About Absent Gardener

My garden, 3 hours from where I live, is gradually forming out of 2 acres of paddock on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. I knew I would be an absent gardener from the start and my hopes weren’t high that there would be anything left by the time the rabbits, hares, and wandering cattle had their way in the garden while we were away bringing home the bacon.

I’ve been very surprised that we’ve been able to grow a large chunk of our vegetables while not being here to water and protect them. It does mean we do more ‘sharing’ than I think is fair – the pheasants get at least half of the parsnips, the hares are trying to carry out their own landscaping plan, the rabbits eat the tops off the carrots and regularly excavate under tomatoes and trees, and we occasionally arrive in the dark to find the neighbour’s cattle stamping and chewing their way through the young fruit trees and shrubs. However we’ve figured out how to protect most of the kumara (sweet potatoes) and we try to grow a few more of everything than we need.

Our land is clay with fine back acidic topsoil in places. With some sand and compost and manure and lime it’s pretty good for growing and doesn’t dry out too quickly in summer. The West wind in Winter and Spring is a brutal cold force to be reckoned with and much of our tree planting so far has been native trees for shelter as well as for birds and bees. We generally get enough rain in Winter and Spring to store for the summer, but all of our water comes from rain collected from the roof so we don’t have enough to water many plants.

I’m trying to grow as much of our vegetables and fruit as I can organically because it tastes better and makes me feel good. I see growing beautiful and scented and interesting plants, understanding more about the soil, how it’s made and what lives in it, and the other bugs and birds and creatures, as kind of like creating an artwork I can live in.