilies are very easy to grow and require very little care. Once planted, they can be left in the ground for many years undisturbed.
Set out below are some of the main lily varieties.
Asiatic – Asiatic lilies come in a wide range of colours and have no fragrance
Oriental – Oriental lilies are highly fragrant and incredibly beautiful
Double oriental – Double Oriental lilies are double-flowering and highly fragrant
Double Asiatic – Double Asiatic lilies are double-flowering without any fragrance
OT Hybrid – OT hybrid lilies are a cross between Oriental and Trumpet lilies. They are fragrant like Oriental lilies. OT Hybrid lilies are my favourite variety as they are perfumed and have long stems, which make them perfect for picking.
LA Hybrid – LA Hybrid lilies are a cross between Asiatic and Longiflorum (Christmas) lilies. They are colourful, softly fragrant and very popular for floral use.
Patio Asiatic – Patio Asiatic lilies are shorter and therefore ideal for containers
Patio Oriental – Patio Oriental lilies are also shorter in size and are perfect for pots. They are fragrant like regular Oriental lilies.
Christmas lilies – Christmas lilies are commonly known as Trumpet or Longiflorum lilies. If planted by September, they will flower around Christmas time. Christmas lilies make stunning cut flowers or they can be left in the garden to admire.
Tiger lilies – Tiger lilies make a somewhat unusual addition to the garden. They are tall and are very easy to grow.
How to grow lilies
Lilies can be grown from a bulb or from seed. If grown from store bought bulbs, lilies will flower in their first summer. You can expect lilies grown from seed to flower in around five years.
The most common way to grow lilies is to purchase lily bulbs in winter when they are dormant. It is imperative that lily bulbs remain moist when they are out of the ground. If they dry out, they will fail to grow. This is why they are commonly sold in a bag filled with some dirt or sawdust. You can find lily bulbs in garden centres in winter, from June until early September. Palmers stock a great range of lily varieties every season. As you become a more experienced gardener you might find yourself searching for more specialised varieties. Mail order companies such as Bulbs Direct and NZ Bulbs stock a fantastic range of lilies every winter and deliver directly to your door. I have been a customer of both of these businesses for many years and have always been impressed by the range and quality of their lily bulbs. It’s a good idea to place your order early in the season to avoid missing out on popular varieties which can sell out very quickly.
To plant a lily, dig a hole in the ground about twice as deep as the bulb. Make sure that you loosen the soil around the area. Add some bulb fertiliser and mix well into the soil. Plant the bulb with the roots facing downwards. If the bulb has started to shoot, the green tip should be facing upwards. Cover gently with soil, making sure that you don’t damage any shoots in the process. Water well. It’s a good idea to insert a plant label at the time of planting, so you can find your bulb later on after flowering, when the foliage has died down. Patio varieties can be grown in containers and look fantastic when they are flowering. For taller varieties, some support is recommended. It’s a good idea to place a stake in the ground at the time of planting to avoid damaging the bulb later on.
How to care for lilies
As mentioned above, lilies require very little care. As their most active growing phase occurs in spring when it rains very often, you probably won’t need to water your lilies until November, when it rains less frequently and the soil becomes noticeably drier.
When your lily flowers, you have two options. You can either leave the flower in the garden to admire or you can pick your lily and put it in a vase inside the house. If you choose to pick your lily, make sure you leave at least 1/3 of the stalk in the ground, as this provides nourishment for the bulb after it finishes flowering. Leaving no or little of the stalk will result in poor flowering the following season. As the foliage on your lilies dies down, sprinkle some bulb fertiliser around the base of the plants to feed the bulbs so they flower well the following season.
Multiplication of lily bulbs
Lilies are great value as they multiply profusely. Over the years, I have acquired quite a collection of bulbs without having to purchase additional bulbs each season. There are three ways that you can increase the size of your collection of lily bulbs.
Firstly, lilies multiply underground (or in pots in the case of Patio Asiatic and Patio Oriental lilies) over time. Every few years it’s a good idea to carefully lift your lily bulbs and gently separate the mother bulb from the smaller bulbs which surround it. Don’t leave it until after five years like me, or you will find that the task becomes much more difficult and takes a long time as the bulbs are much bigger. If like me you don’t have a lot of ground space, you can replant the smaller bulbs in a trough until they reach flowering size and are large enough to go into the garden.
Another way to increase your collection of lily bulbs is to remove and transplant the bulbils which form up the stalk of the lily after flowering. This is how I managed to dramatically increase my stock of Christmas lilies which I originally purchased from NZ Bulbs around five years ago. After they had flowered, I noticed that some of the lilies had formed little bulbils up the sides of the stalks. I carefully pulled them off the stalks and planted them in five plastic terracotta troughs filled with potting mix. Some of them flowered last year, although the flowers were shorter than those from the mother bulb. This makes perfect sense, as the mother bulb is older, bigger and therefore produces more and taller flowers. Over the past week, I planted all of these bulbs into the garden. They are a mixture of Triumphator (pink and white) and White Heaven (pure white, as the name suggests) Christmas lilies.
Finally, you can save seed from your plants and try to propagate lilies from seed. If you wish to save seeds from your lilies, you’ll need to leave the flower on the plant. After the flower dies, you will notice that some lilies contain seed pods. Wait until the pods are completely dry on the plant. Carefully cut the pods off the plant, open them and remove the seeds. Let the seeds dry for a couple of months before storing them in a ziplock plastic bag or paper bag. Label and leave them until Spring. You can sow the seeds in a punnet filled with some seed raising mix and leave it outside. I like to use Gardn Gro's seed raising mix as it is fine in texture. Seeds can push through the dirt easily and rise to the surface. It takes awhile for lily seeds to germinate, so be patient. Once leaves start to emerge, let the seedlings grow for a year, after which time you can carefully transplant them to a larger trough or container. Last year, I successfully propagated lilies from seed purchased from a mail order seed company. I also saved some seed from my own plants last season so it will be interesting to see whether I’m able to propagate them successfully this spring. Watch this space.
Promotion from NZ Bulbs – Christmas Lily White Heaven
At the moment, NZ Bulbs are running a promotion on the Christmas Lily White Heaven, which is reduced to just $2 per bulb. This is a reduction of more than a third of the usual retail price and is an excellent bargain. White Heaven is a slightly shorter variety of Christmas lily, making it perfect for picking as it’s not too tall and heavy for a vase. If planted now, White Heaven will flower at Christmas time.
Chillies and capsicums have their pride of place in my summer vegetable garden every year. They are very easy to grow, relatively disease resistant and taste great. Nothing beats picking your own fresh peppers for salads and sandwiches. Chillies are a wonderful addition to Indian and Asian curries, as well as Mexican cuisine. Both capsicums and chillies can be very expensive in supermarkets and greengrocers, so they are a valuable addition to the home garden.
Traditionally, chillies and capsicums can be planted outside in New Zealand by Labour Weekend, which is a long weekend with a public holiday falling on the Monday after the weekend. Labour Weekend usually falls towards the end of October. This year, Labour Weekend starts on 21 October. While it’s natural to want a head start on the season, my advice is to not be in a rush to plant out seedlings. There is often a dramatic difference between day and night time temperatures at this time of the year and the weather can still be quite temperamental. Young seedlings are particularly tender. Once they’ve been hit by a sudden cold snap or exposed to consistently low temperatures, they never really recover. It’s therefore a good idea to wait until the beginning of November to plant chilli and capsicum seedlings into your garden, when temperatures are warmer.
Sowing chillies and capsicums from seed
It’s too early to think about planting chillies and capsicums outdoors. However, I wanted to write a guide to growing chillies and capsicums now because it’s not too late to start sowing them from seed. In fact, the timing is perfect. It takes about eight weeks from the time of the germination of a chilli or capsicum seed to produce a plant that is large enough to transplant outside. It’s really easy to grow chillies and capsicums from seed and it allows you to grow unusual varieties which aren’t found in garden centres.
Chillies and capsicums can be started from seed indoors in July and August. In the past, I have started chilli and capsicum seedlings as late as September, but they will produce a crop later in the season, in March and April. For a continuous supply of chillies and capsicums from January through to April, successive sowings are recommended. Chilli and capsicum seeds need warmth in order to germinate. I germinate seeds in plastic punnets filled with seed raising mix from Gardn Gro (http://gardngro.co.nz/). I like Gardn Gro’s seed raising mix as it is very fine in texture, enabling seeds to push through the mixture easily as they rise to the surface. I place the punnets inside plastic incubators which you can purchase from garden centres. I then place the incubators on a heat pad indoors and spray plants with water twice daily. If you don’t have a heat pad you can also use your hot water cupboard which will also provide seedlings with a warm environment.
How to care for chilli and capsicum seedlings
For new gardeners, those who don’t wish to start their chilli and capsicum seedlings from seed or if you’ve simply left it too late, plants are available for sale in nurseries from September onwards. Palmers stock a great range of chilli and capsicum seedlings. Awapuni also sell high quality, large grade capsicums and chillies delivered direct to your door. If you order 7 or more bundles of seedlings, delivery is free. To order plants from Awapuni, visit https://awapuni.co.nz/.
Take care to keep plants undercover until early October as chillies and capsicums are frost sensitive. The weather can be temperamental in spring and the nights are often still quite cool. From then on, start “hardening them off”. This is the process of exposing plants to the outdoors incrementally, for example, for two hours in the middle of the day for the first week, increasing to four hours per day for the next week. Continue to bring the plants indoors at night. By the third week of October, it should be safe to leave plants outdoors overnight.
Chilli and capsicum varieties
Popular chilli varieties that perform well in New Zealand include Cayenne, Jalapeno and Sweet Banana. Egmont Seeds stock all of these varieties or you can buy plants from garden centres throughout the country every spring. I grow these classic varieties every summer and they yield an abundance of chillies without fail. For something a little different, try growing the Italian varieties Lombardo, Topepo Rosso and Calabrese from Franchi Seeds. Franchi is a range of magnificent heirloom seeds imported from Italy and supplied in New Zealand by Italian Seeds Pronto, owned by my friend Gillian Hurley Gordon. Last summer, I grew Lombardo and Calabrese with great success. Lombardo is an extremely productive long, sweet lime green chilli which is perfect for frying. Calabrese produces small round hot red peppers. This summer, I’m looking forward to sowing Topepo Rosso for the first time. For the months of September and October, Italian Seeds Pronto has Lombardo and Topepo Rosso peppers on special for just $5. This is great value as there are tons of seeds in the packet so you will be able to share or swap with friends, as well as have lots spare for future seasons.
The most reliable and traditional capsicum variety in New Zealand is Californian Wonder (Egmont Seeds). Californian Wonder resembles the shape of capsicums found at the supermarket and is a firm favourite in the garden each summer. I also highly recommend Corno Rosso (Franchi Seeds), which has performed splendidly in previous years. Corno Rosso turns red when ripe and is sweet in taste. It is ideal for stuffing, frying and grilling.
To order seeds from the Egmont Seeds range, visit http://www.egmontseeds.co.nz/.
To find stockists for Franchi Seeds or to order Franchi Seeds directly from Italian Seeds Pronto, visit http://www.italianseedspronto.co.nz/. Those living overseas can source the wonderful Franchi range through their own local distributor online (for the UK see Seeds of Italy’s website http://www.seedsofitaly.com/ and for the US see Seeds From Italy’s website http://www.growitalian.com/) or find stockists in your home country.
How to care for chilli and capsicum plants
Chillies and capsicums need at least 6 hours of sunshine per day, so be sure to plant seedlings in the sunniest spot in your garden. Before planting chilli and capsicum seedlings, take the time to prepare the bed properly so plants receive adequate nutrition. Dig the area over that you wish to plant your seedlings in. Mix plenty of compost and some sheep pellets into the ground. I highly recommend Gardn Gro’s Wonder Nuggets, which are 100% organic and function as an excellent fertiliser: http://gardngro.co.nz/shop/Fertilisers/Wonder+Nuggets+8kg.html. Rake the ground so that it is nice and level. Add some tomato fertiliser to each plant’s hole at the time of planting, to give plants a strong start to life. As capsicum fruits can be heavy and weigh plants down, some support is recommended. It is a good idea to stake and tie capsicum and chilli seedlings at the time of planting to avoid injury to the roots of your plants later on.
Chillies and capsicums can also be grown in containers. It’s actually my personal preference to grow chillies and capsicums in large black pots, as I’ve never managed to grow them successfully in the ground. My theory is that containers are ideal for such heat-loving plants. The temperature in a pot is warmer than soil in the ground, which can still be quite cool in late October and early November, when seedlings are traditionally planted. Black also radiates the heat. Be sure to use a high quality potting mix and use fresh mixture each summer. Gardn Gro’s Premium Potting Mix is ideal as it contains a slow release fertiliser which lasts for 8-9 months, a wetting agent and trichoderma disease protection. To purchase this amazing product online, visit http://gardngro.co.nz/shop/Growing+Mixes/Premium+Potting+Mix+15L.html.
Be sure to water plants generously every day, preferably early in the morning or in the evening. In November and December, plants are in their most active growing phase. Liquid feed chillies and capsicums weekly to encourage the growth of healthy leaves and the formation of flowers, which will develop into fruit.
Did you know that chillies and capsicums are self-pollinating? Bush movement from the wind is sufficient for pollination. Bees are therefore not important for the pollination of chillies and capsicums, nor is it necessary to pollinate them by hand.
Harvesting your chillies and capsicums
Chillies and capsicums need a lot of sunshine in order to turn red (or whichever other colour they are supposed to be, such as orange, purple or yellow). Be patient. They will eventually change colour. Always remove fruit with a pair of scissors or secateurs rather than pulling them off the plant.
Chillies can be frozen and used free-flow in cooking. There’s no need to defrost them beforehand. Simply remove chillies from your freezer and throw them into whatever dishes you are preparing in the kitchen. Enjoy!
Nothing beats biting into a slice of juicy, sweet melon on a hot summer’s day. Our melons last summer had so much flavour and they were so delicious. There is simply no comparison with store bought melons.
Melons can be a bit tricky to grow. They do require a bit more care than other plants in the summer garden but it is completely worth spending the extra time on them. It is entirely possible to grow melons successfully. You can expect to harvest your own fresh home grown melons towards the end of the summer in February and March.
Last year I was successful in growing watermelon, rock melon and honeydew melon for the first time after successive years of failure. A friend of mine, Kylie Stringer, is a seasoned gardener and is an expert in growing melons. Kylie lives in Motueka, which is about an hour from Nelson, at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. Last spring, Kylie took pity on me and gave me lots of great advice on growing melons so I could also succeed like her. I’d love to pass on her tips to other keen gardeners so they can also grow melons successfully this summer. I hope we have a glut of melons again. It’s a nice problem to have!
Melons can be planted outdoors in November, but don’t be in a rush to do so. There is often a dramatic difference between day and night time temperatures at this time of the year and the weather can still be quite temperamental. It’s therefore a good idea to wait until the second week of November to plant melon seedlings into your garden.
Sowing melons from seed
It’s much too early to think about planting melons outdoors. It’s still way too cold! However, I wanted to write a guide to growing melons now because you can start sowing melons under cover from seed. It’s really easy to grow melons from seed and it allows you to grow unusual varieties which aren’t found in garden centres. It takes about six to eight weeks from the time of the germination of a melon seed to produce a plant that is large enough to transplant outside.
Melons can be started from seed indoors in October or even earlier if you live in a more temperate zone and have a hot house to protect them from the cold. Melon seeds need warmth in order to germinate. I germinate seeds in punnets or egg cartons filled with seed raising mix from Gardn Gro (http://gardngro.co.nz/). I like Gardn Gro’s seed raising mix as it is very fine in texture, enabling seeds to push through the mixture easily as they rise to the surface. I place the punnets and egg cartons inside plastic incubators which you can purchase from garden centres. I then place the incubators on a heat pad indoors and spray plants with water once daily or twice if the seed raising mixture is very dry. If you don’t have a heat pad you can also use your hot water cupboard which will also provide seedlings with a warm environment so they can germinate successfully.
How to care for melon seedlings
For new gardeners, those who don’t wish to start melon seedlings from seed or if you’ve simply left it too late, melon plants are available for sale in nurseries from around mid-October onwards. Take care to keep plants undercover until about the third week of October as melons are frost sensitive. The weather can be temperamental in spring and the nights are often still quite cool. From then on, start “hardening them off”. This is the process of exposing plants to the outdoors incrementally, for example, for two hours in the middle of the day for the first week, increasing to four hours per day for the next week. Continue to bring the plants indoors at night. By the third week of October, it should be safe to leave plants outdoors overnight. Don’t rush to plant your melon seedlings outdoors. To be on the safe side, it’s best to wait until the second week of November or so, until temperatures stabilise.
There are three main types of melons: watermelon, rock melon and honeydew melon.
Popular watermelon varieties that perform well in New Zealand include Sugar Baby (Franchi Seeds and Egmont Seeds), Sugar Belle F1 (Egmont Seeds), Crimson Sweet (Egmont Seeds) and Charleston Grey (Egmont Seeds). In places where summers are short, it’s advisable to plant watermelon varieties that mature early, such as Sugar Baby and Sugar Belle F1.
The most popular rock melon grown in New Zealand is the reliable variety Hale’s Best (Egmont Seeds). Last summer I grew the variety Retato Degli Ortolani from Franchi, which performed marvellously well. The flesh was orange and deliciously sweet.
There is only one variety of honeydew melon on the market in New Zealand. It is a standard sweet green melon and is available through Egmont Seeds.
Bored with growing traditional melon varieties? Why not try growing something a bit different this summer. This season, I’m growing Giallo da Inverno (Franchi Seeds), which is a late melon with yellow skin and white sweet flesh. I’m going to give Zatta (Franchi Seeds) another try this year, having failed to grow it successfully last summer. Zatta is not the most beautiful melon but is said to be unbelievably good. Zatta has green skin with scales, but great tasting orange flesh. I’m also sowing Banana Melon. As the name suggests, this variety has banana-shaped fruit with smooth yellow skin and sweet, spicy salmon flesh. Kylie kindly gave me some seeds from her own prolific harvest a few years ago, which I’m keen to grow in my own garden this season.
To order seeds from the Egmont Seeds range, visit http://www.egmontseeds.co.nz/.
To find stockists for Franchi Seeds or to order Franchi seeds directly from the New Zealand distributor Italian Seeds Pronto owned by Gillian Hurley-Gordon, visit http://www.italianseedspronto.co.nz/.
How to care for melon plants
Melons need at least 6 hours of sunshine per day, so be sure to plant seedlings in the sunniest spot in your garden. Before planting melon seedlings, take the time to prepare the bed properly so plants receive adequate nutrition. Dig the area over that you wish to plant your seedlings in. Mix plenty of compost and some sheep pellets into the ground. I highly recommend Gardn Gro’s Wonder Nuggets, which are 100% organic and function as an excellent fertiliser: http://gardngro.co.nz/shop/Fertilisers/Wonder+Nuggets+8kg.html. Rake the ground so that it is nice and level.
Once you are satisfied that the ground has been adequately prepared, lay down black plastic over the entire area. You may need to cut the roll to fit the shape of the area where you intend growing your melons. Place a heavy object such as tiles or bricks in the corners of the black plastic to prevent it from flying away. The reason for planting melon seedlings through the black plastic is to radiate the sun and conserve warmth, as the ground can still be quite cool in November. I used black plastic for my melon patch for the first time last year at Kylie’s recommendation and it made the world of difference. When you’re ready to plant your seedlings, simply cut a hole through the black plastic where you intend to plant the melon. Dig a hole for each plant deep enough so that the roots of the seedling can be completely buried. Add some fertiliser to each plant’s hole at the time of planting to give your melons a strong start to life. Any fertiliser which is high in potassium, for example tomato fertiliser, will do. Mix the fertiliser into the soil in each plant’s hole prior to planting. Melons need quite a bit of space as they tend to creep once they start growing. Therefore, space seedlings approximately 1 metre apart.
Be sure to water plants every day, preferably early in the morning or in the evening. In November and December, plants are in their most active growing phase. Try not to get too much water on the leaves, otherwise your plants may develop powdery mildew. Liquid feed melons weekly to encourage the growth of healthy leaves and the formation of flowers, which will develop into fruit after they have been pollinated.
Pollination of melons
Melons need to be pollinated in order to develop fruit. As the flowers on melon plants are so small, bees often miss them. By hand pollinating your melon plants, you can increase the potential yield of fruit.
Each melon contains both male and female flowers. The way to tell the difference between the two is that female flowers will have formed a very tiny melon underneath. However, this won’t grow into a proper melon unless it is pollinated. Although you can use a paint brush, the easiest way to pollinate melons is simply by hand. Carefully pull off the male flower from a melon plant and remove the petals. It helps if you remove the male flower so that it has a bit of a stem where it was attached to the melon plant. Make sure you do not pull off any female flowers by accident. You will notice that the stamen, or inner part of the male flower, will contain pollen. Carefully insert the stamen on the male flower into the inner part of the female flower, which is called the stigma. Rub the stamen onto the stigma of the female flower. Remember that watermelon, rock melon and honeydew melon are different species of melons. Therefore, you can only pollinate a watermelon with another watermelon, a rock melon with another rock melon and a honeydew melon with another honeydew melon. For best results, hand pollinate melons every day. I find that it’s best to do this in the morning, as ants will eat the pollen on male flowers during the day.
As melons develop, pop an old lid, saucer or plate underneath so the fruit doesn’t come into direct contact with the ground and cause the melon to rot.
Harvesting your melons
It can take what seems like forever for melons to be ready for picking but be patient! Melons need a lot of sunshine in order to grow and ripen. Melons are ready to be harvested when the stalk attaching the melon to the plant has turned brown. They should slip away easily from the vine by hand. If you need to cut them off, it’s a sign that they’re not yet ready to be harvested. Another way to tell if a melon is ripe is to knock on the melon. If the sound is hollow, it’s a sign that the melon is ready for picking. Got a glut of melons that you can’t get through all at once? Melons can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 weeks prior to consumption.
This is the third blog post in a three-part series which covers three different composting systems.
To recap, there are three main ways you can compost your waste:
· Composting bin
· Worm farm
Each system operates differently. In my last post on the subject of composting, I focussed on Bokashi. In this post, I will explain how a worm farm works.
In a worm farm, composting worms such as tiger worms or red worms eat through a mixture of food scraps, garden waste, waste paper and cardboard to produce worm castings (composted material) and liquid fertiliser, known as worm tea. Both the castings and the worm tea are excellent fertilisers and are therefore great for the garden.
Types of worm farms
There are two types of worm farms: stacked worm farms and continuous flow worm farms.
Stacked worm farms are divided into different layers. They usually consist of (i) a sump, which collects the liquids; and (ii) frames, usually two, which are stacked on top of each other as the worm farm fills up. To use a stacked worm farm, place the sump on a stand with a bucket underneath the tap to catch the liquids. Keep the tap open to allow the worm farm to drain. Place a frame on top of the sump. Fill this first frame with moist bedding and add your worms. Feed a small amount of food to your worms. Cover with wet carpet, paper or cardboard. Over the next 6 months incrementally increase the food you feed your worms to build their population. When your first frame of worms is full add another frame on top. The worms will move to the upper frame and will feed on the fresh food placed there. When this top frame is nearly full you can harvest the castings from the frame below. Take away the lower frame and place the top frame directly on the sump. Use the contents from the full frame on your garden or pot plants. Rinse and store this empty frame until your worm farm is ready to take another top frame.
Continuous flow worm farms are generally a single vessel with a large open cavity that houses the worms. It is secured at the base to hold the castings in place but still allows air to circulate and liquids to drain through. You simply feed on the surface and harvest from an opening at the base. To use a continuous flow worm farm, fill the bottom quarter of the cavity with moist bedding and add your worms. Feed a small amount of food to your worm farm. Cover with wet carpet, paper or cardboard. Over the next 6 months incrementally increase the food you feed your worms to build up their population. Once the cavity is approximately two thirds full of worm castings you can start to harvest the compost through the opening at the base. The majority of worms will remain in the upper areas to feed on the available food. The castings will be quite compacted so they should be free of worms. The liquids will drain through naturally and can be caught in a bucket placed under the body of the worm farm for use as Worm Tea.
How to set up a worm farm
Choose a cool, shady site sheltered from the sun. Carports or sheltered porches are ideal. Use a layer of bedding first, for example hay, coconut fibre, shredded cardboard or paper. Bedding should be damp and porous. Add some worms. 1000 worms (250g) are fine. 2000 worms are even better. Worms can eat their own weight each day so don’t over feed them. For example, for 250g of worms, give them about 200g of food. Worms need air but not light so cover food scraps with damp carpet, newspaper or cardboard to provide a moist dark environment.
What to feed your worms
As for a composting bin, aim for a ratio of 30% green waste and 70% brown waste. To recap, green waste is normally soft, fresh and moist. Examples of green waste include food waste, grinds and tea bags, egg shells and fresh green lawn clippings. Brown waste is normally dry and brittle. It can therefore take a long time to break down. Examples of brown waste include dry leaves, paper, cardboard, vacuum dust, egg trays and twigs. Don’t add any of the following: spicy food, chilli, onion, garlic, meat, milk products, bread, pasta, cooked or processed food, citrus or acidic foods, oils and liquids such as soup.
Increasing your worm population
Add food scraps regularly, ideally every 1 – 2 days. Cut up the food you feed your worms. Make sure the pieces are smaller than a golf ball. Start with small amounts and slowly increase the food you give them over the first 6 months. The population of worms will increase to match this and will reach a point where they can eat through all the food waste you can give them very quickly.
Harvesting worm castings
Worms feed at the top so harvest the casting from below. It is ready when the contents look like dark fine compost and few worms can be seen. Spread the castings around your garden beds. Castings may be liquefied by adding one part castings to ten parts water and stir well.
Harvesting worm tea
Always let the liquid drain off freely into a separate bucket. If your worm farm has a tap, leave it open. Worm Tea should be diluted to the colour of weak black tea (1:10). Apply every 2-4 weeks around plant roots as a nutritious fertiliser.
This post was based on information provided on the Compost Collective’s website. For a comprehensive guide on how to set up and look after a worm farm, visit https://compostcollective.org.nz/worm-farming/
The Auckland City Council runs a 2 hour workshop that offers you a basic introduction to the three different types of composting systems covered in this blog. After attending the workshop, you will be entitled to a $40 discount voucher which you can use towards the purchase of any of the three composting systems covered in the course.
The workshops take place in a variety of locations and are held regularly. For more information, visit the following webpage: https://compostcollective.org.nz/
This is the second instalment in a series of posts about being a brand ambassador. To read my first post on this subject, click here.
Background: My journey to owning a business
As I mentioned in a previous post, I never intended or even wanted to go into business. I’ve never felt comfortable about accepting money directly from other people. I am a lawyer by profession. I worked very hard in university and in the workforce to train in the field of law. While a law firm is a business and therefore charges clients for legal services, accounts are conveniently handled by the billing department. Lawyers therefore don’t need to worry too much about cash changing hands or chasing clients who haven’t settled their bill. Gardening started out as a hobby for me. It was simply a way that I enjoyed spending my spare time and was a pastime which I found incredibly relaxing. I loved venturing outdoors in the fresh air after a day at the office and over the weekends. My passion for gardening soon started consuming my life and my garden accidentally developed into a business. Anita’s Garden started when I began selling a few excess plants to local gardeners on the side. I didn’t even advertise at first. Passers-by started approaching me and asked if they could purchase seedlings. One of the wwoofers who stayed with us over summer, a young American guy who is incredibly entrepreneurial, encouraged me to set up a nursery and sell plants as a way of financing my hobby. Anita’s Garden grew organically from his idea (excuse the gardening puns!). At first, I didn’t really have a business plan or a clear idea of what product or service I was trying to sell to the public other than seedlings in my plant nursery. As discussed previously, I have no educational background in commerce and or knowledge about how to run a business. I’m simply learning on the job, which is fine by me. It’s a steep learning curve, but at the same time an interesting and exciting one. My business is constantly evolving, just like our garden. My core goal is to educate people about gardening and assist others to create their own personal green space. I have recently branched out into consulting and have my first client. I am helping a friend to start a garden and a composting system that suits her family’s needs. With a strong background in writing from my background as a lawyer and equipped with a Bachelor of Arts degree as well, I am also open to the possibility of writing articles related to gardening as a freelancer.
What does it mean to be a brand ambassador?
The idea is to work alongside other businesses in the industry so we can support and promote each other’s products and services. I’m still exploring how this will work in practice, but one example is where other gardening businesses supply me with products to use at Anita’s Garden. I then follow up by reviewing and promoting these products and businesses through my blog and various social media platforms. It’s a win-win situation. Being a brand ambassador helps me to finance an incredibly expensive hobby and stay up to date with the latest plant and seed releases, as well as other gardening products. In return, I promote reputable gardening products which I use around Anita’s Garden and support other businesses.
Being a brand ambassador is not just a shameless ploy for companies to give me free products all the time, nor is it a means by which I ruthlessly push their products onto other gardeners through constant advertising. I have been a paying customer of these businesses myself for many years now and will continue to be one. As I’ve developed my own business, I started writing about gardening through my blog, which is linked to my social media accounts. I’ve wanted to try growing an even broader range of seed varieties and use different gardening products around the garden. I’d like to conduct trials so I can report on which varieties and products performed best for me. To buy and use such a broad range of products becomes very expensive. The businesses I’m supporting have made it possible for me to try different brands and conduct such experiments by sending me supplies, samples and new products from time to time.
Why did I decide to become a brand ambassador?
To become better known in gardening circles and the broader community alike, I have become a brand ambassador for some of my favourite New Zealand gardening businesses. I perceive my development into a leading New Zealand gardening personality as critical to developing Anita’s Garden as a business.
To me, being a brand ambassador also makes sense in our market, as it’s a way of bringing people in the horticultural community even closer to one another. New Zealand is a small country with incredibly strict agricultural rules which demand extensive and expensive tests and often the treatment of seeds and other plant material prior to their import. This effectively limits what agricultural material we are allowed to import into the country. It therefore makes sense for seed suppliers to work together and focus on supplying New Zealand gardeners with different products, rather than trying to undercut each other with lower prices on the same items, which is common in other industries such as foodstuffs, fuel and so on. Being a brand ambassador is a way of building relationships with others in the same industry. Over the years I’ve been gardening, I’ve found that I’ve become very good friends with other business owners in the horticultural industry. I feel extremely honoured that these businesses respect me as a gardener, have entrusted me with their brand and perceive me as able to promote their products effectively in the marketplace.
In short, being a brand ambassador makes me more motivated to market my own business as we're all connected. By promoting Anita's Garden, I'm essentially expanding my audience. In doing so, I'm promoting the businesses I'm supporting to even more people.
How did I become a brand ambassador for these businesses?
I simply took the plunge and wrote to each business, outlining my proposal. It sounds bold but in my experience if you don’t ask for something, you won’t get it! The worst thing someone can say in response is no. In my email, I explained who I was and how I felt their business would benefit from acting as their brand ambassador. I wrote to about a dozen businesses. Out of all the companies I approached, only one said no. I’m still waiting to hear back from a few others so I will continue to add to this series of posts if there are any developments in the future. In approaching these businesses, it helped that I have developed some useful contacts in the industry over time. As a home gardener, I have gotten to know many of these businesses and their staff personally over the years. I tend to shop around a lot as in a country this small, it’s hard to source everything I need for the garden under one roof. I am a familiar face at every gardening centre in the South and East Auckland region and the staff all know me personally!
What is the next step?
Doing business is largely about marketing. As a brand ambassador, I plan to pass on products to my followers through competitions, which are a great way of increasing the number of “likes” on your Facebook page. In the future, I also hope to be able to pass on discounts from these businesses to my followers, as a way of promoting both Anita’s Garden and these entities.
This is the first in a series of blog posts about becoming a brand ambassador for some of my favourite New Zealand gardening businesses as part of my own business, Anita’s Garden.
I am excited to announce that I have recently become a brand ambassador for a number of reputable New Zealand gardening retailers. This marks a major step in my development into what I hope to become in the future. My dream is to transform myself into a leading New Zealand gardening personality and educate others about how they can grow their own food to feed their families, improve their health and reduce their grocery bills.
The brands I am endorsing range from small homegrown businesses such as my own to leading national gardening retailers. While the range of products and services offered by these different entities varies somewhat, they are linked by a common thread. I have been a loyal customer of these businesses ever since I started gardening just over five years ago. The quality of their products and services are absolutely amazing. I completely stand by these businesses which I am eager to promote to other gardeners.
I am proud to promote the following New Zealand gardening businesses and retailers here at Anita’s Garden. I have set out a bit of information about each entity below, as well as a brief explanation of why I am happy to support and promote their products.
Italian Seeds Pronto
Italian Seeds Pronto is the New Zealand distributor of Franchi, a range of Italian heirloom seeds. Franchi is the oldest family run seed company in the world. The quality and range of their heirloom seeds are absolutely amazing, not to mention the irresistible packaging! I highly recommend Franchi seeds to other gardeners. Those in New Zealand can source Franchi seeds directly from Gillian Hurley-Gordon who owns Italian Seeds Pronto (http://www.italianseedspronto.co.nz/) and also from selected stockists throughout the country. Gillian is a wonderful person who has become a close contact of mine over the years. Those overseas can source the wonderful Franchi range through their own local distributor online (for the UK see Seeds of Italy’s website http://www.seedsofitaly.com/ and for the US see Seeds From Italy’s website http://www.growitalian.com/) or find stockists in your home country.
Gardn Gro is a small, family run business that is owned and operated by the lovely Merv and Treena Snell in Papakura, South Auckland. Gardn Gro stocks a range of quality fertilisers and growing mixes. Merv has also become a good friend of mine over the years. I originally became aware of Gardn Gro when our close and amazingly generous family friend Jonelle Douglas gave me quite a few of their products as a gift. The best thing about Gardn Gro is that they deliver straight to your door. In summary, Gardn Gro offers prompt delivery, very reasonable prices and high quality products. Visit http://gardngro.co.nz/ for more information and to place an order.
MeadowSweet Herbs and Flowers
MeadowSweet Herbs and Flowers is a boutique nursery situated on Auckland’s Hibiscus Coast and is owned by my friend Minette Tonoli, who shares my passion for plants. We met through New Zealand gardening forums on Facebook a few years ago and from then on became firm friends. Over the weekends, you can normally find Minette at local farmer’s markets, where she sells a very wide range of herb, flower and vegetable seedlings. Heirloom tomatoes are one of her specialities. Every season, Minette grows an incredible selection of exotic and unusual tomato varieties. MeadowSweet Herbs and Flowers is developing an online shopping system, so you can order plants from Meadowsweet and have them delivered direct to your door. Minette also holds workshops and gives talks on various gardening topics. Visit http://meadowsweet.co.nz/ for more information and to get in touch with Minette.
New Zealand Bulbs
NZ Bulbs is New Zealand’s largest online bulb supplier and has been a family business for 60 years, started by Len and Margaret Hoek in 1957. NZ Bulbs is part of Aorangi Bulb Nurseries and is based in Manawatu. NZ Bulbs grows more than 25 acres of bulbs throughout the year for both bulb and cut flower production. Since I started gardening, I have placed a bulb order with NZ Bulbs just about every season. The garden is almost always blooming with some of their beautiful flowers. Visit https://www.nzbulbs.co.nz/ for more information and to order bulbs and tubers for the spring and summer seasons.
Egmont Seeds is one of New Zealand’s largest seed companies, supplying both commercial and home gardeners. Wholly New Zealand owned, Egmont Seeds is also a family business. Egmont Seeds was originally established in 1996. John McCullough, the General Manager and owner of the company, has been involved in the business of seeds all his working life. Egmont Seeds has a very broad range of vegetable, flower, herb and fruit seeds. Over the years, I have been growing a variety of vegetables and flowers from the Egmont Seeds range with great success. To request a hard copy of their catalogue or to shop online, please visit http://www.egmontseeds.co.nz/.
Awapuni Nurseries is a family owned business based in Manawatu. In the mid-1990s, Paul and Henry Ham took over Awapuni Nurseries from their parents Lea and Ton Ham. Designed with the busy gardener in mind, Awapuni offers high grade large vegetable, flower and herb seedlings ready to plant into the garden, delivered direct to your door. You can also find Awapuni seedlings at selected retailers nationwide. They are characteristically wrapped in newspaper and sold in bundles, which is a more environmentally friendly way of packaging plants rather than using plastic punnets. Raising plants from seed can take time. Whether you’re a new or experienced gardener, Awapuni seedlings are a valuable addition to the garden. Over the years, Awapuni seedlings have functioned as fantastic instant gap fillers around Anita’s Garden. To shop online or find stockists, visit https://awapuni.co.nz/.
Bulbs Direct is a New Zealand business based in Paparoa, Northland which grows and supplies home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs year round. Owned by the Gravatt family, Bulbs Direct is a tight knit, multi-generational family business with extensive previous industry experience as commercial bulb growers and exporters. Bulbs Direct’s bulbs and flower growing operations are located on two other sites in Waipu and Ruakaka. Since their launch in 2014, I have ordered flower bulbs from Bulbs Direct each season. I have been highly impressed with the range and quality of their bulbs and am pleased to recommend their products to other gardeners. To shop online, visit http://bulbsdirect.co.nz/.
Palmers is a major New Zealand gardening retail chain with branches throughout the North Island. Palmers stocks a wide selection of plants and products to keep your garden looking good all year round. Palmers garden centres also include other retailers, such as cafes, florists and gift shops. My local store is the Pakuranga branch, which I only discovered this year. The store has a fantastic range of plants, complemented by extremely warm customer service from Garry, Colin, Jo and the team. I highly recommend stopping by Café Botannix inside for lunch or a coffee. I have quickly become a very happy customer and strongly recommend locals in the East and South Auckland area check out this amazing garden centre. For more information, visit their website, http://www.palmers.co.nz/.
As mentioned above, this is the first in a series of posts on the subject of being a brand ambassador. In my next post on this subject, I will explore what it means to be a brand ambassador and how this fits in with my overall business plan for Anita’s Garden.