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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Anita Kundu from New Zealand who has found that gardening helps her mental health

Hi! My name is Anita Kundu and I live in Auckland, New Zealand. I used to be a lawyer. I spent five years living in London and Paris working at a Magic Circle law firm. In 2010, my life changed quite suddenly when I had a psychotic episode out of the blue. Three years later, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. It has been a very long and difficult journey but one of the things that has really helped me is gardening. It is great therapy for my condition and depression, which I also suffer from. Over the past decade, I created an urban homestead at my mother’s property and we are largely self-sufficient. I am also a passionate flower gardener. Before the pandemic, mum and I used to host wwoofers (travellers with working holiday visas) who would stay with us in exchange for some help around the garden. We really enjoyed getting to know young people from all around the world who shared our passion. I run a not-for-profit enterprise called Anita’s Garden to help people learn about gardening. I write a free weekly gardening newsletter and blog. I also have some collaborations. My website is http://www.anitakundu.co.nz You can also follow me on Instagram at @anitakundu.nz and look me up on Facebook by searching for “Anita’s Garden”.
We had a very long lockdown in Auckland last year from August until December. One of the things that helped us get through this time was our spring garden. I love growing spring bulbs, especially tulips. Here are some peony tulips which flowered in September.

We have a lot of standard roses. I love David Austin roses. One of my favourites is Abraham Darby.

I am a huge fan of Floret Flower Farm and really enjoyed reading their latest book, Discovering Dahlias. Last summer, I added a number of dahlias to our garden. One of our favourite varieties is called the Labyrinth. Dahlia mania and the scarcity of this tuber in New Zealand has sent the price skyrocketing. I paid $10 for it two years ago and in spring it fetched $400 in an auction.

Every summer, I look forward to growing zinnias. They are so colourful and cheerful. Zinnias are also a great bee and butterfly magnet.

We have a large edible garden. Fruit we grew last summer include strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, blueberries, peaches, apples, figs, passionfruit, guavas and feijoas.

We also grew the following vegetables: potatoes, pumpkins, butternuts, spaghetti squash, gem squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicums, chillies, zucchini, beans, okra and eggplants.

There have been two major challenges as a gardener. The first is climate change. When I first started gardening, the summers were long and hot with little fluctuation in temperature. I was able to grow melons successfully. My record is 38 rock melons in one summer. That was about five years ago. Now, I can’t grow them at all. The second is the increasing number of new pests and diseases. In my early years of gardening, garlic was one of the easiest things to grow. I simply popped cloves in the ground on the shortest day of the year (21st June for us) and harvested enormous balls of garlic on the longest day (21st December for us). In recent years, this has changed for many gardeners in New Zealand due to a particularly aggressive strain of rust. I have trialled many different sprays, to no avail so I have simply given up. There is also an insect called the guava moth which targets many different fruit trees including feijoas, stone fruit and citrus. It destroys the fruit and is difficult to control. While I have not yet had this problem, there is another insect called the Tomato Potato Psyllid (TPP) which infects everything in the tomato family. Commercial growers drape mesh over potatoes to protect crops.
My dream is to spend time gardening in other countries so I can learn about different plants and growing conditions.

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