Cracker by Damian Christie

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Cracker: Dig This!

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  • Amy Gale,

    Courgettes work well for most gardens, I think. The main problem is that, being green, they are nicely camouflaged. It's one thing to intend to catch them all early but quite another to actually accomplish it. The best advice I have gotten in this area was from my mum, who advocates picking every one you see, no matter how small. It works well. The tiny ones are delicious, and once eaten cannot later contrive to repeatedly escape your notice while growing to ludicrous proportions.

    I did peas in (big) containers this year, against a sunny wall, with lettuce planted around them. They may be a bit easier to isolate from infection that way, although I can't honestly say that my thought process was any more sophisticated than "hmm, there is no room for peas in the main veggie bed."

    Our winters are too cold for a lemon tree, to my eternal disappointment. Everyone who knows me is probably sick of hearing me complain about the price of lemons and how much nicer it is when you live in a climate where you can have a tree and it's all so much better in the Old Country etc etc. I use bottled juice and oil 99% of the time. My nana would be ashamed.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Anonymous Author,

    Consider talking to your plants. Recite them the following:

    *Des (emptier) shopping Cartes*

    look at the essence of vegetables, mostly;
    leer at spotty legumes

    watch items;
    my poxy potatoes

    study stuff;
    her silly swedes

    pore over objects;
    his paltry peas

    eye things;
    their four-eye yams.


    If that fails to stimulate the greenery into growing, play them music. Kyuss’ track Phototropic from …and the Circus Leaves Town is both beautiful and relevant.

    As one commenter states ‘If I ever landed on Mars I’d play this in my spacesuit when I go outside.’

    [AA, I removed the formatting from your YouTube link so it would work. All you need to do in discussion here is just post in the URL. It auto-embeds.]

    Auckland • Since Nov 2010 • 64 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I love vegetables and herbs, and I love cooking, so I really wish I didn't hate absolutely everything about gardening. I keep waiting to find myself liking it, but at 36 I'm not likely to have a road to Damascus moment, am I? Did anyone get into it much later than me?

    I'm glad to discover I'm not the only one.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    On that basis I got about two punnets of strawberries a week for three months.

    Wow, that's most interesting - my previous dalliance with strawberries I think netted about 5 berries, once the birds had dealt to the other 5. I'd put them into the "small yield" basket, but I may well try again. Too late for this year?

    I forgot to mention, last summer we bought three smallish citrus trees (lemon, lime and mandarin) which we have in big pots on corners of the deck, with individual irrigation sprayers so no maintenance. Very pretty, smell beautiful when in bloom and by the looks of them, year two is going to be very bountiful indeed.

    Amazing how much money can be saved going to wholesale nurseries, or even Roger's (for those in Auckland) as opposed to your Kings, Palmers etc. Those places are appalling overpriced.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Anonymous Author,

    AA, I removed the formatting from your YouTube link so it would work. All you need to do in discussion here is just post in the URL. It auto-embeds.

    Many thanks. Will do.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2010 • 64 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    I’m glad to discover I’m not the only one.

    I'm a bit surprised at that Russ, what with your most awesome culinary skills I would've thought a bit of grow-yer-own would be a natural complement? Fresh herb at least, surely? Just having to spend $4 every time you need a certain herb for a certain dish (forget about anything needing 3 or 4 different fresh herbs) seems ludicrous.

    I've definitely eased into it. As I say, herb garden. Then a few spring onions, just to see what would happen. Then some beets... now lettuce...

    The crazy thing is, with the likes of lettuce, you chuck it in and do almost nothing (maybe some snail bait) and every day you've got fresh lettuce sitting there waiting for you. It's easier than going to the supermarket - what's not to like?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Pulp Friction...

    Pumpkins I had to “help” the “fertility” process along (and yes I felt dirty afterwards and had to have a shower)

    Yes, I've heard that pumping kin
    never ends well...
    ;- )

    too earthy?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7886 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Discarded pumpkin seeds from shop-bought pumpkins have a way of turning into huge pumpkin-laden vines if you compost your kitchen scraps. I've never grown them intentionally, maybe that's the trick? ;-)

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    I have stupid amount of self-seeded italian parsley coming on. Pesto ahoy at some point.

    My latest effort is putting some long-term stuff down the far end of the garden. Rhubard and - somewhat without regard for the recommened planting methods - asparagus seedlings. (Bought after trying some from seed. I pretty much actively ill-treated those, but to my surprise one has actually germinated).

    Want to line up a few fruit trees for autumn. Hopefully will water them more than the citrus we put in, the smallest ones have gotten into a bit of peril.

    Saffron? Really. Hmm.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    Hopefully will water them more than the citrus we put in, the smallest ones have gotten into a bit of peril.

    I can't overstate the benefit of having automatic irrigation in keeping my herbs and veges alive. Perhap some with a more settled schedule might enjoy the tranquility of spraying the garden of an evening, but mine'd be dead in no time, especially if this summer is as dry as the last.

    I've just put some more irrigation out the front, some ferns that looked almost beyond hope. A week later and there's new fronds popping through, and even though they still look a bit manky, they'll live.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Terry Johnson,

    There are things you plant because you want to avoid paying for them at the supermarket, and things you plant because you can't get them any other way. We've got heirloom peppers growing in the glasshouse (they like heat, as do capsicums) because they aren't available. Outside of the usual suspects, we've also got dark tomatoes, NZ spinach (we were curious what Cook was calling spinach), giant sunflowers (because I like 2.5m tall plants with flowers like dinner plates that the chickens will probably enjoy too), and I've built an observation beehive (one with a clear panel in the side) that is both an interesting experiment and slowly filling with honey. It's been good fun and I ocassionally get to use power tools too!

    Since Nov 2010 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    Lots of parsley --> tabbouleh!

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    @Damian The purple cauliflower is helpfully called ‘purple cauliflower’, according to Wiki, and contains anthocyanin, which gives it the colour. I’m learning here too, as me green fingers are the ones taking the photos, not planting the veges. I’m the one who mows too close to the strawberries, and gets into trouble.

    Actually, on that note, whatever variety of strawberries we have just stays in the ground and produces more each year without replanting.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Katie Pask,

    My current favourites are broad beans, spinach = popeye, artichokes look great, taste splendid but take up room, beans, peas, strawberries, vietnamese mint - I like 'em all, even celery

    Good vegetables need good recipes. Lately I've been getting into Marcella Hazan's recipes. Beautiful, simple, yet detailed :

    Celery and tomato pasta sauce | Sugo di sedano e pomodoro (Marcella Hazan) http://bit.ly/do6S29

    Delicimo!

    Also - if you get someone to build you a box that will take out most of the hard work, and increase the bounty. We'd build you one, but all of our gear is over here. I think these people look good:

    http://www.patchfromscratch.co.nz/

    Since May 2007 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    Well, I'm 40-mumble and have been keen on gardening since being 30-something, I think. When I lived in Taupo we had the most amazing cherry tomatoes that grew without much care on my part, in a strip of earth about 40 cm wide between a paved driveway and a carport. Honestly, I gave away boxes of the things. I can never work out why they are so crazy expensive as they are very easy to grow and high-yielding. Outdoor basil was a goer in Taupo too.
    Sadly in Wellington basil will only grow indoors here, and growing tomatoes is a triumph of hope over experience (like second marriages, they say). However, the herbs, being hardy, do fine, and so do the potatoes and leafy greens.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 821 posts Report Reply

  • Anonymous Author,

    After a heightened night out, freshly picked and steeped Chamomile is soporific and prolific (should your digits be more grim than green). For a difficulty of 9.1 attempt asparagus from seed. Three years to harvest, then productive for more than ten years.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2010 • 64 posts Report Reply

  • Dyk Jewell, in reply to Damian Christie,

    I started gardening after I was 60 - so it's never too late!

    Last year I planted strawberries at Christmas (in sunny Wellington) and we got a few berries by about February. Over the winter the plant has steadily expanded and now covers about a square metre so I am hoping to get a good crop this year. I have bought the netting to protect from the birds.

    My general advice to anyone starting vegie gardening - experiment with different types and positions. Find out what works best for your particular micro-climate and don't be disheartened by the occasional failure.

    Wonderful Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    run a strict “if you need too much special attention, it’s not going to work out for us” regime. I’m perfectly happy to pinch back shoots and stomp on Japanese beetles and so forth, but if a plant is going to die because it didn’t get something special [*] applied, we were never meant to be.

    Me too. A bit of compost now and then is fine, but that’s about the extent of it. I would swear that benign neglect produces the best tomatoes, but I think Mike was watering them every time they looked wilty, so probably not. (That’s the secret to a great garden: a spouse who takes your forgetfulness as a challenge.)

    Unlike the rest of you late bloomers, I got into gardening at twenty, much to everyone else at the flat’s bewilderment. And mine, when they had a whole row of delicious and fresh lettuce which they turned up their noses at in favour of store-bought. I’ve had my best successes with tomatoes, mesclun, and rocket; soooooo much more tasty than supermarket-bought, and not that much effort. My first courgette died a sad and lonely death, but the second produced like crazy. Leeks are also a bit much effort, from my one try, as they just wouldn’t get very big, but if you have nice fertile soil they might be worth the effort. Capsicum and aubergine are a bit more finicky than tomatoes, but the satisfaction is greater when you get to eat them.

    For the winter, spinach and silverbeet are musts. They grow like weeds and if you pick a leaf at a time and pinch the seedheads out, they’ll go all winter, even in Christchurch. Cabbage is a bit attractive to slugs, if you’re the low-maintenance type. Broccoli seems to hold its own. I’ve never managed peas that didn’t go mouldy, but they need more sun than I ever had.

    We got to Massachusetts too late to plant anything this year, but there’s a lovely big 4x6m patch in the football-field sized “back yard” that the landlord says I’m welcome to plant up next spring, and he’s got a digger he can turn it over with. There’ll be room for potatoes and pumpkins and corn and all sorts of lovely big things I never had space for before. I can’t wait.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Wow, that's most interesting - my previous dalliance with strawberries I think netted about 5 berries, once the birds had dealt to the other 5. I'd put them into the "small yield" basket, but I may well try again. Too late for this year?

    My first attempt was with woodland berries which never produced large fruit, and which didn't spread at all. I then put in four garden strawberries and my partner has called me the best strawberry grower in the world ever since. It's like weeds that produce really massive fruit.

    I use horse compost/straw in my garden quite a lot, and yes, a netting frame of some sort is pretty essential, and lots of sun.

    I'd say definitely do it this year. If you put them in now you'll have berries by late January or early February, but even if you don't get many fruit this season they'll spread and you'll have twice as many plants next season and you'll be very popular.

    I had very good luck with peas (from seed) last season. My daughter is a fresh pea nut (won't eat them cooked), and we would bring in about 40 pods a week - so a couple of hundred peas - which she would eat in a weekend. If you like fresh peas, there's nothing like eating them 10 seconds after they've been ripped from the plant.

    No luck at all with corn (a few very small rather sad cobs), but not surprising in Dunedin. Potatoes grow wild in my garden (as a result of previous plantings where I missed pulling some out), and mushrooms grew like crazy in a shady spot, though I wasn't brave enough to eat them.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    I had very good luck with peas (from seed) last season. My daughter is a fresh pea nut (won't eat them cooked), and we would bring in about 40 pods a week

    Peas are the greatest with small kids. Back then (I've been gardening as long as I've had dirt) our food production was largely geared around giving the kids a bowl of pea pods and raspberries with their dinner every night through summer.

    Now, I like to grow things I end up having to throw bits of away if I buy in - lettuce, spinach, silver beet - being able to cut what you want and leave the rest to grow is fabulous. And also, things that taste WAY better fresh-grown than bought - strawberries, corn, and cherry tomatoes for the members of the family who aren't allergic. Lots of basil - it grows fine outside in pots here, not so much in the garden.

    Someone once told me they found gardening to be basically outdoor housework. I don't really grok that. I'm not saying I don't think it's true, I do, and I get that people really don't like gardening. But for me, having a garden has always been like having a cat: I go slightly nutty without it.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    My general advice to anyone starting vegie gardening - experiment with different types and positions.

    There you go, Russell. That should be sufficient inducement ;-)

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2537 posts Report Reply

  • Mellopuffy, in reply to Danielle,

    I've not been that keen with my garden, though I have done one through that feeling of necessity. And this year, for the first time, I think I am really enjoying getting out there and planting stuff...Damien's approach, starting with some herbs, is probably the best way to get going slowly...

    Dunedin, NZ • Since Feb 2007 • 63 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Dyk Jewell,

    experiment with different types and positions

    seems like good advice in general

    snap (beans)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I've not been that keen with my garden, though I have done one through that feeling of necessity.

    Wot? I hauled all that dirt out of your feeling of necessity?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Now, I like to grow things I end up having to throw bits of away if I buy in - lettuce, spinach, silver beet - being able to cut what you want and leave the rest to grow is fabulous.

    This is absolutely one of the best bits - you just take what you need, and the rest keeps growing back. Pick regularly, and you can get months out of the same plants.

    Washing is a bit more of a necessity with these than store-bought if you're particularly upset by boiled caterpillars in the saucepan, but I'm enough of a microbiologist to just pick them out and eat it anyway. After all, anything harmful is dead. I find, however, that this strategy works better if you don't bring it to the rest of the family's attention. They may become oddly picky.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

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