Ir­ri­ga­tion hi­ber­nates for win­ter



Bring tap timers and hose fit­tings that you’ll not be us­ing over win­ter in out of the up­com­ing frosts. Left on and full of wa­ter, in a frost the wa­ter will ex­pand and break the seals. I’ve spent a lot of money over the years on tap timers. My favourite ver­sion is now a cheap $15 dial you man­u­ally turn on which au­to­mat­i­cally ticks down the set time and turns the wa­ter off. The more ex­pen­sive elec­tronic ver­sions that turn on by them­selves are great in the­ory but you have to wait a full cy­cle to en­sure they work. So if you want your gar­den wa­tered at 5am, you have to set it at 5am, and wait un­til 5 the fol­low­ing morn­ing to check all is work­ing cor­rectly. And if the bat­ter­ies go flat, some­one has turned the tap off or a fit­ting has bro­ken, you don’t re­alise un­til things are start­ing to shrivel up.

I’ve de­cided gar­den­ing is not that au­to­matic and it is eas­ier to turn on the tap when needed and use the timer to en­sure it gets turned off. I just wish I could find one with shorter and more pre­cise tim­ing.


Ch­est­nuts, ginkgo nuts, wal­nuts, al­monds and hazel­nuts are all drop­ping now. Chest­nut burrs can pierce the best of gar­den­ing gloves, so I stomp on them with my gum­boots to sep­a­rate the nuts from the burr and use a pair of kitchen tongs to pick both up. Be sure to pierce the shell if roast­ing them as, ex­cit­ingly, they can ex­plode. I toss them in a bit of salt and oil be­fore roast­ing over the fire or in a hot oven for 15 min­utes.

Al­ter­na­tively, place them in cold wa­ter and bring to a sim­mer for 15–20 min­utes or un­til the flesh is ten­der. Shell while warm and freeze to use in stir-fries, stews and casseroles over win­ter.

Ginkgo nuts come from the fruit of the fe­male ginkgo tree which has an aroma some liken to vomit. It is not that bad and the fruit are quickly re­moved in wa­ter be­fore leav­ing the nuts to air dry. Store the nuts in the fridge and be care­ful to never con­sume too many (more than 10) in a day. A few are very good for you – too many can be toxic. Roast and boil them be­fore eat­ing.

Wal­nuts, al­monds and hazel­nuts can all be left to dry in their shells. Keep them some­where dry and cool and well out of reach of rats. Dry­ing time can be as lit­tle as three to four days with good air­flow, so crack one oc­ca­sion­ally to see if the ker­nel is brit­tle.

There are a huge range of nut crack­ers out there and I am sure ev­ery­one has their favourite. My hus­band favours his vice grips, but for bulk crack­ing you can pur­chase a drill at­tach­ment that can be ad­justed for any size nut and which sits over a bucket. ‘Mono­vale’ al­monds have a par­tic­u­larly hard shell – make an in­den­ta­tion in a board to stand them up­right and hit them with a ham­mer.

Once cracked, store the ker­nels in­def­i­nitely in the freezer to keep them fresh. The com­mon, large ‘Wil­son’s Won­der’ wal­nut goes ran­cid quite quickly (about three months) if left in the shell at room tem­per­a­ture.


It’s the late-sea­son ap­ples, like ‘Granny Smith’, that store well, keep­ing till spring in a cool, dark place. I’ve left my ‘Gran­nies’ on the tree un­til now and they have be­come so sweet that they’re de­li­cious to eat raw, though they are un­for­tu­nately cov­ered in an un­sightly black sooty blotch. To re­duce this fun­gal growth, this win­ter, I will prune the tree to al­low more air­flow and will also give it a good dose of com­post and spray it with fish fer­tiliser.

For years I’ve scorned the need to grow an ap­ple just for cook­ing, say­ing that the mul­ti­pur­pose ‘Granny Smith’ and ‘Monty’s Sur­prise’ pro­vide


This col­umn is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get grow­ing, from New Zealand Gar­dener mag­a­zine. For gar­den­ing ad­vice de­liv­ered to your in­box ev­ery Fri­day, sign up for Get Grow­ing at: get­grow­ more cook­ers than I need. But a true cook­ing ap­ple dis­solves into a light, fluffy tex­ture when stewed and has

an in­tense, acidic flavour, ren­der­ing the sweet eat­ing ap­ples in­sipid and tough in com­par­i­son.

Last year a friend sent me some ‘Granny Luisa’ cook­ers. The re­sult­ing fluffy, flavour­some pie had me re­quest­ing a tree im­me­di­ately. Last week an­other friend gave me a ‘Bram­ley’s Seedling’ to try. Stewed on top of my Weet-Bix this morn­ing,

I’m in­clined to get a tree of that too. An­other friend claims ‘Bal­larat’ is the ul­ti­mate cooker, while yet an­other claims ‘Peas­good’s Non­such’ is the one to ex­plode into fluff and mul­ti­pur­pose ‘Graven­stein’ is the ul­ti­mate in ap­plely flavour. How many cook­ers do I need?

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