Our District

Green Gardener

Hannah Zwartz is the Kāpiti Coast District Council's Green Gardener, she gives advice to groups and individuals in the community about water conservation and sustainable gardening practices. Hannah writes a monthly gardening column for On To It.



Enjoy the garden! Long evenings and early dawns are made for being outside. A few minutes of planting or watering make great stress relief over the silly season. Find out what to plant and tips for watering.

Yes, it’s dry. Even the weeds are wilting, and the soil in my garden beds is already dusty and dry. Sandy soils can become hydrophobic, which means soil particles actually repel water. To get the soil saturated again takes time, repeated slow watering, and forking in compost.

The longterm solution is twofold – slow watering and building up the soil to hold moisture, by adding compost and mulch

Here's Hannah's favourite Christmas Recipes from the garden.



Things are at their freshest, juiciest green: It’s a great season for lettuce, parsley and silver beet, so make the most of these before they go off to seed. Top tip: If your silver beet is starting to flower, try eating the buds, before the flowers open – they taste slightly nutty. Stir-fry or steam them like broccoli, or dip them in eggy batter and fry. Read more.

This year I’m growing tomatoes in big pots and tubs - it’s sunny and sheltered and I can keep an eye out for any bugs or care that’s needed.

Growing tomatoes in pots makes it easier to give them the conditions they need: lots of sun, support for the taller types and plenty of air circulation (to avoid fungal blights). But the challenge is to provide enough food and water. In hot weather, pots might still need watering daily, so I’m trying a bottle-wick watering system. Read more




Get in shape: Now that spring’s fully sprung and evenings are longer there’s plenty to do outdoors. Planting, weeding  and of course covering the soil with mulch. Read more

Does community gardening mean having one large garden?  Not always. It can be as simple as gardening as a community in various people’s backyards. Read more.

The Great Paekākāriki Potato Patch will be planted, in a community event followed by kai and merriment, on Saturday October 7. Read more


Spring is here! And with it, a lot of rain.

Heavy downpours, like those we’ve seen recently, test the limits of paved areas and paths. Rain falling on hard surfaces- driveways, concrete, patios – can’t sink in, as it can on gardens or lawns. Unfortunately it often ends up dirtying our streams and waterways. Raingardens and permeable paving provide the solution. Read more.

Its time to get your gardens set up for summer - get rid of the weeds before the take hold, plant some citrus, make compost, devide and multiply useful perennials. Find out how.




Wild Greens. Growing food takes a lot of care and effort, right? Well, yes it does, but not always. Some of the most useful and productive plants in my garden can look after, water - and even plant - themselves. Read more.

Late winter is all about preparation: getting seeds ready, building up soil and making plans so you can hit the ground running next month. Read more.


Mulch Now!!!  The soil is nicely wet but still warm, as it cools down more slowly than the air. Seal in these lovely soil conditions with a good layer of mulch. Read more

Matariki is the start of the year, a time for new beginnings. Our instinct can be to hide indoors in winter, but it’s a great time for soil building. Manure, leaves, seaweed from winter storms, dead plants, grass clippings, weeds (preferably without seeds or roots) – all these can all be piled up to rot down over winter and be ready for planting in spring. Read more.




Gimme Shelter: As we’re hunting out woolly slippers and draught-proofing windows, it’s time also to think about shelter in the garden. Just as the most effective winter clothing involves layering - merinos, scarf, waterproofing – the best shelter in gardens is also built up in several layers. Read more


Cover up: As we humans reach for extra layers of clothing and bedding, spare a thought for your soil. A protective layer prevents damage from winter wind and rain. This could be mulch, a compost heap, seaweed or a cover crop… Remember, if you don’t cover up your soil, Mother Nature will do it for you - with weeds! Read more.

Garlic: Rust never sleeps: Last year Kāpiti gardeners struggled with rust on their garlic due to the wet summer.  Rust, which causes rust-coloured spots on foliage, is spread by spores and thrives in humid conditions - and there’s not a lot we can do about the weather. But there are some things you can do to prevent rust this season. Read more.


The seasons have turned: It’s well and truly autumn, and with or without rain, cooler nights mean more soil moisture. The ground is still warm, however, making April the best month to re-sow lawns. It’s the start of the planting season for trees and shrubs, while seedlings of lettuce and other greens are less likely to be fried to a crisp now things are cooler. Read more.

Building soil. Autumn/Winter is a good time to build up soil to feed your plants over the next growing season. Find out six things you can do for your soil over winter.


March in the Garden: It’s been a strange summer – but whatever your harvests have been, this is the time of year when gardens start to look a bit seedy. A big clean up can help morale: recycle gone-to-seed lettuces and dried out calendula on the compost pile. Read more.

The ultimate plant food. Seaweed is an almost complete plant food- Irish farmers grew potatoes without soil purely by layering seaweed onto sand and rock. Read more.


February in the Garden: This month the regular rain has made it hard to assess the success of Hannah’s irrigation projects. Instead, there’s been lots of lush growth but also fungal diseases. Rust on garlic and blight on tomatoes have been common issues. Find out how to grow great blight free tomatoes and what to plant next.

Community Gardens: Each year more and more community gardens are sprouting up across the district. It’s a great way to meet like-minded gardeners and learn new skills. Here's a lineup of our local community gardens



Christmas in the Garden: 'Christmas Day for me is about getting together with whanau and not stressing about a big cooked meal'. Hannah shares her favourite Christmas recipes and her usual tips for the month. Read more

A simple garden watering hack: Wicking is THE most efficient way of watering plants because the plant actually sucks up exactly what it needs. Read more.



Isn’t it too early to think about irrigation? This year we’re trialling several underground systems in community gardens. These need to be installed at planting time so as not to damage roots later – even though they may not be needed until January. It’s all about getting water deep into the soil, making deep-rooted plants that won’t wilt when things get hot. Read more.


Now that spring’s fully sprung and evenings are longer there’s plenty to do outdoors. Planting, weeding (keep one step ahead by getting them before they seed) and of course covering the soil with mulch (save yourself some watering), and also to prevent weeds and erosion, feed plants and worms, and hold moisture. Read more


In September, even non-gardeners feel the call of the backyard and with good reason- early spring is a great window of opportunity to get your gardens set up for summer; the trick is to find the sunny hours between the spring showers. Next month is all about the veggie patch but September, while it’s still cold, is time to pay some attention to the rest of the garden. Read more.



Some winters it seems as if the grass never stops growing. Usually in July gardeners get a few weeks off from ongoing lawn mowing. This year not so much. Warm conditions due to climate change mean gardeners have to be adaptable and resilient. So if life gives you long lawns, make compost! Read more.


Mulch Now! The soil is nicely wet but still warm, as it cools down more slowly than the air. Seal in these lovely soil conditions with a good layer of mulch. It keeps away weeds and helps to retain this moisture in the soil.

DIY garden hacks! You can hone your DIY skills in the garden this month by taking part No8 Wire week. Learn about building up soil, pruning, composting, building garden beds, rain barrels, bio digesters and more. Read more.


June 2016

Welcome to winter: With the shortest day almost here, growth is slowing down. The dormant season is a good time to prune deciduous trees and vines such as pip fruit (apples and pears), figs, grapes and roses. Citrus can also be pruned over winter. After pruning, feed with compost and mulch deeply. Read more.

May 2016

It’s Planting Season! See how fast the grass is growing? From now until June is a great window of planting opportunity. Warm, moist soil means new plants can establish roots over winter, and be ready for droughts next summer. Read more.

April 2016

The seasons have turned: It’s well and truly autumn and, with or without rain, cooler nights mean more soil moisture. The ground is still warm, however, making April the best month to re-sow lawns. It’s the start of the planting season for trees and shrubs, while seedlings of lettuce and other greens are less likely to be fried to a crisp now things are cooler. Read more.

March 2016

One great thing about gardening is how you always get a second (even a third or fourth) chance. What other pastime is there where your mistakes can be ripped out, piled up in a heap, and recycled into rich compost, food for your next attempts? If your garden is looking a little seedy, beat the late summer blues with a big clean out. Read more.

 February 2016

As we enter the season of abundance (zucchini and beans, anyone?) it becomes clear just how greatly plants need water, and how gratefully they respond to being well watered. It’s the difference between a luxuriant lemon tree and a sad, twiggy one. Read more.


Magenta spreen

December 2015

It’s still peak growing season, through until midsummer solstice on December 22. After that, days start shortening and plants put less energy into lush foliage, and more into making flowers and fruit. Read more

November 2015

In November, even non-gardeners feel a stirring urge to get outside. Evenings are longer, mornings lighter, and with growth at its fastest between now and the December solstice, everything looks fresh and lush. Read more

September 2015

More information about Green Gardener services

More seasonal garden advice

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