NZ Gardener - Garden Diary 2018 - - Crow For Health -

FIGHT WIN­TER colds with fresh Vi­ta­min C. The most ob­vi­ous home­grown source of vi­ta­min C is cit­rus fruit, and with the first man­darins start­ing to ripen now, we don’t have long to wait for the on­slaught of zesty cit­rus. In fact plant a mix of va­ri­eties of cit­rus trees and, in mild ar­eas, it’s pos­si­ble to har­vest fresh cit­rus al­most year round.

Cit­rus trees are sub­trop­i­cal but you can pro­tect them with frost cloth, or use the or­ganic wax-based Liq­uid Frost Cloth (also sold as Va­por­gard). Spray this over the fo­liage ev­ery 6-8 weeks. It’s worth get­ting on with this task now if you live in an area where early frosts can strike without warn­ing.

The eas­i­est cit­rus tree for Kiwi gar­dens is the hy­brid ‘Meyer’ lemon. It’s rel­a­tively hardy (com­pared to true lemons) and very pro­lific. It’s pos­si­ble to have fruit on the trees for 11 months of the year.

Kumquats are also easy to grow and the most hardy of all cit­rus trees. This small ev­er­green tree to about 3m has squat or­ange-yel­low fruit with sweet-tast­ing skin and tart flesh. It’s an odd­ity, not only be­cause the skin is sweeter than its flesh, but be­cause you eat them both – just pop the whole thing in your mouth.

Tahi­tian limes can be slow and shy to fruit but given how ex­pen­sive limes are to buy, they’re still worth it. The fruit starts to ripen next month.

If you’d rather drink your vi­ta­min C, plant tan­ge­los, avel or­anges (for win­ter fruit) or ‘Har­wood Late’ or ‘Va­len­cia’ for spring and sum­mer. ’Caracara’ is a blood or­ange with sweet juicy seed­less fruit with red­dish coloured flesh. It ripens from Au­gust/septem­ber.

You could also start your own patch of na­tive scurvy grass, ac­tu­ally a type of bras­sica. This is the lit­tle scrubby plant that Cap­tain Cook or­dered his men to chow down on when they landed here. Cook’s scurvy grass, Le­pid­ium ol­er­aceum, is en­dan­gered in the wild but seeds are avail­able for home gar­dens (or­der on­line from topseeds.co.nz). In the wild, this plant was fer­tilised by coastal guano (bird poo); use chook ma­nure to make it feel at home.

Sow miner’s let­tuce ( Clay­to­nia per­fo­li­ata) now too, if you didn’t al­ready last month. This fleshy, hardy salad green (from Kings Seeds) got its name dur­ing the Cal­i­for­nian gold rush, when min­ers ate it to pre­vent scurvy. Its small, bright green, frost hardy leaves taste some­what like spinach, but sweeter. The leaves, stems and tiny white flow­ers are all edi­ble. Treat it as a cut-and-come-again crop.

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