Edi­to­rial

Min­nie Au­monier

NZ Gardener - - Contents - Jo McCar­roll

Jo McCar­roll shares reader feedback about the best cash crops

Awhile ago I asked in my edi­to­rial whether you thought grow­ing your own fruit and veg­eta­bles saved you money. I thought it prob­a­bly saved me some­thing, I mused, but I didn’t keep suf­fi­ciently de­tailed records of what I spent and what I grew to know.

Well, it turns out a lot of read­ers do keep such records. Dozens of peo­ple got in touch to tell me what they ate from the gar­den each week, and how much money it saved them. And it wasn’t just rough guesses. There were spread­sheets. So, so many spread­sheets. And reader, I was shocked.

Not by the fact peo­ple kept spread­sheets, I has­ten to add. I am happy to ad­mit spread­sheets have some charm that has hitherto es­caped me. Let each of us step to the mu­sic which we hear, as Henry David Thoreau puts it. What shocked me was the sav­ing which those spread­sheets re­vealed.

In Tau­ranga, Mel Atkins saves more than $2000 a year. In North­land, Anita Burke saves an as­ton­ish­ing $5640. In Christchurch, Brenda Crocker worked out the crops she (and the suc­ces­sion of WWOOFers who help this sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian out) eat from the gar­den would cost roughly $100 a week at the su­per­mar­ket – al­though she did point out that grow­ing her own al­lowed her to in­dulge in lux­u­ries like home­made kom­bucha, rel­ishes and pick­les, and even an oc­ca­sional glass of home­grown wine (mak­ing the point grow­ing your own doesn’t just mean you eat cheaper, it can mean you eat bet­ter). Read more about these three women on page 14.

They are all rel­a­tively ex­pe­ri­enced gar­den­ers of course. They did not start a vege gar­den and im­me­di­ately start see­ing such a dif­fer­ence in their gro­cery bill. And I was cu­ri­ous to know what crops a be­gin­ner gar­dener should start with, if their aim was to save cash. So I de­cided to har­ness the power of the hive mind (via NZ Gar­dener’s face­book page) and ask you, the read­ers. And it turns out there was a re­mark­able con­sen­sus. • Fresh herbs: Herbs, many read­ers agreed, are both ex­pen­sive to buy and usu­ally easy to grow. Plus, Jan Aber­nethy in Welling­ton pointed out, grow­ing your own gave you a wider choice than what was for sale. • Any­thing cut-and-come-again: Crops you could har­vest from re­peat­edly, rather than all at once were a pop­u­lar sug­ges­tion. Green beans, Asian greens, let­tuces, spinach, sil­ver­beet and spring onions were all good choices. It helps avoid waste too, points out Anna Dun­woodie in Auck­land. “With spring onions, you don’t of­ten use a full bunch.” • Root crops: Ku­mara and pota­toes were also firm favourites, be­ing easy to grow, uni­ver­sally pop­u­lar with the fam­ily and, at times, very ex­pen­sive to buy. Vivi­enne Walker in Auck­land had a self-sprout­ing ku­mara in the pantry. “I cut off the slips and planted around 15 of them. I have ki­los of ku­mara,” she says. “I have seen it for $10 a kilo.” • What you can store: To feed your fam­ily all year round, many read­ers fo­cused on what they bot­tle or freeze. Toma­toes were (un­sur­pris­ingly) ex­tremely pop­u­lar. Linda Ham­mond, in the Ran­gi­tikei District, said she made rel­ish, chut­ney, sauce and soup. “They save me so much money.” In Auck­land Eve­lyn Cock­burn’s 12 blue­berry plants pro­duced enough to fill the freezer, as well as sup­ply fam­ily and friends. • Any­thing self-sown: Crops from a plant which popped up with no ef­fort on that gar­dener’s part tasted espe­cially sweet. In Beth Ris­don’s gar­den in Can­ter­bury, toma­toes self-seed ev­ery year; while in Kirsty McMil­lan’s Waikato gar­den a plant popped up at the base of the com­post heap. “We har­vested 32 pumpkins off that one plant,” she says. You can’t get much cheaper than that!

Have a great June in the gar­den ev­ery­one.

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