So, I've started digging out for the slab. The rain has come in and halted progress. The water has highlighted the levels I have and the drainage I'll need to put in. Am planning on digging a trench along the left side (viewers left) with fall towards the viewer and so water draining away from the house. Sunshine has saved enough to buy some timber for retaining the walls. The dirt I have bee taking away and depositing down the front in an effort to level off the new front yard. The rest of the dirt will be used to level the lawn section above the scrape. I'm wanting to build a couple of no dig garden boxes there, following the idea captured in this photo:
In the picture you can see pvc pipe being used as a frame for a plastic sheet to make a greenhouse. There is a timber spine for the pipe to pass through. I suppose this must add strength. It looks like an easy and cheap way to make a greenhouse. Not sure how to seal in the ends though...
Below is the plan drawing for the deck less the awning at this stage. I like using Google Sketchup for these drawings. Its free and easy to use, building a 3D drawing.

This rain is a reminder of the need for an awning over at least some of the outdoor area we are trying to build.

native strips

As for the native garden, well I'm very happy with that. The grasses have really taken hold, and I'm kicking myself for planting so many different types. My personal favourite are the red tussock and the rainbow tussocks. Pictured here is a bunch of tussocks I can't even remember the name of. I've been pulling clumps and transplanting to other areas in the native beds, and I'm looking forward to a dense cover of these grasses everywhere!

The south side is doing very well with hebes, three and five fingers, ferns, manukas and kanukas, and a range of grasses. But the battle is keeping the weeds back given the steep ground makes mulching difficult. The trees have started over the fence line, and we even have a bit of an understory happening. I reckon it will look well established in about another 2 years.

The front is looking good, but still very young. Its another steep section so mulching was difficult. We layed boxing board over the lawn that was there, and covered it with woodchip. The woodchip has bonded well, covering the steep ground and generally holding on top of the cardboard nicely. We are putting medium to large trees in this part for privacy, and as they aren't expected to grow much higher than 3 - 6 metres, they won't shadow the house, thanks to the steepness and distance from the house.

First day of my Christmas holidays so I thought I'd build up a row of potato tyres. I'm told that its best to plant potatoes right at the end of winter.. well, its apparently summer, but I reckon its only just starting so to hell with it, in with potatoes.. lets see how they go.

The sunniest spot is up the back. I leveled off about 8 meters and lay some cardboard, then old tyres on top. We are on such a depressingly tight budget that I couldn't afford a bail of straw, and I need to terrace the back anyway. So I dug a lower step terrace and shovelled the soil from that up into the tyres. Needless to say I'll have to battle weeds :(

I think I put in about 30 seed potatoes in the end. About 3 in each tyre. The plan is to add another tyre on top when/if they shoot through and cover them with another heap of soil. That way the terracing gradually gets done, and the potatoes give a better yield. Hopefully.

As for the rest of the garden, well its doing OK. I wouldn't say it's been as good as last year though. We planted much earlier for a start, so growth up until now has been slow. Because of the slow growth, the snails have really damaged the seedlings and we lost quite a lot. I reckon it is better to plant later in the season, say about now so that the growth is fast and the environment is dryer so that snails and the like have less of an impact.

As usual the spinach has done really well. This year we bought a variety that has brightly coloured stalks. It all tastes the same, but the colour does help bring some life to my very average cooking abilities. The spinach was not touched by the snails, and it is almost finished in terms of going to seed. So it is easily possible to get two crops of spinach in a season here. Think I will put another bunch in. I like eating spinach, but it might be better to plant a few weeks apart so that yields don't come all at the same time...

Our strawberries are doing well and have just started to put runners and berries out for the season. This is the second season for the strawberries. We have started a second patch down the side of the house which is already doing very well. As usual the birds are having their go, but so far there's enough to go around. I've since been told that strawberries to better in a greenhouse. Actually, I suppose everything does better in a greenhouse, if only we had one :( Not only would it obviously be a better climate for growing, but it would keep the birds off the strawberries and other fruits. I'm not yet a sophisticated gardener though, but I imagine the greenhouse would also keep important bees off the flowers. I'm not sure what plants need bee help to pollinate, but at this stage I buy new seedlings and have not experimented with propagating and pollinating...

We dug up and potted our parsley, oregano and mint through the winter on the advice from Andrew, another garden blogger in Dunedin who informed us that these herbs can run away and become a bit of a weed problem. So we're keeping them under control in pots. The parsley went to seed and I tried to keep it cut back, but it kept doing it. Now we are left with 2 very manky parsley bushes that I hope will recover to their former glory.. The mint has not really recovered from the potting insult, but the oregano is doing very well.

This season we also planted quite a few Brussel sprouts. They haven't budded yet, and I'm not sure how they do. Hopefully they won't be like Broccoli or Cauliflowers and bud one per stem. That would be a bit disappointing given all the foliage they put out! I'm pretty bumed by broc and cauli, and hardly think they are worth it with all the space they take up.

Last year's yams are having another go despite me being sure we combed every yam out of there. I like a hardy and easy to grow food like yams, and they roast up quite nicely. I suspect this yield will be very small not in numbers but in size. Last year's were smaller than their parents (from the grocer), so I suspect its one of those things that keep degenerating. I hope they are not engineered to do that!?

We also have onions going everywhere and they seem to be doing quite well. But same again, a lot of foliage for only one bulb... but at least their foliage doesn't take up too much room and seem to cope quite well in the crowded bed we have.

The tomatoes also went in early and we lost about half to a late frost. The survivors are doing well now though but have become crowded with potato sprouts from some old compost under them. I'm leaving it for now as the potatoes seem to be doing a good job supporting the tomatoes and not over crowding them.. I'm watching though. Tomatoes are another one that I've been told only ripen in a greenhouse. But they are also one that needs pollinating.. so it will be interesting to see if we get a yield from them and if their fruit resists pests...

Another newbie to the veggie beds are these beans. They really took off and again we planted them early. They have put out a good yield already, and continue to put out to date. They have not been bothered by any pests apart from me, and I've had quite a few nice dishes mixed with the spinach. Like the spinach, these might be worth staggering the planting and going for two crops in the one season given how fast they grow early on. Not sure how the seedlings would go with a late planting.. but will test it out.

The late frosts also took away a bunch of Bok Choy we had in. That's the last survivor already in flower amongst the onions. While this trial has put out quite a few leaves, the snails liked him and the others early on. That with the frosts, I'm amazed this one made it. I'm glad it did though, as I've discovered that the snails are now leaving him alone, and I've had enough to be able to cook him up. I prefer the taste of bok over spinach, so I think I'll have another go at it now that its later in the season. I'm hoping it will still grow quickly, and that my theory about the snails will hold...

One last report, this one for the green grape hybrid we have in. It is growing quite well through the summer, but no buds yet. Maybe we'll see no grapes this season. Its a romantic looking vine though and one I like to watch grow. Around it we have the strawberries, and a pretty sad attempt at a range of lettuce. I don't think I'll bother with lettuce again... Up the other end we have beetroot going very well! It was also planted early and has survived the frosts and the snails. I can see the bulbs starting to show, and have read that you can eat the leaves in a salad... quite a useful food crop that beetroot!

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