Ir­ri­ga­tion hi­ber­nates for win­ter

Franklin County News - - FRONT PAGE - SHERYN CLOTH­IER

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: get­grow­ 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.

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