Ben Bayly & family: Cara, Ella & Mila | Chef

Glen Eden, Auckland | December 2013

"It's all about time on task - the more you garden the better you get at it" ..... more words below images

Ben Bayly & family: Cara, Ella & Mila Chef | Glen Eden, Auckland | December 2013

After 3 ½ years of living here we are still discovering this property, its north facing but there are several different aspects that give varied growing conditions. When we first moved in we took about six months to plan things. After realizing that a lawn wasn’t going to work we started on the vegetable gardens. We now have a series of raised beds that have allowed us to create a good growing medium on top of the clay fill that we began with.

My wife Cara and our daughters Ella and Mila spend about ten minutes every day in the garden after school, the first thing they do is a berry hunt and then its weed pulling and flower picking. My time for gardening is at weekends. During the week I run at super high revs and I get back late so it’s a treat to spend time with the girls. Being a chef requires a lot of stamina – you’re on your feet all the time with constant mental focus. Gardening offers the physicality of turning soil and lifting rocks but with a quieter mind.

Two great gardeners in my life aremy mother Marie and my grandmother Joan Green. When I was a boy we had a huge garden and every year the vegetable beds would get bigger and the lawn smaller and smaller. The gardens always changed – we’d spend lots of time visiting local garden centres and my mother and grandmother would be there for hours picking out new plants. Every summer gran would drench the gardens with water – probably draining the Waikato river. It would drive Ray my grandfather wild!

When I was at chef school I lived with my grandparents and I remember asking my grandmother what she wanted for her birthday. Her answer was ‘A trailer load of mushroom compost’– she not only told me where to get it but where to hire the trailer too!

Its really rewarding to see you nurture something, to watch it grow. We garden for satisfaction, not primarily for food. We are not clever enough yet to have our garden feed our family as much as we’d like. We are still young gardeners, just seeing things grow is enough for us. We are still reading books and seeing what works. Every year we master something new, in about 20 years we should be good gardeners.

We have a big garden on a small section so one thing we do struggle with is finding places to process garden waste. We have a worm farm and a compost bin that just about handles our kitchen waste.

I love early evening in the garden after we’ve spent a day working on it. Its great to sit back and reflect - you can see that you have actually altered something, its very satisfying.

Cara and I both like to plan ahead and work out when its best to put things in. In the end its all about ‘time on task’ – the more you garden, the better you get at it.