Tag Archives: Avocado

Late October Promises a Change in the Weather

Warmer Weather

Entry to the vegetable garden is through the hidden gate in the stick fence.

Time has scooted by. I last wrote in June and since then, South Head has experienced days, weeks and months of disappointing weather. Strong winds that have swept branches off trees.  Downpours so heavy that gutters have overflowed, whole sections of the garden borders have been submerged, and fragile seedlings have been battered. We’ve had numerous power cuts and the gravel road outside our property has been chewed up by logging and stock trucks, or on the rainless days (I hesitate to use the word ‘sunny’), clouds of dust have drifted onto the solar panels, propelled by any car that takes the slope down past our place a little too fast.

While I can’t do anything about the vehicles going past, November is in the air, and perhaps the weather will finally settle.

The garden, overall

The easterly gales of the past few days have done their dash, allowing the sun to finally slip out from under her korowai of clouds. After lunch today, the temperature climbed from 17 to 24 in the space of 30 minutes. I was intending to study, but instead of once again putting blogging on the back burner, I chose  instead to defer my study . 🙂

Spring blossom: Feijoa between apple

Of course the gardens don’t care about the miserable weather, they’ve just carried on doing their stuff. In fact everything is horrifically lush, and it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the weeds and the lawn mowing. Nothing holds the natural world back; last time I posted we were still collecting feijoa and now they’re back in bloom for the next season of fruit.

Two seasons’ avocados.

It’s the same with the avocados. We’re still harvesting the crop from last year’s flowering, while alongside them on the tree, the new baby fruit are starting to set. I guess this at least shows we had some windless days. It’s difficult for bees to pollinate flowers when its blowing a gale.

More blossom: Cherry, lime & pear.

Fruiting cherries don’t do so well this far north, they like a hard frost, but our two struggling trees still manage to produce some blossom. The same can’t be said for limes. The two lime trees are smothered with flowers, despite being afflicted badly by citrus borer. And there’s nothing nicer than seeing the first plump buds on the pear tree.

This year I was determined to raise all our flowers and vegetables from seed. I’ve had some disappointments – baby plants being dug up by blackbirds, or chewed by beetles, slugs and snails. Some have failed to germinate, but I haven’t give up. Some I clearly put out too early, even though we don’t experience frosts this far north. My earliest gherkins, zucchinis and squashes just sat in the ground looking sorry for themselves before finally curling up and dying. But, I’ve had many more successes than disappointments.

Things we can eat

Broad beans

Broad beans – towering in the garden, and puréed.

The broad bean plants were only a few centimetres tall in June, but now we’re consuming their crop. I like to nuke the beans into a paste with a little butter and miso. The plants themselves have grown far taller than we expected. The seed packet suggested staking them at one metre, but they’ve kept on growing, and now reach to over two metres. Every time a wind has howled in from a new direction, we’ve had to scurry outside to re-tie them.


Some of our 25 tomato plants. To the left is our first ‘baby’ bloody butcher.

Our tomatoes are many. I think I counted 25 out there. The three varieties I chose to sow this year are Black Krim (a delicious heirloom variety),  Bloody Butcher (a good all-rounder) and the cherry tomato, Indigo Blue Berries. The first fruits are forming and I can’t wait to have fresh outdoor tomatoes again. Proper tomatoes. Through most of winter I’ve resisted buying store tomatoes as they just aren’t the same. Tomatoes are just about my favourite plant to grow. They’re so easy, and so versatile, and after having lived in Dunedin for 25 years, I still haven’t quite gotten used to growing them outdoors.

Garlic and Egyptian walking onions

The garlic and onions are going well. This was one of the patches we completely covered during winter.

It was April when we put down the groundcover on a complete length of the vegetable garden. This activity certainly paid off and the patch is now home for garlic, onions, lettuces and tomatoes. We’ve mulched them with compost a couple of times already, but it’s already difficult to see where it was. Compost mulches will be critical as the days grow warmer. They protect and feed the plants, and keep the moisture down in the soil when the summer sun is doing its best to evaporate it off.


Grape, Albany Surprise

This grapevine has been slow to get established, unlike the white variety that grows rampantly on the northern side of the barn. The grape is Albany Surprise and in my opinion is far superior to the white grape, due to the sweet and spicy flavour of its juicy bunches. The vine is looking really good this year, with numerous  clusters of fruit.

Gardens new and gardens relocated

The new melon bed, with our first seedlings, a dozen rock melon plants.

Ben has dug me a brand new garden – a bed for melons. We’ve tried to grow these before and we just put the plants in the back paddock and left them, assuming they’d survive. Well, they didn’t. Or actually, they did, but I think all they produced was a couple of tiny, tiny fruit. This year we have a dedicated bed filled with compost and in sunlight for most of the day. I’ve raised seedlings of rock and watermelon, and am hoping for the best!

The bed is in the middle of the lawn close to the house so we can easily keep an eye on it, but already the sparrows have been in and have tossed the compost around. Fingers crossed the plants will get their roots going and dig in before they, too, are evicted. Only the rock melons are planted  for now; I need twice as much space to fit the watermelons in as well.


The strawberries stand a better chance of producing a crop, away from the vegetable garden.

Another task we achieved since June was to dig up our congested bed of strawberries. We selected a few strong plants, and replanted them beneath the lemon verbena. We’re hoping that they’ll do better there, especially with the netting cover. Usually our strawberries get picked to pieces by the blackbirds who nest in the trees near the vegetable garden.

Beehive update

The olive trees are covered in flowers. Bees collect pollen and nectar.

One of our three hives failed over winter. We lost the queen, and think that she most likely died of natural causes; she was never a strong queen. We weren’t completely surprised, as even before we confirmed the loss, the hive had very little brood. So we cleaned up the hive and surrounding area and last weekend added the honey boxes to the brood boxes.

The two remaining hives are buzzing! And on days like this the bees are out and about collecting pollen and nectar. There are so many plants in flower this time of year that there’s nothing to hold them back. Standing beneath one of the olive trees, earlier today, all I could hear was the satisfying hum of the bees.

Plants of the flowering kind

We cleared out the garden by the pathway using our own compost. Lettuces are sprouting everywhere amongst the dahlias and poppies.

My new project has been to clean up and tidy the strip of garden alongside the pathway in front of our kitchen window. It has always been a problem due to a nasty weed (a bulb) that I haven’t been able to eliminate. I’ve been trying for years.

Ben became so fed up at the hours I’ve spent in this small area, that he suggested digging out and removing all of the soil, and replacing it with compost and new soil. It was the best thing we could have done.

I love this new garden and even though it’s still early days and there’s not much flowering there yet, I can see it from the kitchen window and it always cheers me up. An amusing extra is that the compost was filled with seeds from the vegetable garden. Lettuces, dill, coriander, even a couple of tomatoes have sprouted. I doubt that the dill can stay there for long, but I might leave a couple.

I’ve planted the majority of my basil seedlings there, as well as pinks, dahlia, zinnias, poppies, bellis, and viola, so it will be a cottage-cum-kitchen garden. I’m looking forward to posting some photos once the seedlings begin to mature.

A trio of flowers: Bird of paradise, aquilegia and Emma’s rose.

Despite the shambles in my various flower beds, it’s still lovely to see the spring flowers. Every flower gives me a good feeling.

California poppy, Thai Silk Mixed

Whether it’s the poppies I’ve raised from seed, or the blossom on the fruit trees. Each flower is a promise of something… a pure splash of colour, a beautiful aroma, or a juicy piece of fruit.

Native Garden

Our small ‘native garden’ is lush with ferns.

I thought I should mention our small native garden. This is situated in an area that was just weeds and junk when we first bought the property. It’s got to the stage now that trees self-sow, and our original specimens are reaching up to the sky.

Not bad for less than ten years of growth!

Garden reality and reminiscing

View of the garden looking north-west. Kumara mounds in the foreground.

The garden is still untidy and there’s always more to be done. Sometimes it feels that for every step forward, there are two steps backwards. Once the weather begins to warm, which it’s doing now, everything just takes off.

This time last year I was staying at Mt Maunganui with Dad, and regularly visiting Mum in the rest home. While I was there, I was yearning for my garden, so I can’t complain about the work now.

My love of gardening and of having a garden began when I was a small child. In the early years Dad kept a vegetable garden, and we had fruit trees. From Mum I picked up a love of the beauty of flowers and trees. I regret that Dad never made it back to my garden. I’d always imagined a time when he would see out his last few years here, pottering around doing the outside things he liked to do.

On a garden rake
Dad tows me between the rows.
Moist earth, a bird cries.


Spring is Sprung

Macadamia trees in flower.
Macadamia trees in flower.

Nuts and Fruit

2014 crop of Macadamia nuts.
2014 crop of Macadamia nuts.

Now that the Macadamias are fully in flower, the nuts have all fallen from the trees.  We’ve had a good crop this year.  We have about 11 kilos of the nuts with shell – a decent-sized carton full, although still not as many as we harvested in 2012.

After being away for a week, I can really notice the changes in the garden.  The mass of white flowers that adorned our most prolific plum tree is now mostly replaced with the bright green of new leaves.  We are still eating the plums we froze from this tree last November and I’m reminded of the fact that everything is just an ongoing cycle.  This is one of the things I really take pleasure in with having a garden.


Avocado 'Fuerte' in flower.
Avocado ‘Fuerte’ in flower.

Both of our small avocado trees are flowering prolifically.  We’ve had terrible trouble with these – right from when we first planted them they were afflicted with Root Rot (Phytophthora cinnamomi).  We probably should have destroyed the trees then and there, but we’ve been spraying them until they grow big enough for us to inject the cure directly into their trunks in the hope that they will overcome this scourge.

I’ve also been reading about some alternative remedies involving compost – obviously I’d much prefer not to spray but for now we are just trying to prevent the trees from becoming more badly afflicted.

We have a both a Fuerte and a Hass variety and also a small tree that Ben grew from a stone.  The latter has grown quite tall now, although isn’t yet old enough to flower.  It seems not to be afflicted with the same problem as the other two.  Avocados do well in this area, so we are hopeful.

Eggs and More Eggs

The unexpected 'egg' discovery.
The unexpected ‘egg’ discovery – the white egg is a plastic one.

For some time we’ve not had a full quota of eggs each day.  Always 5 or 6 but never 7.  We’d put this down to the fact that every hen doesn’t necessarily lay an egg every day of the week.  However, when Ben went into the barn yesterday morning he found 10 eggs in one of the old nesting boxes that we thought the hens didn’t use.  This was unexpected.

I checked them all by placing them in a deep pan of water, and they are all good – they all lie flat on the bottom of the pan. (See ‘Kitchen Tips – checking eggs for freshness.)

I suppose this means that one or more of the hens started laying there while we were away in Finland.  This would make sense as we do tend to look at that nesting box from time to time, ‘just in case’, and up until we left, we certainly hadn’t seen any eggs there.  But it was quite a surprise as neither Ben nor I have seen a hen go into that part of the barn, and we frequently observe them as they go about their daily tasks.

Passion Fruit

Passion Fruit showing signs of xxx
Passion Fruit showing signs of Brown Spot (Alternaria passiflorae)

Our Passion Fruit vine is afflicted with Brown Spot.  Yesterday I made a priority of cutting off all the diseased leaves.  We’ll burn these later on today.

The Passion Fruit vine, after hard pruning.
The Passion Fruit vine, after hard pruning.

There is a great deal of new growth and a good many flower buds, so I’m optimistic for a good crop this year.  If I cut off and destroy all infected parts early on in the season, and we then apply a copper spray to the vine, we seem to be able to control this disease sufficiently.

Early Birds

I heard my first ‘definite’ Pīpīwharauroa call for this Spring, yesterday.  I’d heard what I thought could be them last week, but only the first part of their notes, without the final downward sound, so wasn’t sure.

The Long-tailed Cuckoo and the Shining Cuckoo are New Zealand’s only forest birds that migrate out of the country. They both breed in New Zealand, parasitising endemic species, using them to raise their offspring for them

I posted yesterday’s ‘sighting’ on the Birds of New Zealand Cuckoo Study page.  If you hear the call of either the Shining Cuckoo or the Long-tailed cuckoo, you can submit this information via a form on this page.  I’d love to actually sight the Shining Cuckoos we hear at South Head, but I’ve not been that lucky so far.  Sometimes they seem so close, up in the Lilly Pillies or in one or other of our tall trees, but they are well-camouflaged.  I do feel sorry for the poor Riroriro, though, knowing full well that the cuckoos will lay their huge eggs in their tiny nests.

The partially-built Welcome Swallow nest.
The partially-built Welcome Swallow nest.

A few weeks back, some Warou, or Welcome Swallows started building a nest in the barn.

Sadly, they’ve given up this endeavour.   Probably due to the human ‘comings and goings’.  The first year we were here a whole family was raised in the barn and we loved seeing the parent birds flitting to and fro, and later, the chicks learning to fly.


Many people think that bananas are palms, but in fact they are members of the Musa family of plants.  Our plant is Banana Mons Mari (Musa acuminata), which is a quick-growing dwarf variety.

Two of our sweet little bananas.
Two of our sweet little bananas, (Banana ‘Mons Mari’)

The large bunch of bananas was taking too long to ripen on the plant, so in August we cut the branch down and hung it in the porch with a very large brown paper bag over it.  Because of this they all ripened very quickly and at the same time so we’ve had to eat several each day to avoid wasting them.  They are starting to get a bit ‘past it’ now, but the small fruit are delicious – very sweet.

After removing the fruiting bunch, Ben cut down the whole growing ‘stalk’ and put it through our mulcher.  We then returned this mulch to the base of the plant.  What started out as a huge, fat stalk, was reduced to a remarkably small mush of mulch.

Glimpse of the new flower bud, taken through a bedroom window.
Glimpse of the new flower bud, taken through a bedroom window.

I was wondering yesterday if the plant would produce another flower in the new year… Gazing up at the plant I noticed… a new flower shoot.

It still seems amazing to me that we can actually grow bananas here.  We have three additional baby plants growing in a sheltered corner of the garden – these are suckers that we removed from the plant earlier in the year.

Vegetable Garden

Early potatoes after first 'earthing-up'.
Early potatoes after first ‘earthing-up’.

I’ve spent a couple of days putting work into weeding the remainder of the vegetable garden.  There’s always so much to do here.  The early potatoes we put in a couple of weeks ago are looking really good, so we earthed them up yesterday.

The bad news is that, all but one of the Edamame (Soy Bean, Glycine Max) I sowed on 26 August have been eaten by snails.  The same applies to the Rocket I sowed on 24 August.  Although in the case of the rocket, not a single plant has survived.  I’m not even sure if any sprouted, or if the blackbird hen we see in the garden dug them out, or if they were eaten by some bug in the soil before they had a chance to grow.  Very disappointing, but it’s due to the fact that (again) I try to avoid applying slug and snail bait around the garden.  But yesterday I relented and resowed both the edamame and the rocket.

The newly tidied-up patch of the vegetable garden.
The newly tidied-up patch of the vegetable garden.

I also sowed a row of Lettuce Mesclun Mix and Sugar Snap Peas, and threw in some seeds that are past their ‘sow by’ date.  These were Rock Melon and Sweet Basil.  If they don’t come up I won’t be too disappointed.  I have so many seeds that are past their ‘sow by’ dates – I’ll have to try to be more efficient at using up all the seeds while they are still fresh.

In the above photo you can see a rogue Dill plant flourishing.  These come up all over the garden, but I leave them there (if they aren’t too much in the way) as Ben likes to have fresh dill on hand for Gravad Lax.

Pear and Avocado Smoothie

Ready to eat.  Yum Yum!
Ready to eat. Yum Yum!

At this time of year when there are lots of avocados and pears around, this recipe is just perfect.

I came across it in the book, ‘Good Housekeeping Easy to Make Smoothies & Juices (2009), Collins and Brown’, and the result is an incredibly yummy smoothie-dessert.

The texture is velvety, the colour is sublime and the flavour!  Well, let’s just say that although the combination of pear and avocado may sound unusual to some, it’s definitely worth trying.


  • 1 small lemon
  • 2 ripe dessert pears
  • 1 small, ripe avocado
  • Juice of 1 lime


  • Peel and core the pears.
  • Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone, and separate the flesh from the skin.
  • Peel the lemon, removing as much of the white pith as possible, cut into segments and remove any pips.
  • Put the pears, avocado and lemon  into a blender, along with the lime juice.  Blend until smooth.

If you’d like to add a ‘zing’ to your smoothie, a dash of something hot would enhance it.  Add a dash of ‘Kaitaia Fire‘ or Tabasco sauce, or a tiny piece of habanero chilli to the blend.

Pears are falling daily from the old pear tree.
Lovely fresh, ripe pears.