Kiwi Gardener

SPENT TEA LEAVES

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Daphne Smith, Havelock North

1955–1970

At almost 96 years of age, Daphne is happy to share her favourite gardening tip, although she admits she doesn’t remember as much as she used to. She does recall how bountiful her passion fruit vine grew at her Havelock North home back in the 1950s and ’60s.

Daphne says she purchased her black passion fruit as a seedling. After a slow start in clay soil enriched with horse manure, she added tea leaves. That was when it began to grow like a triffid!

An avid drinker of tea made in a pot, Daphne always had plenty of spent tea leaves to dispose of, so she started tipping them around the base of the passion fruit vine growing just outside her door. When I asked her if she knew why the tea leaves had made such a difference to the vine’s growth, she said she had no idea, but she does recall she started doing it because she thought it was better the tea leaves went back to the soil, rather than down the sink.

I shared with Daphne how passion fruit plants like their roots to stay cool over hot summer weather, which was possibly why her plant cheered up as they compacted around the base. Daphne smiled and quipped, “So, one is never too old to learn something new about the gardening then?”

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