December in the Urban Garden.

Written by Benjamin. December 2017

As this is my first post I will start off by introducing ourselves and our context. We are Whitney, Benjamin and baby Jude and we have recently moved from our old home in the Otways region (west of Melbourne) to Kotare Village, the home of the Koanga Institute, in the Wairoa district of Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. Finding ourselves in a new home but gardenless, we were offered the opportunity by Kay Baxter, to make the Urban Garden at Koanga our garden for a year while we settle in and take time to design and plan our own home garden at the village. As this opportunity includes a weekly mentorship with Kay and the chance to pick the brains of the rest of the garden crew at Koanga on a daily basis, plus a wide variety of fruit trees already in production in the garden, we naturally accepted the offer without missing a beat!

Previously our gardening experience consisted of 4 years in a rental section in which as each spring approached we would commandeer another chunk of lawn to expand our haphazard production. All our knowledge came from books so naturally our garden was a mishmash of sexy techniques, somewhat poorly executed. We found that there was ten thousand voices in the gardening space and in trying to listen to them all we ended up feeling mostly confused. Some things we did well and were incredibly rewarding; tomatoes, passionfruit, zucchinis, potatoes, garlic and herbs were forthcoming and abundant, whereas fennel, carrots, beetroot, peas and chili’s were much more hit and miss, we couldn’t grow brassicas to save ourselves and we couldn’t even get celery to germinate!

So we took over the Koanga Urban Garden a few months ago in early spring this year, which began with 5 weeks of courses to align us with the Kaupapa of the Koanga Institute (A kaupapa is a set of values, principles and strategies, which a group have agreed on as a foundation for their actions). Starting with a 2 week Permaculture Design Course in which we learnt a design process that can be applied to any situation. Followed by a week spent with Kay Baxter and Jodi Roebuck, which covered growing nutrient dense food in the context of the bio-intensive gardening methodology.  A week spent with Shaked From focusing on trees and a week with the Koanga team devoted to the Weston Price principles and learning about what makes healthy people. This was incredibly empowering for us and has made gardening a much simpler and therefore enjoyable process!

Since then it has been all go working on our summer garden. We started the process by making a plan with the help of the Garden Planner and the Koanga Garden Guide. Planted our seeds into trays, pricked them out a la bio-intensive, fed the soil, prepared the garden beds, transplanted our plants into the garden, protected them and watched ’em grow!


Our first litter of kits (baby rabbits) has been kindled and is growing healthy and strong. It’s amazing to see how quickly they transition from being hairless, helpless blobs to furry, fluffy, photogenic time takerer-upers…

We added two young hens to our flock, which now makes it five hens and a rooster. We took some of the old hens out for a few days to make the transition a little less brutal for the newbies, there was a small amount of bloodshed as they established the new pecking order (chickens can be quite ferocious) but they are now playing happy families. Naturally this disrupted their laying routine.

In the orchard we picked more than a thousand mandarins in early spring off the one tree. Lemons have been almost as abundant but not nearly as easy to consume en mass. White, red and black currants as well as white raspberries, marionberries, gooseberries and boysenberries have provided a delicious and colorful backdrop to December. Jude Lewis is happily allowing the changing seasons to wash over him in a paroxysm of delight as each new freshly plucked fruit excites his taste buds, nourishes his body and leavens his soul.

We spend about an hour every day watering and harvesting from the garden and caring for the animals. Each week we spend about two hours on garden maintenance mainly weeding the beds, maintaining the paths and foliar feeding. Other time spent in the garden in December was; emptying the soldier fly castings into the worm farms: ½ hour, building support structures for peas, tomatoes, pumpkins and eggplants: 3 hours, water blasting and rewiring rabbit pens: 2 hours, sowing and transplanting (mainly flowers and herbs to fill gaps): 1 hour

Yield during December:

Lemons: 10kg

Black Currants: 1kg

White Currants: 0.5kg

Red Currants: 3kg

Gooseberries: 0.4kg

White Raspberries: 1kg

Marionberries: 1kg

Boysenberries: 0.1g

Rhubarb: 2kg

Eggs: 3-dozen

Lettuce: 2kg

Rocket: 2kg

Purslane: 0.8kg

Amaranth: 0.4kg

Radishes: 2kg

Welsh Bunching Onions: 6 bunches

Peas: 5kg

Nettle: 0.5kg