Vege gar­dens – in an emer­gency

The Tribune (NZ) - - GARDENING - WALLY RICHARDS Prob­lems? Call me at 0800 466 464 (Palmer­ston North 3570606) email wal­lyjr@gar­de­ web­site www.gar­de­

Iremember grow­ing up on a quar­ter acre sec­tion in El­iz­a­beth St, right next to the Stan­dard Brew­ery. Two big veg­etable gar­dens, a hen house with a run, a num­ber of fruit trees and berry bushes, were suf­fi­cient to pro­vide food for ev­ery meal. Then, food se­cu­rity was a pri­or­ity. We needed to be as self suf­fi­cient as pos­si­ble and have as much food avail­able to last as long as need be. Things have cer­tainly changed. Smaller sec­tions and land­scap­ing limit the space for veg­etable gar­dens, mean­ing too many peo­ple de­pend on the su­per­mar­ket for their day-to-day needs.

So, in the event of a a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter there are peo­ple who will be vul­ner­a­ble in re­gards to food se­cu­rity, only hav­ing suf­fi­cient sup­plies for a cou­ple of days. Dis­as­ters hap­pen with­out warn­ing, but as they don’t hap­pen much, many peo­ple don’t worry about it.

A veg­etable gar­den in the ground, raised or in con­tain­ers, along with stocks of non-per­ish­able food such as canned food, pre­serves, flour, rice and pasta – should form part of any emer­gency sup­ply and food se­cu­rity plan.

And a means of col­lect­ing and stor­ing rain­wa­ter for your­self and your gar­dens.

You might also need to re-eval­u­ate the area avail­able for cul­ti­va­tion around your house. A re­cent email con­tained in­for­ma­tion about lawns and why they are a waste of time and money.

An ex­tract says: ‘‘The real kicker is that the area we give over to lawns is of­ten the best area we could have used to grow food. When we talk about lawns, we’re usu­ally talk­ing about the sun­ni­est and flat­test spots on the prop­erty.

‘‘And it’s wasted. Turf grass doesn’t feed a soul . . . birds . . . bees or but­ter­flies. And cer­tainly not your fam­ily.’’

He makes a good case for turn­ing part of your back lawn into gar­den.

Raised me­tre-wide gar­dens made from sheets of roof­ing iron held to­gether with painted 100 x 100 fence posts, can be placed on the lawn with the long side fac­ing in a northerly di­rec­tion.

Lay sev­eral sheets of card­board at the bot­tom on top of the grass and pro­ceed to fill with or­ganic waste – (un­sprayed) lawn clip­pings, prun­ings, old com­post or pot­ting mix, fallen leaves, un­treated saw­dust and the like.

Cover with another layer of card­board and add chook or any other an­i­mal ma­nure, fin­ish­ing it off with pur­chased com­post (be­cause it’s weed free).

The top of the fill should be 20cm or more from the rim of the cladding.

The sun on the north­ern side heats the grow­ing medium; the gap be­tween the top of the cladding and the grow­ing medium cre­ates a mi­cro-cli­mate.

Wind passes over the gar­den and plants grow about three times faster than if they were planted out in the open.

Paint­ing the wooden posts seals in the chem­i­cals, and if they pro­trude above the gar­den wall can be used to stretch bird net­ting or crop cover over the plants to pre­vent bird, cat and in­sect dam­age. Hoops an­chored in the soil can also be used to sus­pend crop cover over all types of low grow­ing veg­eta­bles.

For taller grow­ing plants such as corn and toma­toes, start them off un­der crop cover and then re­move the cover so they can grow to full height.

Veg­eta­bles that can take a lot of room such as zuc­chini should be planted in 20-plus litre con­tain­ers. Pump­kins and squash can be grown at one end of a raised plot and then trailed out from the gar­den. Dwarf beans will do well in a raised gar­den where climb­ing beans are best against a sunny fence.

Just make sure any raised gar­den is more than 1 me­tre away from the drip line of any tree, shrub or vine.

Trees will find that there is a won­der­ful source of food in the raised gar­den and send mil­lions of fi­brous feeder roots into the gar­den, ru­in­ing it.

An al­ter­na­tive if there is no room to raise a gar­den, is to use con­tain­ers.

The more pro­duce you can grow nat­u­rally, the health­ier your fam­ily will be.


Raised gar­dens are easy to cre­ate and main­tain and can help turn ar­eas of lawn or waste space into highly pro­duc­tive plots with the added ad­van­tage of pro­vid­ing a civil de­fence backup.

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