Irrigation hibernates for winter
Bring tap timers and hose fittings that you’ll not be using over winter in out of the upcoming frosts. Left on and full of water, in a frost the water will expand and break the seals. I’ve spent a lot of money over the years on tap timers. My favourite version is now a cheap $15 dial you manually turn on which automatically ticks down the set time and turns the water off. The more expensive electronic versions that turn on by themselves are great in theory but you have to wait a full cycle to ensure they work. So if you want your garden watered at 5am, you have to set it at 5am, and wait until 5 the following morning to check all is working correctly. And if the batteries go flat, someone has turned the tap off or a fitting has broken, you don’t realise until things are starting to shrivel up.
I’ve decided gardening is not that automatic and it is easier to turn on the tap when needed and use the timer to ensure it gets turned off. I just wish I could find one with shorter and more precise timing. Chestnuts, ginkgo nuts, walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts are all dropping now. Chestnut burrs can pierce the best of gardening gloves, so I stomp on them with my gumboots to separate the nuts from the burr and use a pair of kitchen tongs to pick both up. Be sure to pierce the shell if roasting them as, excitingly, they can explode. I toss them in a bit of salt and oil before roasting over the fire or in a hot oven for 15 minutes.
Alternatively, place them in cold water and bring to a simmer for 15–20 minutes or until the flesh is tender. Shell while warm and freeze to use in stir-fries, stews and casseroles over winter.
Ginkgo nuts come from the fruit of the female ginkgo tree which has an aroma some liken to vomit. It is not that bad and the fruit are quickly removed in water before leaving the nuts to air dry. Store the nuts in the fridge and be careful to never consume too many (more than 10) in a day. A few are very good for you – too many can be toxic. Roast and boil them before eating.
Walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts can all be left to dry in their shells. Keep them somewhere dry and cool and well out of reach of rats. Drying time can be as little as three to four days with good airflow, so crack one occasionally to see if the kernel is brittle.
There are a huge range of nut crackers out there and I am sure everyone has their favourite. My husband favours his vice grips, but for bulk cracking you can purchase a drill attachment that can be adjusted for any size nut and which sits over a bucket. ‘Monovale’ almonds have a particularly hard shell – make an indentation in a board to stand them upright and hit them with a hammer.
Once cracked, store the kernels indefinitely in the freezer to keep them fresh. The common, large ‘Wilson’s Wonder’ walnut goes rancid quite quickly (about three months) if left in the shell at room temperature. still eating as many as the tree drops in a day.
‘Unique’ is in full flow now with ‘Apollo’ starting and just a few of the ‘Wiki Tu’ dropping to allow us a taste comparison. ‘Triumph’ is loaded but the fruit will come later.
Tasting the varieties all at once like this highlights their difference in both flavour and grittiness, and it is not just because it is the first each season that ‘Unique’ rates the best for me flavour-wise. Unfortunately it is not the best tree-wise. I have had trouble with brittle branches, and half the tree snapped off last year with the weight of the fruit. I am not sure if that is a nutritional or varietal problem but since I like the fruit so much I persist with judicious pruning and a funny-shaped tree. I have considered planting other varieties that apparently fruit even earlier, but I want to taste them first. ‘Apollo’ has a sweet, mild taste that others love, but which I find insipid. However, their huge size makes them great for This column is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get growing, from New Zealand Gardener magazine. For gardening advice delivered to your inbox every Friday, sign up for Get Growing at: getgrowing.co.nz processing. A good dose of compost around the tree earlier in the year is really paying off as the fruit are huge enough to eat with a dessertspoon and plentiful enough to feed friends and extended family.
I don’t subscribe to the theory that feijoas should be pruned to allow birds to fly through the canopy. Feijoas have a lot of other pollinators and do just fine left alone. They flower and fruit at the base of new growth, so if you wish to prune or hedge them, prune one side each year so the other side still produces. I just take enough branches off the bottom to allow easy collection of the fruit.