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HelloGarden is so happy to meet you in our first monthly newsletter. Without your interest in us we wouldn’t be here, and we hope this will be a very rewarding gardening and ‘all things related’ journey for us.

First, a little of our backstory…track back some years and I was living in an iconic 60s central Auckland apartment. I loved it but there was only a tiny ledge where I could grow a few pots of chilies and basil, and my gardening genes were beginning to kick in! My mother and grandparents on both sides were wonderful gardeners, and not only was I yearning for a garden, I’d also begun studying landscape architecture. So my new partner and I took the huge risk of buying a house while I continued to study and work from home. Trouble was our back section wasn’t terribly sunny. The top parking area was but hey that was all concrete!

My west-facing Freemans Bay apartment in Auckland central.

Desperate to get started with a salad and herb garden but short of both time and money, I hit upon what I thought might be a solution: buy ex-sheep wool bags, very large and durable, and fill them with the best growing mix I could create, plant them out in our sunniest spot and see what survived. Three months later I had flourishing gardens: mizuma, lettuce, rocket, mustard greens, beetroot leaves, fennel, kale, silverbeet, sorrel, cherry tomatoes, edible flowers and a range of herbs. We were now eating fresh organic salads every day with edible flowers and herbs as well. However as summer grew more intense the water I sprayed onto my gardens daily, disappeared astoundingly quickly, after all these were just bags sitting on concrete. Winter was fine, but summer felt very unsustainable, especially as Auckland’s water shortage became apparent. I persuaded my partner to help me build a retaining wall and planting bay, and from then on there was no looking back, winter and summer we ate fresh, nutritious organic salads daily. We no longer bought plastic-bagged salads, sprayed with goodness knows what and soon rotting in our fridge. Plus nothing in any supermarket matched the array of greens we were eating daily.

One of my four wool-bag gardens.

Our eventual retaining wall garden bay.

Years later, I’m again living in an apartment, albeit this one has a good-sized balcony, and thinking it’s time to come up with a design solution to this increasingly perennial problem: how to have a garden without a typical house and section. This time it had to be stylish and an extension of the apartment, functioning as both beautiful outdoor furniture and nutritious, fail-proof garden. Balcony conditions can be harsh, hot and dry in the summer, windy, cold and wet in the winter, so it needed to be easily watered to the point where you could forget it for a few days at a time, while also not becoming waterlogged in heavy rains, increasingly common with climate change. I had the concept but not the total design solution, which arrived shortly after via a friendship. My new business partner Deon worked through the design issues with me until HelloGarden was born, a planter system built to last years that can be bought as singles, or stacked, has an inbuilt reservoir, and an overflow system if it becomes too wet, is light and easy to move about to follow the sunlight if needed, and best of all looks beautiful, an asset to any apartment, indoor or outdoor space.

We believe utterly in sustainable solutions to the complex range of problems we increasingly face, one of which is making denser more urban living attractive and viable. Everything in your HelloGarden is made and sourced locally. The gardens you can choose from are all created with Biogrow-registered organic seedlings, and designed for companion planting, which means they do best growing alongside each other, providing protection from pests and not outcompeting each other for nutrients. Each one gives you a good mix of salad greens, herbs and edible flowers and is designed for the season we are currently in, right now that’s summer to autumn. Later we will also have winter and spring gardens to choose from. To get you started on your gardening success we include two seasonal change outs so if you’ve bought from us in summer, we will be back in early winter and again in early spring to plant you a brand new garden perfect for that season.

Next time I write, I will be sharing gardening tips and offering workshops. In the meantime, here are some recipe tips to get you started in making the most of two of our most-popular plants: arugula, more commonly known as rocket, and Aotearoa NZ’s well-known and much used silverbeet. And a small story to show you the difference you are making, not just to your health, but to your urban surroundings when you install a HelloGarden on your apartment balcony.