BRENDA CROCKER

NZ Gardener - - Edibles - Christchurch PHO­TOS: JOE JOHN­SON/STUFF

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.

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