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What’s this all about then?

Hi, I’m Sarah O’Neil, also known as Sarah the Gardener and I live beside the sea.  We haven’t always lived here and have been on a bit of a journey to get here.

Auckland streets
We started out here, which is so different from the lifestyle we are accustomed to now.

We started out in a small house, with a tiny backyard in the centre of Auckland.  We had ordinary lives and a toddler, and a small baby and we lived city dweller lives.  However, a shock diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis prompted us to look at life a little differently and so we made a radical decision that led to a dramatic change and probably one of the biggest blessings in our lives.

small backyard
We didn’t have much of a backyard – 24 square metres, but it was enough to contain two small boys.

We sold up and moved to the country.   We bought 3 acres of land in what we later discovered was a reclaimed swamp and set about making a better life for ourselves there.  It was the best decision ever and we have thrived in a rural lifestyle and have adapted to the role of country bumpkin quite nicely, although (even today) our farmer neighbours still get a chuckle when that old city slicker shine peeps through.

in the country
We started with a blank canvas. The right side of the image was where the garden soon took over.

With the land we created a large vegetable garden and orchard – they just seemed to expand of their own accord, the kids grew from small children into large and hungry teens and the ability to work from home suited Hubby the Un-Gardener to the ground.  For me I found a love of writing and its compatibility with gardening set me on a career path I never dreamed I would have.  In the space of ten years I went from a home gardener entering a garden blogging competition to an author of three gardening books, a writer for many magazines, newspapers and websites and brand ambassador for two prestigious garden supply companies in New Zealand.  Life was good.   The only thing missing was the sea views Hubby the Un-Gardener longed for, but there were dolphin tiles in the bathroom so close enough (although we did renovate later and removed them).

A full and flourishing garden
After a decade a huge and productive garden was my pride and joy.

After a decade there Hubby the Un-Gardener reminded me of a promise we’d made when we moved in – this wasn’t supposed to be our forever home and he’d found the perfect piece of land, that just so happened to be beside the sea.   So, we up sticks and moved again and as dramatic as the move from the city to the country was, this was more adventurous….

The new spot beside the sea
The new land was so beautiful… on a good day. On a bad day it is still beautiful but in an extremely different and slightly destructive way.

We moved to 10 acres, right on the coast, and relocated a house, by having it cut in half and bought 200km across the country to become our forever home.  We spent 100 days in a caravan with 2 teenage boys while we did this.  Then once the house settled into its spot on the land, I set about recreating my new garden beside the sea.    The old garden in the drained swamp had its challenges which I managed to master, but the new garden beside the ocean comes with a whole different set of challenges, and so now I find myself a gardener beside the sea, with a whole lot more to learn.   They say a good gardener never stops learning…

moving house
And that is how we moved house.

Gardening is now so much a part of my life and I love being able to grow delicious things for my family to eat – from seed.  You could say I’m obsessed.  If you run into me on the street and ask how I am, I’ll tell you “Oh not good – I’ve got blight.”  And don’t get me started on the weather!

New garden before
The site of the new garden didn’t look too daunting.

It is my aim in life to encourage other people to find this same joy in gardening that I have, although hopefully your plot of land is far less challenging than mine, but with all my struggles, if I can put a seed in the ground and get something to eat as a result, then so can you.  If just one person picks up a spade and begins their own gardening journey because of something I said or wrote, then I’d call that a success.

The new garden
And within a year of moving I had a productive veggie patch.

Come again soon – I have come a long way since I naively first put a spade in the dirt and there is still a long and exciting journey ahead.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

You can find out more about journey by reading by posts from Dec 2019:  End of a Decade, Part one and two >here< and >here<

99 thoughts on “What’s this all about then?

  1. Don’t stop writing!! I want to follow your journey! We seem to share a spirit of adventure. I want to hear more about your wine making. This fall I am planning to start learning myself how to make wine. I found out that my Great-grandmother made her own wine and it put a bee in my pocket to try it out!

    1. Quick tip about the wine – I don’t know if its strictly correct – but it works for me. The busyness of the summer harvest can leave me too exhausted to deal with all the produce so I prepare the fruit for the wine and freeze it,and then make the wine later on when things aren’t as hectic. Put some of your harvest aside now for wine making later…. 🙂

  2. Thanks for stopping by to like a post. I didn’t expect to find a helpful hint about freezing fruit for wine in your comment section of your “about” page. You’ve clearly got a blog with gems everywhere!

    1. Hi there, thanks for your kind words. I liked your quiz concept, it was really interesting to see what motivates other gardeners. Good luck with your garden this season. Cheers Sarah : o )

  3. Hey, Sarah, I’m new at the growing vegetables game, six months now, and been blogging for almost two weeks. I look forward to reading your blog and checking out your videos. I was up late on slug patrol, see my last night blog post. Also, I hope you will check out my new web series, “Late Bloomer.” I’m an urban gardener, sharing my experience on converting my small front yard to an edible garden. It’s not easy, but very rewarding!

    1. Hi there, Thanks for your kind words. I have to admit, I haven’t done as many videos as I would have liked, but it was such a terrible summer the garden never really looked good enough. I shall spend some time having a look about you blogs. From what I have seen you have already put in a lot of effort! I hope you have a great season. Cheers Sarah : o )

  4. Thanks for visiting my site, Sarah (She’s Bookin’ at! I, too, am envious of your greenhouse and your chickens. 🙂 Blessings from this side of the world to yours, and happy gardening to you!

    1. Hi there. I always prefer it when God waters my garden in the summer – He does a much better job than I would with the hose! In the winter, not so much as we live on what used to be a swamp so it floods a little! I think your husband is marvellous for digging for you. My Hubby the Un-Gardener digs for me but I think it more under duress than enthusiastic willingness! I hope you garden grows abundantly this season. Cheers Sarah : o )

    1. Hi there. I loved your plant markers. I really want to give them a try. Thanks so much for coming over and having a look at my garden. Yes it is hard work, but its a labour of love – I love fresh veggies! Cheers Sarah : o )

  5. I love you gardener, farmer and food bloggers. Your the best. I look forward to checking out your blog. I live in Louisiana at the moment and there is a lot of swamps and flooding. This one neighborhood has built the earth into levees around their homes. Very interesting. It is that kind of soil that civilization is built on.

    1. Hi there. Where we live, it used to be a swamp but they dug a whole lot of drains in 1886 (NZ was first settled in 1840 so its not like they were short of space or anything!) and turned our area into fertile farmland. The problem is once a swamp always a swamp and we have had some heavy rain lately and so it is way too boggy to work in the garden for now. The up side is swamp soil is great for growing veggies in. Cheers Sarah : o )

  6. Hi Sarah, thanks for stopping by my blog, The Heirloom Salad!! New Zealand is a part of the world I have long wanted to visit, so perhaps your blog can at least give me an inside perspective. I look forward to reading your posts.

  7. Hi Skip. I loved your wee lizard. I love reading northern hemisphere blogs during our winter – it gives great inspiration for our growing season. Hopefully I can return the favour and in a northern winter people and gain inspiration from what I do… or more likely what not to do! Have a great summer. Cheers Sarah : o )

  8. I look forward to reading about your gardening adventures and hope to see many pictures to of your lovely homestead x

  9. Thanks for stopping by my gardening blog. I have always been interested in traveling to your neck of the woods. Maybe I can do it by reading your blog.

    1. Hi Mike. You are welcome to visit my neck of the woods at any time. Hopefully I’ll be able to bring a bit of kiwi summer to your winter.
      You have a lovely garden.
      Cheers Sarah

  10. looking good. love your gardens. and love veggies and food.
    i am doing the trial and error on a lifestyle block in northland. since it is too wet or too dry i moved my main crop indoor (poly/glass house). this year the cupsicum plants are prolific, but some, form, rott and fall. cucmbers the same. is it too many veggies on the plant? too much water or too dry or??? any ideas?

    1. Hi Dina. Plants can be fickle things if they want to be. The problem could be one of many things, but usually the first thing you do is make sure your watering is consistent. A deep watering every couple of days is preferable to a light sprinkle every day. Then mulch to retain the moisture – but watch the plant for thirsty droopy leaves. Capsicum and cucumbers actually need less water than you would think.
      Then check the plants for pests or disease and if necessary spray with something. There are organic products available out there.
      Then I’d give it a feed, just to help make the plant strong and build up resistance to whatever is hurting it. I’d go with a feed with more “P & K” and less “N.”
      Sometimes the crazy variations in spring weather can cause problems and the first fruits are often the ones to suffer – as the season evens out then it all comes right.
      It might also pay to have a quick google, in case there is something else wrong…
      I hope this helps. Good luck and I hope you end up with more capsicum and cucumbers than you know what to do with!
      Cheers Sarah : o )

      1. Hi Sara

        Thank you for your answer, it does starting look like a prolific year, I’ll be very happy.

        It all makes sense and I did try most of your advices. I did think they need a lot of water, will try to give less…might not have too much soon anyway.

        Photos from 2 weeks ago, and there more outside too. Very rewarding.

        I am in NZ 10 years now and from the moment I got here they all said: “it is a funny season” so I guess this is the veggies excuse too.

        All I have to do is keep document it and learn from mistakes..and enjoy the fruit.

        Happy gardening

        Better get out there now.




  11. Hi Sara
    Thank you for your answer, it does starting look like a prolific year, I’ll be very happy.
    It all makes sense and I did try most of your advices. I did think they need a lot of water, will try to give less…..might not have too much soon anyway.
    I am in NZ 10 years now and from the moment I got here they all said: “it is a funny season” so I guess this is the veggies excuse too.
    All I have to do is keep document it and learn from mistakes……and enjoy the fruit.
    Happy gardening
    Better get out there now.

    1. Hi there. Thanks heaps. It’s always cool to see other kiwi blogs, as we are doing the same thing at the same time. I look forward to reading your blog.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  12. I am so delighted that I found your site, I do have some interest in doing a small container garden in the not so distant future, Big changes in my life you can read about it at my blog, a hint my motto is Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. You have a beautiful family and so far great reading material for me to explore, I will in the next week or two order your book so I can get ready to be a gardener. Thanks so much for sharing and keep those posts coming, Allie.

    1. Hi Allie, I think a simplified life is the best way to live, although it can be a bit of a struggle sometimes to keep it simple. One of the easiest things I feel that can be changed – is the food you eat, namely grow your own veggies and feed your family good food that you know where it has come from – and it is a load of fun too! Good luck with your journey.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  13. wonderful, you are so like me but we are in different countries now.. Thank you so much for popping by the Farmy on the prairies, how on earth did you find me? I am always desperately excited when a kiwi drops in, i do miss home, hence the farm really.. the food here out in the midwest is not.. um.. like the food at home,.. have a lovely day.. c

    1. Hi Cecilia. That is the fantastic thing about this global gardening community. Everyone is really lovely and we all seem to be friends of friends.
      I love what you are doing with the self sufficiency thing. We are pretty much there with growing all our own veggies and it feels great.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

    1. Hi There. I am so glad you found my blogs. I really enjoy writing my blogs as much as I enjoy gardening. The two fit nicely together and I get to have tomatoes too. This season is just beginning so I’m sure there will be a lot more posts coming up real soon.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  14. Hi there,
    We here at The Lemon Tree Project have been reading and loving your blog here in Melbourne, we’d love to show people what you’ve been doing on our Facebook page so they can see what you can grow with a bit more space. A lot of our fans are people who live in the city as you used to and we’d like to encourage them to make our city greener so that those of us who aren’t able to escape to the countryside can find a bit of it in the city. If you’d like to help us out and do the same then that would be brilliant. Our ultimate aim is to get a lemon tree on every street corner to encourage community spirit and a lifestyle featuring lots of home-grown fruit. Check us out at or on our website at
    Have a great day!
    The Lemon Tree Project

    1. Hi Helen.
      Thank you for your lovely comments. I have checked out your facebook and website and you are doing some really great things. If you haven’t already seen it – here is a link to a really inspiring guy in Los Angeles who is trying to get his community growing:

      I have recently started a garden that is the size of one that most people will have in their urban gardens and will be able to show what can be done. I have to say that of all the things in the garden I haven’t been able to master – it’s citrus. I don’t seem to be able to grow them very well and have killed a fair few!
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  15. Helen and Sarah, I have met Ron Finley, and plan to do a “Late Bloomer” episode with him next year. He’s amazing and now travels the world, in fact he was heading to New Zealand when I saw him in September. I hope you will both check out what I am doing with Late Bloomer. I post a lot of important info, photos and links on, photos on Intagram,, and working on my Pinterest boards, since Pinterest is a visual medium and so is my show. I’m finishing up season 2 with 40 episodes plus other related garden and nature videos on my YT channel. Everything you can access from my website, too. I hope you will follow Late Bloomer, which seeks to entertain, enlighten and inspire anyone to grow their own food. Even if it’s just a pot of tomatoes on a balcony! 🙂 Keep up the good work, ladies and I Liked your FB page, Helen. I have trouble with citrus here in Los Angeles, too, but I’m on the coast and we have a lot of fog. – Kaye

    1. Hi Kaye. I think Ron Finley is so inspiring. If he is coming to NZ I may have to find out where so I can hear him. He is doing so much for getting people to grow food – and letting them know it is actually easy.
      A lot of the messages out there come from picture perfect images and makes it all seem too hard. I honestly believe that whether or not people choose to do it, they should know how to put a seed in soil and get something to eat, along side sewing on a button and boiling an egg! I am always encouraging other people to grow food, through the articles I write and the talks I give. It is exciting times.

      I shall enjoy having a look around your website – you have a lot of cool things there.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  16. Thank you so much, Sarah! I really appreciate it! Now, the pure food, water and fertile soil crisis is very real, so more than ever in the history humans on Earth, we need to be plugging in and connecting to our natural resources and being self-sufficient. Thanks for all you do! I hope six months from now “Late Bloomer” is on TV and reaching a lot more people. Please share with your garden community. Thank you! – Kaye

    1. HI Jen. Thank you for the nomination, they are a great way to bring bloggers together I love the questions that have come with this one. I’m not all that good at following instructions but I’ll give you a shout out on my blog – we southern gardeners need to stick together! All the best with your garden this season – I am looking forward to seeing how it progresses. Cheers Sarah : o )

    1. Hi there. Thank you so much for the nomination. I recently received the inspiring blogger award, along with several others and so had a kind of awards blog a couple of days ago.
      So I shall give you a shout out in my next blog, however things in the garden are a little crazy at the moment and I am finding it difficult to find spare time, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to do the award justice this time. I do really appreciate the gesture, thank you so much for considering me.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

    1. Hi Virginia. Thank you so much for the nomination and congratulations on receiving it yourself. At this stage I am quite crazy busy so I’m not sure if I’ll pass it on or not – but either way I will give you a shout out and tell everyone how wonderful your blog is – which I really enjoy too.
      Thanks again. Cheers Sarah : o )

    1. Thank you so much for thinking of me. At the moment I am a little overwhelmed with all the summer gardening and restoring order so I shall tuck this award away in a safe place and when I get a chance to put my feet up and admire my garden instead of being head down butt up working like crazy, I shall get the award out and do something fabulous with it. Congratulations of receiving the award too!
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  17. I’m so happy to have found your blog! I am lucky enough to have been to the South Island just once- New Zealand is pure paradise! Your blog and the life you guys are living is so inspiring.
    Feel free to check out my fledgling blog if you so wish. I am very new to all this but have found so much inspiration and education for my own garden.

    1. Hi there. Thank you so much for your kind words. I think once we get a certain amount of dirt under our nails we all become compulsive gardening geeks! All the best with your blog!
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  18. I’m definitely going to have to read through your blog to learn what I can. After an accident and then following up with neurological problems, I’ve recently decided to start gardening. The problem is, I’ve never had an interest in it before so I have know idea what I’m doing. Trying to learn all I can. 😊

    1. Hi Laura. Thanks for stopping by. Gardening is well known to be restoring and healing. I also struggle with a neurological problem, as I have MS. But since I threw myself whole heartedly into my garden I have found my health has greatly improved. And I am outside getting exercise and eating really healthy food.
      If you have any questions please feel free to ask here or on my facebook page (Sarah the Gardener) and I will be more than happy to help out. All the best with your journey and hope you find healing.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

      1. Thank you, Sarah! I may just take you up on that offer. Last season my husband got me flowers to take care and I enjoyed it so much I’ve decided to start branching out. My mother used to love to garden and I never understood it. Now I get it. I just wish she was still here to see me enjoying it. 😊

  19. Wow, there is so much to learn from your blog! I know nothing about gardening and it doesn’t really appeal to me much. This is why I will follow your blog now – you may change my perception! Found you through Blogging 201, by the way. I hope you’ll visit my blog and maybe follow it? 🙂

    1. Thanks Angie for stopping by. I do hope you give gardening a try. If I can, anyone can! And fresh food tastes so good. I am enjoying the course, but is is also a really busy time for me in the garden so I have my work cut out for me.
      All the best with your blog – I’m not very good at following instructions either! Cheers Sarah : o )

  20. Hi Sarah,
    Sorry to post about this but I couldn’t easily find an email contact for you. I just wondered if you would be interested in becoming my blogging buddy as per today’s task. I don’t think it involves too much apart from promoting each other’s site on our blog. We can write a guest blog if we feel it is appropriate. Anyway let me know, no worries if you don’t feel our blogs are similar enough.

    1. Hi Annette. Thank you so much for your kind offer, but at this point I really don’t think I am ready to take that step. I have just started to work through some of the ideas I took from Blogging 201 and I think it may be quite some time before I emerge out the other side.
      I am keen to follow your blog so maybe some time in the future. All the best.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  21. HI Sarah,
    Your blog is a wonderful inspiration, I am just starting my own blog as my enthusiasm for my garden is lost on many people. It is wonderful to read your blog and hear another’s passion for their garden. Your description of your un-gardener husband has a striking similarity to my husband often known as the reluctant gardener who feels he is more suited to sitting and enjoying the garden than toiling in it! I look forward to reading you future posts.

  22. Great stuff, I will be definitely coming back to track your gardening 🙂 I am at the very start of the journey, unfortunately still in Auckland but hey you have to start from something 🙂
    Any advise on how to save your tomatoes from hungry birds :):)???

    1. Thanks for stopping by. Birds can be such a pain. You can net your plants and I’ve heard – but haven’t tried – red round Christmas decorations are supposed to fool them, or you can pick them at first blush and then ripen them on the window sill. It only really seems to matter with the first ones as by the end of the season there are so many you are grateful the birds are helping you get through them. I hope this helps. All the best with your gardening journey. Cheers Sarah : o)

  23. oh my gosh! I’m so happy to find you here in wordpress. I really enjoyed reading your blog. You are so blessed and I am so inspired by your lifestyle. My husband and I dream of a big land area near the beach with a tiny minimalist modern house connected to a big greenhouse! My husband and I have been dreaming of this and it keeps us motivated to work hard for that dream. I have recently followed wintergardenz in facebook and instagram, they make those amazingly beautiful greenhouse all over New Zealand. I suggest you check their facebook page as well as they have inspired me too as much as you do. Thank you very much for following our blog as well and I so much look forward to read more of your garden and lifestyle stories. Cheers!

    do you have a facebook or instagram page I could follow?


    1. I’m so pleased you have found my garden. It is certainly a labour of love and a dream come true. I do have Facebook – look for Sarah the Gardener and on Instagram I’m sarahthegardener. You can also follow my journey in the Kiwi Gardener magazine. I started out in June 2018 every month, then after a year I now do every other month.
      All the best with finding your dream coastal garden. Cheers Sarah : o)

          1. Your’e very much welcome. My husband and I were suppose to travel in NZ this June for his art show but because of what’s happening only God knows when can we visit but I am absolutely putting in my list to visit your garden and would like to blog about you hoping it could inspire my followers ( they are not too many but they are all amazing 🙂 and friends as well. I would definitely let you know in advance.

  24. Hi Sarah, I happened to hear about your website on radio Rhema just this morning. I am not a fan of gardening , getting my hands dirty or being surrounded bees and insects. I was gifted a lime tree this Christmas and have been dreading planting it in the garden myself, however after reading about your blogg and your passion to encourage others to pick up the spade and give it a go, I have felt empowered to do just that. Thank you for sharing your story, I look forward to reading more and following you on social media. I hope this is just the beginning of a new gardening journey for me 😊 time for me to go and plant that lime tree. God bless

    1. Hi Sue. Thank you so much for getting in touch. I’m so pleased I have been able to encourage you to start gardening. The great thing is there is no real right or wrong way to garden and if something dies it isn’t the end of the world – you can always figure out why and try again. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. All the best with your new journey. Cheers Sarah : o)

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