I miss my old garden. I could walk outside at any time of year and find everything I needed to make dinner. If a guest dropped by, I could send them home with a box of produce. That happens when you have spent years building soils, making compost, nursing biodiversity, sowing seeds, and planting seedlings.
But starting a garden (again) takes so much time. There is so much effort and expense up front that takes months to even begin paying off. One of the goals of this blog is to be honest about this journey. If I’m doing that, I have to tell you: it’s beginning to frustrate me.
I used to have carrots, and potatoes, tomatoes, peas, beans, cucumber, onions, spring onions, garlic, herbs galore, kūmara, taewa, lettuce, silverbeet, beetroot, capsicum, chillies and so much more.
Some were purposely planted, but many had self-seeded. They sprouted where ever they wanted to, and I mostly just let them grow, and picked them when it was time. The Northland climate means long harvests – tomatoes and chilies well into May. And always something to eat.
But it took me 2 and a half years of hard and constant work to get to that point. Looking through my old Instagrams, I’m reminded that while my first season had its successes, the thing I miss took two seasons to arrive at.
Probably the most frustrating thing for me is I’m ready for Year 3, but I have a Year 1 garden. My planning and seed collection is for Year 3, when beds are thriving and actually exist. But instead, I’m back at the starting line.
It’s not like this is a surprise: it was part of the plan. And even though every drop of sweat I put into the soil here will pay off for the rest of my life, going back to Square 1 kind of sucks a bit.
Planting here is about 2 months behind where I’d like it to be. The purchase of this property took a while, and the delay interrupted my gardening rhythm. When we started talks I was just getting ready to put in my garlic and early potatoes. I held off when it became clear we were going to be moving. They ended up going in 2 months late.
One of the reasons for the delay is we’re redeveloping most of the beds. Two of the beds were ready for planting the day we took possession. We quickly put in the garlic and the potatoes we’d delayed on.
We mulched down 2 more beds of overgrown green manure. Then we dug out the kikuyu that had taken them over and planted corn and beans in both of them. These beds are actually on time, but still months away from production.
Two long beds are planted out: 12 metres of strawberries are juuuust coming into season now, and another 12 meters of barley, parsley, chamomile, broccoli, rocket, silverbeet, coriander, and puy lentils is getting established now too.
We’ve got a herb garden planted with the herbs we transplanted from Waipu. It’s just beginning to settle in. It’s planted with bay, rosemary, sage, lemon balm, lemon grass, parsley, oregano, catnip, calendula and tithonia.
We’ve been really busy, but nothing is really ready to eat yet. Things are still establishing. We get the occasional strawberry and maybe some herbs. Next week I might get a rocket salad. But 3 months into owning this place and we’re not seeing a return on the garden (yet).
Because gardens take time. My garden at Waipu did not happen in one season, and this one won’t either. I’m in a position of massive privilege. I own land on which to build a massive garden and plant trees, then benefit from them for as long as I want to.
When I was flatting, regular life involved moving every 10-18 months. It was never enough time to do anything. So even when the space was there and the landlord was supportive, I didn’t garden.
We still have many, many gardens to dig, create, and plant up. We have many, many years of adding compost to it for it to become truly fertile and productive. It will be so much better than my old garden, and so much bigger too. I just have to remind myself that it requires time, and that’s something I’m lucky enough to have.