Since my move up to Auckland, I’ve had to think differently about veggie gardening. I had a good size vegetable garden in Palmerston North, and even an allotment at work (one of few perks of working for a pastoral research institute in a small regional town), which coincidentally was where I got introduced to veggie growing.
|herbs, green cabbage and red cabbage (centre)|
I try to grow some vegetables each year, with varying success. I’m certainly not saving any money, but the taste of homegrown is amazing and it does bestow a cachet of sustainability. Over time, I’ve developed my veggie growing mantra:
1. Buy seedlings where it makes sense.
My first year as a novice, I purchased 6 different varieties of tomato seeds, impatiently germinated hundreds and potted these on, squeezed in 20 plants, gave away dozens, only to see the poor plants die a horribly death due to blight. Now, I purchase 2 plants guilt-free. My favourite are from Awapuni Nurseries, they are excellent value, the plants are really robust and there are no plastic bits to dispose of. The mixed herb selections are especially good.
2. Grow plants in tubs.
My postage stamp garden means there are very few spots which get more than 4 hours of sun. Last year’s beetroot plants bolted in no time and my capsicums never ripened. This year, most sun-loving plants are going into tubs on my front deck.
|capsicum plants sharing the tub with fancy lettuce|
3. Feed the dog.
My Machiavellian beagle destroys a certain number of plants each year. Last week, 4 dwarf beans lost their lives in the middle of the night after Sam was told off for barking (probably at a cat) at 3am. Last year, the Houdini hound got every single one of my tomatoes, even with wire fencing.
|scene of the crime|
|the guilty party|
4. A little at a time.
Trying to wrestle some order and rhythm into veggie growing is diabolical given my madcap schedule. So, instead of trying to get things right, I’m content with a haphazard gardening timetable and slowly work out what both the garden and I am happy with.
|mint, rosemary and Thai mint|
5. Grow what you like to eat.
Not as simple as you think. I like broccoli but I can’t seem to grow more than a cricket-ball sized head. On the other hand, I like the occasionaly spinach, but it’s ruling the patch.
|leeks and spinach|
Time, not distance. I often forget to continuously plant or sow. So, I get a burst of beans for 3 weeks, then nothing for a month. But I’m now germinating 6 seeds every 4 weeks, so I should be set for the summer season.
|fennel, beetroot and pak choy seedlings|
7. Grow less than you think you need.
Rookie mistake, - the first few seasons, I grew so much I was basically feeding the extended family, and ended up begging people to take them off my hands. One courgette plant is plenty (in my first year I grew 4, and quickly learnt that just because the seed catalogue has courgettes in pretty colours, shapes and stripes doesn’t mean I want to eat them all the time).
|lone courgette, with pak choy and coriander seedlings|
I am looking forward to a bountiful summer!