New Zealand Garden Diary: Cecil's Successor - Cuthbert the Cucumber

This is a challenging year to grow cucumbers outdoors in Lyttelton. Not because of the shorter growing season (Lyttelton is inside an ancient volcanic crater and when the days get shorter we lose the sun before Christchurch does), but because we've had so little rain. I have planted Cuthbert in an area that I can soak with the hose. There is also a lot of mulch there. I prepared the ground by digging in masses of manure and compost well before I planted the cucumber. Last year, I got 15 cucumbers from Cecil. I've had one so far from Cuthbert, but he's got some time to catch up.

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Click to see options for using the image

Newsletter Extract: A Hot and Dry New Zealand Summer

Canterbury is one of the driest areas in New Zealand but even by Canterbury standards this summer has been exceptionally dry and there is a worry that we may have forest fires of the like that the Nelson area has been experiencing. My folks are visiting in March, so I'm sure it will rain then, but I'm hoping that it rains tonight, as forecast, as we need it.

I am having to water the garden every day. Unlike other parts of the world and even other parts of the country, Christchurch doesn't charge for water being used, which means that people often let their sprinklers run for a long time, at all times of the day (when a water main broke under our house when we were away, it gushed for months without anyone noticing). I usually water early morning, or evening, but it has been scorching in the middle of the day.

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Click to see options for using the image

It is noticeable in the garden which areas I'm able to reach with the sprinkler or hose. Most of the rest of the garden is looking very crispy. I have to hike up to the top with a can to water my precious Bramley (precious because most Kiwis think a good cooking apple is something like a Granny Smith or a Golden Delicious - tsk.), but it's worth it.

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Click to see options for using the image


This is an extract of my Illustrated Epistle, which goes out in the middle of the month. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a cartoonist (specifically, mine). I'd love it if you signed up at the bottom of this page, or here:

http://eepurl.com/cCOOeD

Or head to the archive to read more here.

New Zealand Garden Diary: Butternut Squash, Possums and Trapping Goodnaturedly

I’m very concerned that the possums we see and hear around our house are going to lay into my fruit, veggies and young trees (they often ring bark them, which kills them).

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Click to see options for using the image

But then I found out that the Summit Road Society lends out possum traps in the Lyttelton area. You can borrow one for 3 months and buy them at a subsidised rate.

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Click for options for image use

So I installed one on Waitangi Day (see earlier post), which seemed appropriate, since possums are not native to New Zealand, having been introduced here from Australia for the fur trade. By the 1980s, they had spread the length and breadth of the country, devastating local flora and fauna in the process.

It should have been fairly easy to install the trap. I selected a pear tree at the top of our section, far away from the house (though they are not shy about coming right up to our front steps).

Initially I thought that the gnarly pear tree trunk was making it hard to install the trap

Initially I thought that the gnarly pear tree trunk was making it hard to install the trap

Then I realised I should have had my reading glasses on to read the instructions and put the tree mount the correct way round.

Then I realised I should have had my reading glasses on to read the instructions and put the tree mount the correct way round.

It was then easy to slide the main device onto the mount

It was then easy to slide the main device onto the mount

This is the possum bait. It is not attractive to cats (I wouldn’t want to trap the neighbours’ ones!).

This is the possum bait. It is not attractive to cats (I wouldn’t want to trap the neighbours’ ones!).

After unscrewing the cap, you push on the bitey thing.

After unscrewing the cap, you push on the bitey thing.

Then you either squeeze the bottle or tap the bottle against the tree to charge it, wiping off any excess (I smeared this on the tree below the trap).

Then you either squeeze the bottle or tap the bottle against the tree to charge it, wiping off any excess (I smeared this on the tree below the trap).

goodnature-A12-possumtrap-installation-07.jpg
You insert the bite cartridge into the trap at the top.

You insert the bite cartridge into the trap at the top.

Then you remove the black cap from the gas cartridge.

Then you remove the black cap from the gas cartridge.

And screw it in at the bottom of the trap. You will hear a slight hiss as the gas canister opens and charges the trap.

And screw it in at the bottom of the trap. You will hear a slight hiss as the gas canister opens and charges the trap.

Hopefully the possum will climb the tree and head towards the bait putting his head in here, being killed very quickly.

Hopefully the possum will climb the tree and head towards the bait putting his head in here, being killed very quickly.

You can also attach a counter, as the gas canister is good for 12 possums, but sometimes the carcasses can disappear… I had to press the counter to zero it.

You can also attach a counter, as the gas canister is good for 12 possums, but sometimes the carcasses can disappear… I had to press the counter to zero it.

Okay possums, my pear tree is ready for you!

Okay possums, my pear tree is ready for you!

Living in New Zealand: Why Having Cats is Different to Owning Dogs

When I was a kid, I had a cat, Tac. I loved that cat and I was very upset when she died in my first year of university. But I grew up in England and having a cat in New Zealand is very different. The bird life has not evolved with this predator (or any mammalian predator) and cats kill native birds in countless numbers.

Yes , dogs can kill native birds too. But there are a lot more bylaws here regarding dogs than there are for cats. Dogs have to be registered and are expected to be kept in at night. In most places in New Zealand they are not allowed to roam free and have to be kept under the control of the owners. When we had a dog, he always walked close to us, But he used to be terrorised by a local cat was allowed to walk wherever she wanted.

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Click to see options for using the image

That was pretty funny. It's not funny what cats do to the native birds when they're allowed to roam free and kill at will. So when I saw this book on a recent trip to the library, I felt I had to leave a note.

New Zealand cats are murderers and should be controlled the way dogs are. They should not be let out at night and they should be microchipped. I'd also like to see them kept on a lead when outside their property as they are always shitting on mine.

Passive aggressiveness at its best.

Book about cats in New Zealand