Joy the main harvest from wee vege patch

The Tribune (NZ) - - YOUR HEALTH -

As long as you don’t count labour or the cost of planters, it is pos­si­ble to beat the city su­per­mar­kets for some fruit and veg with a very mod­est gar­den.

GOLDEN RULES

■ Go for the high­est value crops ■ Keep costs un­der con­trol ■ Pre­serves and dried herbs make good gifts

eco­nom­ics of vege-grow­ing.

In the first two years I grew fun stuff so my girls could see the likes of parsnips, car­rots, cau­li­flower, broc­coli and beet­root grow­ing.

That yielded good ex­pe­ri­ences but not an eco­nomic crop.

The costs (com­post, seedlings, wa­ter and an oc­ca­sional scat­ter­ing of slug pel­lets) pro­vided veges that were more ex­pen­sive than the su­per­mar­ket, and less con­ve­niently-shaped.

Fun was had, sun was en­joyed, more tui song was heard, but no sav­ings were made.

But those two sea­sons proved that spinach and silverbeet grow like weeds with just a bucket full of bath wa­ter a day. Ditto the herbs and rhubarb.

Last year the herbs were so pro­fuse, I dried bushels on the win­dowsills.

The co­rian­der seeds tasted twice as nice in my chut­neys as the bought ones.

The basil made jars and jars of pesto to freeze.

My chili glut re­sulted in jars of chilli sauce (just add vine­gar, sugar, wa­ter, and gar­lic). I dried some which I use in my pick­led onions.

The fei­joas from the side of the drive­way we share with our neigh­bours made an awe­some jam and a bet­ter chut­ney.

The taste of gar­den sum­mer lasted through the win­ter.

All this pre­serv­ing makes me ‘‘on trend’’, I’m told, which is a bit of a first for me.

But three years ur­ban vege grow­ing un­der my belt, my money con­clu­sions are these:

As long as you don’t count labour or the cost of planters, it is pos­si­ble to beat the city su­per­mar­kets for some fruit and veg with a very mod­est gar­den.

Leafy greens, herbs, rhubarb, and cit­rus trees are your big win­ners for city gar­dens.

Dry­ing the likes of co­rian­der, basil, fei­joas and chillies, or pro­cess­ing them into sauces and chut­neys pro­duces hap­pi­ness, and higher-qual­ity food than the su­per­mar­kets have, but it’s a hobby, and no route to slash­ing the shop­ping bill.

Sav­ings are pos­si­ble on Christ­mas and birth­day presents, by giv­ing dried herbs and your pro­cessed good­ies.

The more you pay for a house, (or the higher the cost of your com­mute from it), the more sat­is­fy­ing it is to use your as­set to pro­duce stuff you can eat.

In short, the ben­e­fits of small, ur­ban vege-grow­ing are largely psy­cho­log­i­cal, not fi­nan­cial.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to break even.

An ur­ban vege gar­den can look lovely, but it is un­likely to prove eco­nomic.

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