ANITA BURKE

Haruru, North­land

NZ Gardener - - Edibles - PHO­TOS: ANNETTE LAMBLY/STUFF

We grow most of our food on one acre which now has a green­house and a veg­etable patch that I call my bird­cage, and an or­chard. A one-off ex­pense to es­tab­lish these was $3720. I still spend an av­er­age of $60 a month to keep the gar­den go­ing, which goes to­wards com­post, pot­ting mix, seedlings and seeds. I’m cur­rently set­ting my­self up to do my own com­post­ing but this will still take a while to help re­duce ex­penses.

Set­ting this up has been a learn­ing curve for me as I’ve not al­ways been a gar­dener. I only took it up as a hobby when we moved here from Aus­tralia, but now after three years of hav­ing my gar­den, I can say that my gro­cery bill is down to an av­er­age of less than $600 a month for per­ish­ables, non­per­ish­ables and meat for my­self and my hus­band. Some weeks, I can spend as lit­tle as $30, only need­ing to buy the ba­sic milk and bread. Ac­tu­ally, in the last cou­ple of weeks, I don’t think I’ve spent more than $25 a week for the two of us. Be­fore the gar­den, I was av­er­ag­ing around $1000 a month! And I ex­pect my cur­rent spend to re­duce fur­ther over the com­ing sea­sons as my fruit trees be­gin to ma­ture.

Right now I’m tak­ing a lot of my root crops out of the bird­cage. I’ve learned that it is great for berries and toma­toes, and other pro­duce that the birds love too, but root veges like ku­mara, pota­toes and beet­root don’t need that level of pro­tec­tion. I’m also more com­fort­able and con­fi­dent now to grow them out­side.

Now in the green­house, I will fo­cus on capsicums, toma­toes, rock melons, cucumbers and pineapples for the long-term, and some com­pan­ion plants like basil un­der my tomato vines. I’ve be­come bet­ter at con­trol­ling the tem­per­a­ture in the green­house (air­ing it over wet­ter months and cool­ing it down over sum­mer). In win­ter I will also put my bras­si­cas in the green­house just to stop the in­sects get­ting to them.

From the or­chard, I get fei­joas, figs and bay leaves. Even­tu­ally, I will get plums, plum­cots, man­darins, apples, limes, lemons, tamar­il­los, guavas, av­o­ca­dos, peaches, nectarines, olives and pomegranates.

I’ve given a lot of thought to the eco­nom­ics of the per­sonal time given

“Re­cently I don’t think I’ve spent more than $25 a week on food for two of us – be­fore the gar­den, I av­er­aged $1000 a month.”

over to the gar­den as well. If you fac­tor in your own time and that of the peo­ple around who help (the phys­i­cal set-up of gar­den beds and build­ing the green­house did need a few more hands), the sav­ings can be neg­li­gi­ble – but I’m re­tired. I just plug away at it two to four hours a day, av­er­aged over the year. Sea­sonal changes don’t af­fect me too much be­cause even in win­ter I’m tidy­ing up, and in late sum­mer, if you’re pre­serv­ing and bot­tling the re­sults of the gar­den, that’s a cou­ple of hours of your day (and I had to learn how to do all that as well).

I find it amaz­ing that I knew noth­ing about all this three years ago. I was very much a city per­son. I started on a small scale – any­one can do that – and feel I got a re­turn. It’s been a worth­while way to spend my time and re­duce my spend­ing at the su­per­mar­ket. And if I can do it, any­one can.

One day’s har­vest.

Raised vege beds.

Guavas.

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