dolphin 001 flight from ledron 001 Tui Garden 001 quaky cat 001 teddy bears promise 001 best loved bear 001
   I’m a writer as well as a gardener, and these are just a handful of over 200 publications I’ve written for young readers.

You can see my writer-profile on the NZ Book Council site.

  Check out my books and articles here: National Library



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My flatmates for a few days – until their tops dry off!

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April 7, 2018 · 9:50 pm

Care-free Kombucha – so easy to make!


Kombucha is so refreshing, and so easy to make.



1 litre boiled water (cooled).

¼ cup white sugar

2 -3 black or green tea bags (never use flavoured teas)

3/4 cup of kombucha liquid

1 SCOBY (to obtain a SCOBY, check out the facebook page: Fermenting Freaks Forever! New Zealand where member requently offer them to members).

First ferment

Add the boiling water to a glass or ceramic bowl. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Add the tea bags. Leave to completely cool. Stir in the kombucha liquid and add the SCOBY. Cover with a clean cloth secured at the edges with an elastic band. Place on a sunny window ledge (or, in winter, a seed raising heat pad). Leave to ferment until the liquid is no longer sweet and the SCOBY has thickened.

Lift out the SCOBY and place it in a lidded jar with 1 cup of kombucha liquid to cover it. Place in the fridge. (This will store your SCOBY until you are ready to begin your next brew).

Second Ferment

Strain the liquid into plastic soda bottles (you can add flavour at this stage in the form of, for example, some pieces of fresh ginger or a squeeze of lemon. Screw the caps on the bottles. Check the bottles daily, and if pressure builds up, release it by unscrewing the caps and then retightening the lids. Leave the kombucha for a few days to absorb flavours and develop a slight ‘crackle’ (to make the kombucha extra fizzy, just add a little soda).

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You’ll never guess where I found this plastic!


The hidden horror in my garden.

I found these plastics in the top 10 cm of just 5 square metres of my garden. They include fragments of weed matting, fruit labels, the polypropylene netting of the tea bags I wrongly assumed were biodegradable, tiny pieces of fabric, and random shreds of wrapping.

Research has already shown microbeads to be present in worm casts, and that polystyrene beads can be taken up by nematodes. The very same worms that help break up the soil and move nutrients around in the garden are also moving microplastics deeper into the soil.

Unless I – unless we all – take greater care and stop bringing plastics (in any form) onto our properties, our gardens may one day be in as much trouble as our oceans.




Got the Gojis

I raised these goji from seed and they are now in their third year and ready to be planted out in my developing food forest. Will they survive the ravages of the hungry kereru, the crashing of possums and the nibbling of rabbits? Watch this space!


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Grafting a Success (to me, anyway!)

Neither a pretty nor a brilliant graft – but it was my first and it worked!


Have you always been too overwhelmed by the presumed complexity of apple tree grafting to give it a whirl? Me, too – until last year. Daunted by the multiplicity of instructions, the warnings, and lists of do’s and don’ts, I almost went through life without ever realising mere mortals can do this kind of stuff. But, in the end, frustration got the better of me and I grabbed the secateurs and a sharp knife and went out and grafted for all I was worth. This season, although the results may not look brilliant (and I probably left the grafting tape on too long), I’ve scored a 70% success rate. So, what are you waiting for? Be bold and brave and source some good rootstock (a tree specially grown as one that is good to graft onto) or simply eye up a tree you already have growing. You have nothing to lose and all the excitement of watching your grafts succeed.



Yakon are Here to Stay! Winter them over – NOW!

Here’s how to divide your yakon, and winter them over in the greenhouse.

#After digging, sever the stem 20cm above the rhizomes (the knobbly bits which grow above the edible tubers).

#Gently break the rhizomes apart (or slice them with a sharp knife if necessary. (For best results each rhizome should weigh no less than 80-120 grams.)

#Dust the broken/cut surfaces with copper powder.

#Half fill large bags or pots with compost. Place the rhizome on top and cover with more compost. Add a mulch (such as sawdust) to suppress weeds.

#Store the bagged rhizomes in the greenhouse (or in a sheltered spot where frost will not reach).

#The rhizomes will send up new shoots and leaves. After all danger of frost is past, plant the new yakon into the garden.

Top tip: Yakon sweeten 2-3 weeks after harvest so don’t be disappointed if your                                                               freshly dug tubers taste bland.

                                 DO YOU GROW YACON?




Get the Low-down on Growing Giant Yummy Yams

Yams are odd creatures – they have their own peculiar set of demands. But growing them is easy when you know what they like.

 Here’s how I do it:

  • When preparing the bed, keep your soil light by digging in plenty of compost.
  • Biff on some seaweed over winter and let it rot down.
  • Hold back on the nitrogen (it only grows tops – and it’s the tubers you want to encourage).
  • Add phosphorus – lots!
  • Source your yams from farmers’ markets, friends, garden centres, Trade Me. Steer clear of supermarket yams as they are often treated to stop them sprouting.
  • Plant in spring as soon as the first frosts are over (yams like a long growing season).
  • Plant only evenly shaped tubers that are no less than 6cm long.
  • Plant in holes about 15cm deep and 15cm apart.
  • Harvest yams after the autumn equinox (late March in NZ – when day and night are of equal length).
  • If you live in a frosty part of the country, harvest a week or two after the frost has deadened the tops thoroughly.
  • Wash and dry the yams and store them, covered, in a cool, dark place (as you would potatoes).

Top Tip: hungry birds like to harvest yams, too. As soon as the tops die off, cover the garden bed with a net to keep the birds from pecking the yams before you harvest them.

Did you know: 

Yams come in different colours – yellow, pink, and orange. Plant a variety.

Yams are self-mulching because the tops grow rapidly to cover the ground.

If you have any yam-growing tips, or questions, please leave a comment & I’ll get back to you pronto!