Idon’t want lots of any one vegetable or fruit, but just enough of lots of different things – so that is the way I try to grow my food. Both my children have left home and now I just have to feed myself and the WWOOFers who come to help.
Right now, the only thing in the garden I regularly spend money on is for someone to mow the lawn – but I am 75 years old. Occasionally, I do spend some money but not much – some of my gardening tools are over 40 years old and I save seeds where I can – maybe if I wanted to grow some green winter veges, I’d buy some seedlings at the Riccarton market where there’s good stall there with a nice man who sells vege packs in bundles. Over the course of the growing season, I’d probably spend $30 on seedlings if I need them, and I might spend another $20 on early grafted tomatoes as I like my tomatoes to start early (last summer I was eating my own tomatoes since December and they just came to an end as we entered winter – that’s six months of tomatoes!).
Over the years, I’ve increased the variety of what I grow; well, years ago I’d never heard of bok choy. My garden is now both a hobby and a challenge to myself, to see how many different things I can grow in this typical suburban section of around 700sqm, and what I can do with it all.
I have good reason to grow my produce organically. I had cancer 14 years ago and I have coeliac disease. By eating my own potatoes and corn, I supply my own carbohydrate needs, because I am unable to eat wheat, rye, oats and barley. All the vitamins I need plus some protein comes from the other garden produce, and the list is long, including courgette, mushrooms, cucumber, brassicas, peas, silverbeet, beetroot, shallots, garlic, Asian greens, cabbage, leek, rhubarb, lettuce, endives, carrot, radish, berries and various herbs as well as fruits (lemons, plums, feijoas, apple, apricots) and nuts (hazelnut and almonds).
When I first moved to this house in 2004, there was a small glasshouse in the garden and a square lawn. I planted the fruit trees, including pears I had grafted when my husband and I owned a pear orchard. The
“Right now, the only thing in the garden I regularly spend money on is for someone to mow the lawn – but I am 75 years old.”
‘Black Boy’ and late yellow peaches were both grown from stones, and they’re decent sized trees now. They have to be cut back all the time because I don’t like anything too huge as then I can’t reach them.
I have been to the supermarket to work out how much the food I harvest would cost. I estimate it at $100 a week. I know I don’t buy much food. I buy rice cakes and crackers, glutenfree flour for muffins, some cheese, oil, and maybe chocolate for cake if I feel like a treat. I also know I do live well within my pension. Someone once asked me what fruit I grew and by the time I got to the end, I thought, “I don’t have to buy much at all.”
Time is the thing. You couldn’t do this if you didn’t have hours to put into it. If you put a monetary value to your time, then it might not be realistic, but for most pensioners like me, time is not such an issue.