Our District

August in the Garden

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.

Other jobs:

  • Weeding:  One reason weeds are so successful is they start growing a wee bit ahead of many garden plants. Staying on top of weeds saves a lot of work later in the summer; catch them before they seed and you’ll also notice fewer weeds each year. (Also, baby weeds without seeds are better material for the compost heap). At the moment soil is moist, releasing roots easily, and the gaps where weeds are pulled out heal quickly (in my gardens, `good weeds’ - other self-sowers like calendula - will rapidly grow to fill in any bare patches, forming a live mulch.) Cover any other gaps with other sorts of mulch (see below).
  • Planting:  There’s just time to get shrubs in the ground to get roots down by January, when things get dry. Add something water-retentive to the planting hole: wet newspaper, seaweed or compost, to hold water around the root zone.
  • Fruit trees: Finish pruning grapes, figs, roses and pipfruit. Prune citrus, and feijoas if you missed them in autumn. Mulch with good compost or seaweed. Plant the last fruit trees. If you had leaf curl last year on stonefruit, spray with copper before they blossom.
  • Mulch up around the stems of brassicas (eg broccoli, cabbage), especially if they’re rocking around in the wind.

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. 

Upcoming workshops:

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


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