Small garden growing

Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon recently interviewed Tim Martin from Auckland about his fantastic small garden of less than 100m2 that is producing an endless supply of fruit and produce, and providing a lot of personal satisfaction as well.

Here is a quick summary of what was mentioned during the interview and some extracts from Tim’s blog.
• Diversify across the garden, not only fruit and vegetables but also flowers to bring in beneficial insects.
• Rotation is important, especially for the likes of tomatoes and potatoes.
• Think of every space and surface as a growing opportunity – the vertical and well as the horizontal. The verticals are used via a fence (like a boundary fence) and sheds can become support frames for the likes of choko and pumpkin.
• Start growing the next crop in trays 4-8 weeks before the planting space becomes available. The next crop then goes in within a day or two of the previous one coming out.
• Grow more of what succeeds, and give up on crops that repeatedly fail. On his blog Tim says he can’t grow melons, so any space allocated to them is wasted. Tim is not the only one with that experience with melons!
• Most of his planting is directly into the soil. Raised gardens are ankle high, using whatever is available. Raised gardens are important in winter to assist drainage and stop the gardens from getting soggy and boggy.
• Compost is added for every new crop, usually about a third but up to half of the soil volume. Horse manure is a compost favourite.
• Avoid walking on the area to be planted. Compacted soil makes it harder for plants to establish their root systems.
• Over-plant and thin as they grow. This helps keep weed growth down.
• Use pea straw or hay as a mulch to keep weeds down and moisture in.
• Potatoes, beans and tomatoes need to be planted in a place with full sun. Leafy greens on the other hand will benefit from summer shade. Tim grows greens under his citrus trees.
• Some crops should be left to self-seed. This includes silver beet, lettuce, and corn salad.
• Use cucumber as ground cover, and a tomato variety called Green Sausage.
• Brown Shaver chickens get a diet of weeds and snails, and Tim also keeps quail. Quail hens start producing eggs when less than two months old and will lay an egg a day for at least a year. Five quail eggs equal one chicken egg.
• Giving away surplus produce is a great way to get to know your neighbours!
• Making your own compost or growing your own seeds is a great way to keep gardening costs down.
• Plant, tend, and harvest from your garden every month of the year. Tim says he can eat from the garden through all of the seasons: “Through the winter months we eat parsnips and carrots sown in January, beetroot and broccoli sown in February/March, and salad greens sown in the autumn and winter.”
• On a cost-benefit analysis Tim says growing his own saves over a thousand dollars a year, after all costs. Not only that, gardening is very satisfying and the food is very tasty!
Tim’s blog can bee seen at It’s a wonderful example of what can be done from a small space garden.

At the moment we have a spectacular display of sunflowers which are brightening up our garden – once their display is done the seeds will be fed to the chooks.

Now to some other tips.

Lorraine from Hamilton has this recipe for cleaning and softening fabric. “I use a 2L clean milk bottle to which I add 1L white vinegar and 1L of boiled cold water. Mix together and let stand for a week.”

Karen from Palmerston North has a tip to freshen up a smelly mattress (she says it works on carpets also). “Mix a few drops of essential oil with one cup baking soda. Sprinkle on mattress and let it sit for 1 hour before vacuuming. Baking soda will absorb any dirt, moisture, odours, while the essential oil will leave things smelling fresh”.