Nicky Simes | Film Production Manager

Morningside, Auckland | February 2015

No matter how small your space is - even a courtyard with no spare soil, you can always grow something. To grow your own herbs is gold..." more words below images

Nicky Simes Film Production Manager | Morningside, Auckland | February 2015

Our garden is located on a quarter acre section with a north easterly (morning sun) sheltered aspect. We’ve been here for 12 years and in that time we’ve developed raised beds, created gardens around the perimeter of the property, plus 6 half barrels, two beds all up comprising 24 square metres.

The soil is a mixture of compost and mulch I’ve added over the years. I grew up on a farm in Wainui (opposite Akaroa), Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, and as a result a kind of ‘feed the soil, respect the land, recycle’ mantra is in my DNA.

My grandfather was a great gardener and inspiration. He had an enormous vegetable garden in Christchurch with an asparagus bed and fruit trees.  He made his own potting mix and compost.  His sheds had wire mesh racks for drying onions, garlic, potatoes and apples.   The smell of them I will never forget – all-pervading aromas of earth and fustiness.

My husband Mark and his dad Bill, who was visiting from Montreal, built the garden borders with Macrocarpa sleepers. Mark and I often garden together, and sometimes my daughter Frankie joins me too, or I’m out here by myself. Having an edible garden is a pretty fundamental aspect of who I am, and I’m generally in it for all up one day per week.

Herbs (golden majoram, mint, thyme, parsley, rosemary, sage, lemongrass), mesclun, all varieties of lettuce, silverbeet, artichokes, fennel (my sister-in-law put me on to adding the seeds into salads – really tasty), citrus (lemons and limes), quince, figs and an occasional pomegranate all grow successfully.

Celeriac continues to confound me and I struggle with chives!  

Sadly, at this stage we don’t have any livestock other than our lovely wire haired fox terrier, Lily. One day I’d love to have some babydoll sheep to trim the lawn.

What is your number 1 pest and if you do, how do you deal with it?
Thrips – they love my chives and infest them. I find a jet of water helps fend them off or soapy water but they are still a challenge.

My biggest chore but also something I consider a necessity is annually wheel barrowing  3 cubic metres of compost into my garden. I also regularly take my wheel barrow and my daughter around the corner to gather pine needles from the neighbours tree. They make a perfect mulch/ground cover for the paths around the garden, and they’re very soft underfoot. I also consider watering a bit of a chore. I guess it’s my farm girl mentality but I do try and encourage tough love in the garden. I want the plants to be hardy and get through a hot summer without daily watering.

Being out in the garden is very therapeutic.  A bit like meditation for me. I feel very at peace and my mind settles.  A very good thing for an OCD Virgo like myself.  

The best time to be in the garden? Anytime is great, but early morning and evenings  (bar the mosquitos) are my preferences.

My favourite season in the garden is Spring – the garden comes alive with colour and growth.  Everything grows so fast and that’s satisfying.  I love the rain as much as the sun.  

When I first had some garden space in Auckland, I went on Trade & Exchange and bought some tools from an old guy who had no need for them anymore.  The spade is one of the best I’ve ever had.  I’ve replaced the handle but the edge and size is just perfect.  I also
love my little trowel with the ageing wooden handle I got from Grandpa Kent and the Wolf Gardening tools from my Aunt and Uncle for our wedding present.

My garden gives me herbs and salad ingredients (I’m a great believer that there is always a meal in the garden); plus a sense of contentment and satisfaction.

I love to sit from our verandah with a g&t (and friends or children) in our comfy chairs and look out on our garden.   It gives me no end of pleasure.

When plants get eaten by pests I take it quite personally.  I lost the best lime tree I’ve ever grown this Christmas and I lamented for a month.  It quite depressed me.  I’m determined to grow even more citrus now than ever.

After hauling up a citrus tree by the roots, because it was not performing and in the wrong place, replanting it and seeing it thrive despite borer and rough treatment is my highest gardening moment so far.  It’s now covered in fruit and I love it for its tenacity.

What is your number one gardening tip? No matter how small your space is  - even a courtyard with no spare soil, you can always grow something.   To grow your own herbs is gold and it’s not difficult with good soil, sun, water and a spot of tlc.