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NZ Gardener - 2021-10-01

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Crops WITHOUT SHOPS

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1. Edible weed control Wellington gardener, and author of Homegrown Happiness: A Kiwi Guide to Living off the Suburban Land, Elien Lewis suggests using storebought yams as a productive weed control. “I used to have this unused weedy section in the garden that was a pain to try and keep clear. One year in late spring I laid out supermarket-bought yams and covered them with chopped plant mulch and compost, and let them sprout away as the weather warmed. Yams are in the weedy oxalis family so they can grow and establish themselves quickly. In winter once the foliage had died down it was time to harvest free food! Note though, each little yam left behind will sprout again so this isn’t a good option for all gardens but it’s a cool option for otherwise unused space!” 2. Forage for flavour In Beachlands, Auckland, Deborah Lumb filled an old salt grinder with crumbled dried kawakawa leaves and chillies. Kawakawa seed can be used as a culinary spice too, and a tea made with its leaves is traditionally used to relieve stomach ailments. Or forage for horopito leaves which have a spicy citrusy flavour. Try infusing them in avocado or olive oil or rubbing on meat or fish.. 3. Pips please In Carterton, Pauline Brooks has tried growing her own apples… from seed! “I took some pips from an apple and placed them in a paper towel and into the fridge for a few weeks. The result is this apple tree seedling, which has been growing in the sun over lockdown.” 4. Egg box seed trays In Kamo, Whangārei, Karen Wyeth started lockdown with some seed raising mix on hand but no seed trays. “But I had a lot of egg boxes so I cut off the lids, slipped them under the egg boxes, then filled the cartons with seed mix. I planted some seeds – courgettes, pumpkins, amaranth, calendula, peppers, rainbow chard and more. When the seedlings are big enough to transplant, I can separate them and plant them right into the garden beds, the roots will grow straight through the soft, damp cardboard.” 5. Take cuttings of perennial herbs While I was out walking around my neighbourhood in Auckland at level 4, I kept an eye out for perennial herbs such as sage, rosemary or lavender growing over fences. All take easily from cuttings, just nip off a sprig with your fingernails, strip off the leaves from the bottom of the stem and place in clean water (so there’s no foliage below the water). Change the water every couple of days and roots should form in a few weeks and you can plant in a pot. 6. Divide and conquer My neighbour spent lockdown making her own plants by dividing suitable herbs like creeping thyme, oregano or chives. Remember you can also divide a lot of herbaceous perennials, like phlox and dahlias, and true perennials, like agapanthus, violets, flax and ornamental grasses. 7. Enjoy fresh sprouts Wellington gardener Lynley Povey has been growing fresh sprouts from brown lentils. “Soak the lentils overnight in water. Drain and rinse the next morning. Cover with a tea towel and rinse every morning and night. In a few days you should have edible sprouts! Keep in fridge.” This will only work with whole lentils – not split lentils – but you can also try mung beans, chickpeas or adzuki beans. 8. Eat kūmara leaves NZ Gardener deputy editor Mei Leng Wong has kūmara half sitting in water, by the kitchen windowsill. Once they’ve sprouted enough leaves for a decent stir-fry, “I start picking them,” she says. Eventually the tubers will be planted out, and she will continue to pick tender young leaves for stirfries with chilli and garlic, and in noodle soups, until the tubers are ready for harvest. Kūmara (known as sweet potato in Southeast Asia) leaves are rich in vitamin B, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, zinc and protein. “My grandmother told me sweet potatoes was a famine food – nutritious, easy to grow, and you get veges while you wait for the tubers.” 9. DIY plant pottles Don’t have jiffy pots or seed trays? Over lockdown, I started tomatoes in toilet rolls and peppers in paper cups. You can also try making origami seed raising pots from newspaper. 10. Save the tops for edible foliage Take tops off carrot, beetroot, radish or turnips, and pop them back in the soil or in a pot for another round of edible leaves. Young beetroot, radish and turnip leaves can go in salads, and carrot tops can be used in salads and soups. 11. Use chamomile tea to grow plants Yotam Kay from Pakaraka Permaculture in Thames says you can throw loose chamomile tea (or rip open a teabag) in garden beds or scatter into the lawn. The tea is made with chamomile flowers, and so is packed with seeds. 12. Sow microgreens from saved seeds “I’ve really enjoyed using peas and corn, but also tried quinoa and amaranth,” says Candice Harris, who has been busy in her edible garden in Clarkville near Kaiapoi. 13. Plant out storebought ginger Look for a plump rhizome with eyes, or growth buds, on the surface. Slice into pieces so there’s at least one eye on each piece. Leave to dry for a day or two before planting in a container filled with free-draining potting mix. Each piece needs about 20cm of space. Keep this subtropical inside or in a heated glasshouse (you might be able to grow it outside from Auckland north). The leaves and flowers will die down in autumn at which stage you can lift your harvest. 14. Grow corn from popcorn “Just not the microwave bag type!” says Jasmin Ahmad in Gulf Harbour. “Popping corn is the baby corn variety so harvest when young. Or leave until it has dried off to make more popcorn.” 15. DIY plunger bird feeder In Blenheim, Graeme Percy’s upcycled birdfeeder is modelled on one devised by his six-year-old grandchild. “Simply, it is a rubber kitchen plunger turned upside down and inserted directly in the ground,” he says (use a piece of PVC piping to give it more height). “Place it anywhere you like. Being rubber, it has a long life, and it can be reverted back to a plunger by turning it upside down.” 16. No seed spuds? Yotam Kay says just chit or plant potatoes that you have in the house. “Certified seed potatoes are better but ‘Agria’ or almost any potatoes that show sprouting would work.” 17. Make fertiliser Masterton gardener Maxine Smith made her own lockdown liquid fert. “I collected seaweed, cow poo, comfrey, stinging nettle and borage to make a yummy compost tea to feed my plants.” 18 Make a mini-greenhouse Rotorua gardener Leah Evans invented the “Bottleford 1000” to start seedlings off during lockdown when she wasn’t able to access jiffy pots or potting mix. Take a 3L milk bottle and cut along the middle just below the handle all the way around three sides, leaving a small section at the non-handle end to form a hinge. Using a drill or a hot nail, make a few holes at the base for drainage and make two more at the top for the “latch”. Feed a piece of string through the first latch hole at the front then back through the second hole from inside. You should have two bits of string out the front which you can now tie around the handle and effectively make a mini-greenhouse. “We can all be much more resourceful than we think,” Leah says. 19. Clone celery Cut celery stalks about 10cm from the base – use the stalks as you usually do, because it is the base that we want to regrow and plant again. Put it in a shallow bowl, with enough water to cover base and place on a warm, sunny windowsill. The celery will grow new shoots over the next few days. Replace the water every few days. Once a good spread of roots have developed, plant out this celery clone. 20. Eat the weeds In Waikanae, Alison Rudd treats onion weed like spring onions, she says. “My revenge on it taking over! It’s mild, so the leaves make an extra green in with silverbeet, Tuscan kale or frozen peas. A few bits, especially the white bits, go well in a green salad too, as it is just as mild raw.”

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