Toni and Hugh Macfarlane | Chefs

Helensville, North Auckland New Zealand | October 2016

"We live on a budget. I'm interested in growing as much as I can, and buying as little as possible’... more words below images...

Toni and Hugh Macfarlane Chefs | Helensville, North Auckland New Zealand | October 2016

Our garden is south facing at the back of the house on a ridge. To the West is the beautiful Kaipara Harbour. We have 3 and 1/2 acres that we are slowly turning into a food forest, orchard, paddocks for grazing, native trees, flower beds and vegetable gardens. It’s a constant work in progress.

We’ve only been here for one year four months. During that time we’ve worked pretty hard to get the garden into shape. We’re on a budget, so everything we do is usually recycled or swapped. For instance we make the mulch ourselves out of pruned trees on the property, our raised beds are made out of old pellets which my beautiful gardening assistant (Hugh) builds for me, and we swap seeds with locals. 

We’re fortunate to have amazing loamy soil that I add cow and chicken poo to and compost. It’s pretty dry up here especially in the summer, so mulch mulch mulch is my number one gardening tip. Another good tip is if you have ants constantly in your Worm Farm, stick the legs into cans filled with some water. This should foil them!

Most things grow easily here: potatoes, kumara, parsley, garlic, a variety of fruit trees and  brassicas. I do struggle to grow Broad Beans. I think our ferocious winds knock them about too much and maybe we need more bees.

Our gardening philosophy is loosely based on permaculture and organic methods. In addition we try and operate the garden at zero cost, and I try to provision the kitchen with as much as possible from the garden. As a result I’m a big fan of dehydrating fruits, herbs and flowers. Dried onion weed flower is a great garnish for salads. Dried oranges, apricots, bananas, pineapple, apples and tomatoes all make great snacks, or garnishes for salads and sweets (click here for Toni’s Raw Avocado Cheesecake recipe.) I make my own Tomato Sauce, and our pantry has a ready supply of jams I’ve made from the fruit trees in our orchard. I also make our own bread, and we’re having a go at growing Shitake mushrooms. I also plan to make cheese from the cows milk.

I currently spend about 1-2 hours a week in the garden. Gardening inspirations include: my Dad for his Irish potato growing ways, my Uncle, Chelsea flower show, Gardeners World (especially Monty Don) Sissinghurst and Martin Crawford (food forest)

I absolutely love being able to grow something from seed and then turn it into something delicious to eat! I find packets of seeds like packets of lollies, so many delicious choices but without the sugar. 

Spring is my favourite time of the year, both for having a good tidy up and planting for summer. 

What’s your number one garden pest? And how do you feel about sharing your garden with them?I'm happy to share within reason. However I do keep a badminton racquet on hand to try and manage the cabbage butterflies. (I’m pretty rubbish at getting them). Weeding the forever present kikuyu grass is also a chore and I’m constantly trying to think of ways of outfoxing it to keep it out of my vege gardens. 

We share our house and garden with a menagerie of animals: Thelma, Louise and Chooky the hens; domestic cat Fred and Murry the wild cat, Daphne & Violet our lamb lawn mowers. Doris the jersey cow mum and her calf Toffee and her adopted calf Grace.I love being outside enjoying the garden of an evening with a cheeseboard a G and T or a glass of wine, my hubby and the cats.