Here's the place to discuss how to grow fruit and vegetables, including how to improve the soil and the requirements of particular plants.

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Hi Its Fungai here. Yes You can view view my banana plants and get a plant whenever you have time.



Hi Fungai

Please send your address & phone number to my inbox?



Ahmed & Sabira's Garden

Ahmed and Sabira are from East Africa so gardening in our climate is very different for them!  Their house has a tiny back yard but they are growing a wide variety of crops. 

Sabira enjoys harvesting fresh herbs for her cooking, including basil and coriander. 

Some of the other things they are growing include:

  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Cabbages
  • Corn
  • Lettuces (starting to bolt - I suggested they let them flower and form seeds for free new plants)
  • Capsicums - both sweet peppers and hot peppers (chillis)
  • Beetroot

Ahmed found that slugs and snails were enjoying his tomatoes so he has propped some up and tied others to stakes. 

They have had problems with cats liking bare soil, digging up their young plants, so Ahmed has decided to let the grass etc grow instead.

The grass etc will compete with the vegetables for nutrients (food) from the soil, so it would be good to give his food plants a regular foliar feed using a fertiliser tea made from things like comfrey or seaweed.  (The Pests & Diseases workshop handout has details of how to make these, or you can buy liquid seaweed fertiliser from garden centres.)

Another option is to clear a section of ground for the cats to use as a toilet, while weeding and mulching around your food plants.  There are other suggestions around keeping cats away from your young plants on the WIC Creatures in the Garden discussion

Diamond's Garden

Just a few months ago Diamond shifted into a new house and started a new garden.  All the topsoil had been scraped away by the builders, so he decided to build raised beds - and now look at it!  

He has recycled reinforcing mesh to use as a climbing frame for his beans and cucurbits

In the photograph he is standing next to taro plants: this food plant was brought by Polynesian migrants down from Asia through the Pacific to New Zealand.

The wooden brackets high on his fence are a great idea: you could attach string between them and the edge of the bed to grow climbing vegetables up, and string or wire between the brackets to continue to  grow long vines horizontally. In winter you could attach frost cloth or recycled plastic from around mattresses (often free from furniture shops) along the top, and roll it down over the brackets on frosty nights, so that it hangs over the edge of the garden bed, providing frost protection - a bit like a tunnel house.  

You may need to put a hem along the bottom of the cloth/plastic with a rod or weights in it to stop it flapping in the wind, or hook it to the raised bed edge.

Speaking of winter, there are many varieties of frost-hardy lettuces available now.  The one he is growing in the photo is one - if in doubt, go for red leaved varieties.  They will also stand full sun in summer when most of the green varieties prefer a little afternoon shade to keep them sweet and delicious.

Another thing that prefers a little shade and plenty of water in full heat of our summer to stop it bolting (quickly going to seed) is the herb coriander - Diamond's is looking lush! It benefits from feeding regularly with liquid fertiliser (see the Pests & Diseases workshop handout for home made liquid fertiliser recipes).

You can use the whole coriander plant - roots, leaves and seeds.  The leaves are usually eaten raw. 

The seeds are generally toasted in a dry frying pan for a minute or two before being ground to bring out their flavour, which is a little like oranges.

Save some of the seed for planting a new crop. 

Diamond also grows:

  • Corn
  • Beans
  • Eggplants
  • Blueberries
  • Capsicums
  • Silverbeet (also known as Swiss Chard)
  • Tomatoes
  • Many Chinese vegetables!

Diamond did not have a garden when he lived in China - most of his friends there live in high rise apartment buildings. 

He has been learning to garden from his friends at the Chinese Golden Age Society which meets on Wednesday mornings at the Celebrating Age Centre at the bottom of Victoria Street, in central Hamilton - I think he is doing a fantastic job for a new gardener! 

There are a number of skilled gardeners in the Chinese Golden Age Society who would like to swap some of their Chinese seeds for those of other plants grown here in New Zealand - if you would like to do this ring Diamond on (07) 8533658. 

I will get Diamond to give me the names of the Chinese vegetables he is growing before I put their photographs up. 

Elephant Garlic

Some of the Pacific Church leaders were challenged to grow elephant garlic last year.  This photo is of some grown by Rev Ma'ara.   Elephant garlic is larger than the one you normally see in the supermarket.   

End of Season Clean-Up

Some of you will be pulling out your summer crops to make way for winter plantings.  If your plants had diseases this summer (many did), do not put your plants or diseased fruit into the compost bin!  Burn them or put them in the rubbish.


At our Winter Gardening workshop Cheryl Noble from the Permaculture Trust recommended planting a crop of mustard (Brassica alba) after tomatoes that have had blight problems.  You can eat the spicy hot leaves - nice in a salad or with salmon or ham in sandwiches.  Treat mustard as a green manure crop - dig the plants into the soil just before they flower, adding nitrogen etc into the soil.

What's growing in the Kitchen Garden, Autumn

The Kitchen Garden at Hamilton Gardens in Cobham Drive is a great place to find out what you can plant and in what season. 

Their helpful signs, like the one in the photograph below, give you the common name, variety name and the botanical (Latin) names of the plants in each plot. 

They use crop rotation to prevent disease: the sign tells you what was planted in the bed previously and what will be planted next (see bottom left of the sign). 

Note the way the Gardener, Denis has planted leeks and carrots together: they are good companion plants, with the strong smell of the leeks disguising the smell of the carrots, reducing carrot fly pest problems.  Carrot fly leaves rusty coloured holes in the carrots.

Most leeks need to be planted in November for good results, but Denis said the Lungo della Riviera variety can be planted throughout the autumn and winter.  It has been bred to be eaten at the 'baby vegetable' stage. 

Denis kindly pulled out some of the Tokyo White Turnips (see photo left) so I could photograph them (the public are not allowed to harvest/forage in Hamilton Gardens).  He recommends eating them raw with their leaves (sometimes called 'tops') at the baby stage.

He also pulled out some young carrots: carrot seed is very small and as the plants grow they crowd each other, so they need thinning out to give the remaining ones more room. 

The baby carrot thinnings are delicious!  He is growing some of the coloured varieties (see photo below).

Denis is in the garden most week day mornings (not Wednesdays) and is happy to try and answer your gardening questions.

Photo Left: A crunchy autumn salad made from turnips and turnip tops, carrots and apple - Yum!  The turnips are spicy, but not as hot as radishes, a related crop.

Tropical Guava - Psidium guajava

A number of you have asked if the green skinned, pink fleshed tropical guava grows here.  It is available in New Zealand, but neither Claire nor myself know of anyone growing it in the Waikato - if you know someone, please let us know! 

One nursery suggests that it can survive down to minus 2 degrees Celcius of frost, so it is marginal here (may not survive without special care).  If you want to try growing the tropical guava, put it in the warmest spot you can find in your garden, and cover the plants overnight if a frost is predicted, especially when the plant is young.  Tropical guavas can also be successfully grown in containers/large pots - you will need to keep it pruned as it can grow to 9 metres tall. Or, grow it in a green house or tunnel house (we will be having a workshop on building a tunnel house at Grandview Garden later this year).  Planted in spring, they should provide fruit in about 2 years. 

Sources of plants (and more information about growing them) include Tharfield Nursery and Nestlebrae Exotics ($15+).  Or ask The Plant Place if they can get you a plant.  The tropical guava will also grow reasonably true to type (ie like the parent plant) from seed. 


The fruit is a good source of vitamen A and C.  There is a photograph and some recipe ideas for using this winter fruit here:  


There is information about this fruit's origins in English & Spanish here:


Some of you mistook feijoas for tropical guavas when you first arrived in NZ: feijoas are in the same botanical family, Myrtaceae. 


** Most NZers are more familiar with the red and yellow guavas which will survive frosts down to minus 5 - they are grown here in the Waikato.

Plant availability - Tropical Guava - Psidium guajava

Bruce from The Plant Place in Alison Street, Hamilton has just emailed me to say

that they have the plants most of the time - at present 3 x 80cm plants $10 ea.

They can frost tip as do any guavas - but usually recover following spring.


Every season brings its own pleasures: Mushrooms and other fungi fruit in autumn (see C. Shirley's The Hidden Forest mushrooms are under Agaricus campestris).

Edible fungi are often high in protein (can be used in place of meat) and have useful minerals like selenium.  You can buy spores (fungi ‘seed’) of several types of edible fungi online - I bought shiitake dowels from Mushroom Gourmet NZ and they have produced well (see photo, right).  You can sometimes get fungi growing kits through a few garden centres and hardware stores like Bunnings.  

Do not harvest wild fungi unless you have been taught what to look for, as a mistake can make you very sick or even kill you!  

There is more information about fungi in NZ at:

On Radio NZ's This Way Up last Saturday (26 May 2012) there was a program on fungi, 'Mycophilia and fungal foraging'  - listen online or download the podcast at or on iTunes.


No such thing as rubbish in nature...

In nature, things have more than one use. One thing’s waste is re-used as another thing’s food or shelter or … This is what makes compost work. Compost is only one way of recycling garden 'waste'.

Many of us grow harakeke (NZ flax - see flower, right).  Flax flower nectar is delicious and was used by Maori like sugar or honey – it is a great food if you ever get lost in the bush!

The seeds can be used to decorate the top of home made bread, scones or pizza dough. 

The plant is best known for its fibre, used in weaving.

Corn or maize is another common multipurpose plant, used in many cultures not only for food but the husks (the papery part that covers the cobs) are also used in weaving.

A HEHA project I came across last week aims to prevent baby deaths by promoting safe sleeping habits.  One part of this was weaving beautiful traditional baby baskets called wahakura from flax to protect young babies when they sleep with their parents in an adult bed (stops sleeping parents accidentally rolling on their babies at night).

The basket is similar to a Moses Basket - an oval shaped baby bed woven for example from 'waste' unbleached paper, twine or straw that has been wrapped in natural maize husks (the papery part that covers the cobs).

When I visited Romania, I got some slippers made from corn husks (see photo right - the corn in the photo is a type of popping corn)

At the Te Whare Te Te Whare O Te Ata -Fairfield-Chartwell Community House community garden they used the stems of corn laid flat in a trellis pattern to stop animals from digging up their seeds and young seedlings.

How do you reuse garden resources, other than for food or compost?


Can you help weave baby baskets?

If you are an experienced weaver, and would like to support making and distributing woven baby bassinettes (beds) in the Waikato area, there will be a free wahakura wananga (baby basket making school) on 9 and 10 October 2012 here in Hamilton.  Download the PDF for more information.




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