Some winters it seems as if the grass never stops growing. Usually in July gardeners get a few weeks off from ongoing lawn mowing. This year not so much.
Warm conditions due to climate change mean gardeners have to be adaptable and resilient. So if life gives you long lawns, make compost! The clippings and garden scroungings of ‘sprinter’ (spring/winter) can be piled up for a couple of months in mounds or puke that can be used for planting pumpkins, kamokamo, zucchini and cucumbers in November.
The same technique can be used to create ‘lazy beds’ for potatoes, or no-dig beds for any other vegetable. See here for more detailed instructions on making a no-dig bed.
Building a puke:
1. Choose the spot: Pumpkins and kamokamo need lots of space- the good news is they will climb up a hedge or over shrubs, as long as it’s sunny. Under fruit trees or on a sunny bank are good positions.
2. Dig a small hollow: This will help hold the puke in place and also help collect water. A circle about 1m across works well. If you are working on a slope, use the soil you dig out to make a lip on the downhill side to help trap water.
3. Start with a pile of twiggy material. This creates air pockets so the wetter materials such as grass clippings will compost aerobically, rather than turning to slime. Fine twiggy stuff like hedge clippings or bracken is perfect.
4. Add fresh green material: grass clippings, manure, seaweed… you are basically creating a mini compost heap on top of the soil, s oalso add sprinklings of lime, and mature compost or vermicast to inoculate the heap with the right sort of bacteria, fungi and other microbes to speed the breakdown process along.
5. Water well and keep wet: When the mound is big enough (it doesn’t have to be made in one go), cover with a layer of carbon material (eg straw, leaves, dried seedless weeds). Usually rain is enough to keep the puke damp, but cover it with a sack too if things do get dry.
6. Plant: Make a hole in the top of your puke and fill with compost (if it hasn’t broken down enough.) You can either pop in plants or poke the seeds directly into the mound. Gather carbon material back around the seedling to mulch. Water well and watch it grow!
Build puke now to grow kamokamo or pumpkins in spring.
Sow: Prepare seeds for spring sowings. You can start seeds off in August if you have shelter (a cold frame or greenhouse): peas, any greens, early tomatoes and beans. Start carrots and beets under a cloche. Grow microgreens on a sunny windowsill.
Plant: Garlic, borage, calendula, greens- bok choy, silver beet, lettuce, miners lettuce, land cress, silver beet.
Sun August 7: Building in the garden- Matai Community Garden, 1.30pm
Mon August 8: Growing from seed, Kāpiti Community Centre, Paraparaumu, 10am-12pm
Sun September 4: Composting, Matai Community Garden, 1.30-3.30pm
Mon September 5: Composting, Kāpiti Community Centre, Paraparaumu, 10am-12pm
The Council Green Gardener, Hannah Zwartz, offers sustainable and waterwise gardening advice to local residents, community groups and schools.
Community Visits and workshops are free.
To contact the Greener Gardener, call the Council on 296 4700 or 0800 486 486 or see www.kapiticoast.govt.nz/greenservices