Karen and Islay Harley | Mother and daughter gardening team

Canterbury Plains, Canterbury, New Zealand, March 2012

I love the fact that we can provide for most of our vegetable needs from the garden and we know what has gone into it. Islay loves picking stuff and eating it.


Karen and Islay Harley Mother and daughter gardening team | Canterbury Plains, Canterbury, New Zealand, March 2012



‘After the February 2012 earthquake I had to go out and work in the garden, it brought me back to earth.’

Our garden covers about half an acre on a north facing, very exposed part of the Canterbury plains. Its on an old lake flat so the soil is quite good – clay loam which is very light, wet in winter and dry in summer. We have had the garden for 10 years now. Islay and I spend about 6 hours per week in it.

My dad and I built the garden together, he has always been an inspiration to me as a constant grower. These days I’m also inspired by Kaye Baxter and Elliot Coleman.

I mostly garden with my daughter Islay and Woofers (Workers on organic farms)

We grow good beetroot, garlic, onions, carrots and potatoes. Its not really warm enough here for tasty tomatoes, summers are dry so lettuces are often bitter and brassicas get hit by cabbage white butterflies. Cabbage whites are probably our worst pest, we are going to get Islay a badminton racket next summer! We mostly plant brassicas in late summer when the butterflies die out to avoid caterpillar damage.

We have two Kune Kune pigs and a sheep that thinks it is a pig – it even grunts like one. We’ve also got 7 chickens.

I love the fact that we can provide for most of our vegetable needs from the garden and we know what has gone into it. Islay loves picking stuff and eating it.

The best time of day is dusk – it brings a nice light, its calm. You see things better then. I tend to get all fidgety by the end of winter and spring is a great release, it’s my favourite season.

My favourite tool is my chisel hoe, Islays’s is a hook weeder. We love working in the garden together. We talk about what produce is ready, what to pick, about creating new gardens, what stuff tastes like…Being out there and working physically gives us a connection with the earth.

I would always recommend growing things that suit the area and conditions of any garden. Providing food for my family involves me working with the life force in the earth. You have to take notice of what is going on around you, what the season is, what the moon is doing. It all relates to growing.

My advice to beginners would always be to just get started, start where you are comfortable and see what works. Islay recommends growing stuff that you know you’ll eat.