Back in Season!
Minette’s “Week in Retrospect” is back in season!
This weekly blog post will mostly be a way for me to keep track of what is happening in my garden, my herbarium and my homestead, a diary to look back on, and learn from. But it will also be a way for me to continue my mission, which is to excite and inspire others to grow and use plants for food and medicine.
…and I promise they’re not all as long as this one… just got to do some introductions and explanations up front!
Each week’s entry will be about what happened in my horticulture-homestead-herbology ventures for that past week. I’ll include things like the Weather & Climate, plants that were Looking Good in the Garden that week, what I got up to Sowing & Growing, and as far as possible, because there is always something new to know, even to seasoned gardeners, I’ll include Something I Learned. I will also be brave, because not everything in the garden is sunshine and roses, and add Challenges and Failures I face in the garden, and then, on a positive note again, sign off with (all-importantly to me) How I Used My Produce for that week.
Hope it sounds good and that you enjoy the ride!
A bit of background for those who don’t yet know me. And for those who are unaware of where I am in my journey:
My name is Minette Tonoli, and I am an earth mother and herb enthusiast striving to become more and more self-sufficient on my new acre homestead. I love to grow plants, and use them in all aspects of my daily life. I’ve been gardening for many years, and as most of us did, learned my love of gardening and the natural world at the feet of my parents.
My “official” gardening journey though starts Long Ago (2005) and Far Away (Johannesburg, South Africa), when I quit my office job as a computer applications development manager and immersed myself wholly in my then-hobby of growing herbs. I even made a little business from it.
We immigrated to Auckland, New Zealand in 2013, and I continued my herbaliciousness by growing herb plants for farmer’s markets, and engaging in talks for various garden clubs, and running a few workshops from my rental home.
This year, 2019, saw us buy our own first NZ home (yay!!!), and not just an urban dwelling, but that which my little heart has desired since childhood – an acre homestead! We moved in May, and all of the gardening I’ll be doing is “from scratch”. Well, except for a few pretty spring bulbs in all their glory right now, and some hedging flowering plants on the property boundaries. I am super excited to finally create my forever garden here in Waikuku, just outside Rangiora in the North Canterbury region of the South Island of beautiful NZ.
I love nature, I love plants. I try to live a slow and simple life, where I tread as lightly as I can on this, our Mother Earth, while making each of my footsteps count for a healthy environment for future generations.
Before I start my blog posts, I’d like to also introduce you to the actual gardens. That way you’ll know what I mean when I refer to “The Croquet Lawn”, or “The Apothecary” etc.
The Rose Cottage Garden: Hugging the house when we moved in was a “beard” of grasses. I don’t have anything against grasses, and happily moved these to another plot, but I really envisioned the space against the house more welcoming in a typical English cottage garden style. So, in went some roses, hollyhocks, foxgloves, dahlias, dianthus and many other flowering plants. While most of this seems like an aesthetic garden only, I will be harvesting food and medicine from here too!
The Potager: The main vegetable garden. The source of food for our family. This used to be the back lawn of the house. I’m a firm believer of “Grow food not lawns” though, so I am reworking that whole 400sqm (give or take a few) into a French potager style garden where vegetables are grown with flowers and fruit and herbs. It’s going to be sort of a structured chaos when done. A lot of companion planting, a lot of intercropping, a lot of diversity. And a flower meadow “river” running through it to bring more life and beauty and pollinators.
The Orchard: A part of the back paddock, also about 400sqm, has been earmarked for my permaculture fruit forest orchard. It’s not a food forest, and it’s not a traditional production orchard either, but in my mind, a perfect marriage of Stefan Sobkowiak’s Permaculture Orchard and Tom Spellman’s Backyard Orchard Culture, tempered with a whole lot of Minette Tonoli wants it that way. Experimental. But full of hope. Let’s see how it grows! Here I’ll be mainly growing fruit trees but there’ll also be a lot of herbs, flowers, and even some vegetables.
The Quick-Access Herb Garden: Our main entry to the house is sided by two built planter boxes. They were full of stinging nettle and portulaca when we arrived. I cleared them and planted some common use culinary herbs – especially for my husband – who needs to know whatever he picks in that garden is edible and useful in cooking. I’ve got basics in that garden like rosemary, sage, thyme, lemon thyme, oregano, marjoram, chives, parsley, rocket, winter savory and French tarragon.
The Apothecary: I love herbs, and I have herbs growing everywhere – in the cottage garden, potager and orchard, but of course I also have to have a dedicated herb garden. Because there is so much to do this first season on our new property – and not everything gardening related! – I’m not sure I’ll actually get to starting this apothecary garden this year, but I’m starting to grow plants from seed for it. Maybe they stay in pots for a while, maybe I find a temporary home for them, but ultimately they’ll have a home in the massive walk-through herb garden. I dream of it being filled to overflowing with common and uncommon plants, herbs I can use for food, medicine, cosmetics, in the household and for crafts. Did I mention I love herbs?
There’s more… but it’s mostly established ornamental trees (The Flowering Cherry Grove) and flowering hedges (The Croquet Lawn) – filled plants that I’m only getting to know now. And I enjoy them, and appreciate them for their beauty and the homes they offer to wildlife, but they won’t feature much in my self-sufficiency gardening retrospect blog, except perhaps where I note their blooms as something particularly lovely, so they deserve a mention here too.
Weather & Climate
Christchurch weather has been something to get used to. Especially after spending 6 years in warm temperate to sub-tropical Auckland. But I see it as a change to celebrate. Firstly, because I had many days in the Whangaparaoa peninsula that I wished for a good bit of frost to kill of pests and diseases which can run rampant in the Auckland climate. A good frost really does a wonderful job of wiping the slate clean.
And secondly, because it brings back childhood memories, nostalgic moments of walking on frosty grass early in the morning, or dashing out to frost-cover my dad’s prized mountain aloe in the middle of the night because we forgot to do it earlier. The Free State winters of my youth were quite similar to the one I just experienced in Canterbury. And the Free State was also flat, similarly to the flat North Canterbury plains. The climate and the topography lending itself to melding my happy childhood with my happy adulthood.
For sure there is going to be trials and tribulations as I navigate this new climate and environment with my edibles and medicinals, but it’s a challenge I look forward to, and in the end I hope to bring about an abundant harvest for my family.
On we go then! Tune back soon for Week in Retrospect 1 (31 Aug – 6 Sept).