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Starting a spring garden

Starting a spring garden

By Frank and Muriel Newman

It’s spring (not that the temperature gauge is aware of it yet) so its time to think about planting for the summer harvest. Did you know that gardening is the fourth most popular leisure activity in New Zealand? (The top three are: watching TV, reading, and socialising with friends). Every household should have a garden – it’s actually dead simple for those who don’t want to get too fancy, and we reckon it’s a better use of one’s time than blobbing out in front of the tellie and adding inches to the waistline! Even renters can have a pot plant garden that they can take with them if they shift. All it takes is a get-up-and-go attitude - and a few tips from oily rag gardeners!

K.O. from Mahia has a cost-effective way of raising seeds. “Seed propagating kits from retailers are expensive, and you can easily make your own. Save flat, shallow plastic trays (the black plastic trays used to sell sausages and mince are perfect) to use for the base/saucer. Grab an old cardboard egg tray (the ones that hold 30 eggs) and cut it to the size of your plastic meat tray, so that it fits nice and evenly inside the tray....and voila, a seed propagating kit! Instead of going about the finicky business of watering fragile seeds, you simply fill the plastic tray instead, and the cardboard egg tray will constantly absorb water from the plastic tray, keeping the soil and the seeds evenly moist. I use this technique to get a head start on the season, placing my home made seed kits in an old, unused vehicle, which acts like a greenhouse. You can also use old plastic bags, put the seed kit inside and leave in a sunny location, but be sure to open for a brief period daily to let the germinating seeds breathe. I have also used the hot water cupboard to germinate seeds with great success.”

G.B. also has a seed-raising tip. “If planting large seeds like beans, use the inners of toilet rolls, part fill with seed mix, put in the seed and top up. You can get about 12 of these to stand up in an ice cream container. And in due course plant out the whole tube. The plants will not suffer any transplant shock and the cardboard will rot away quickly.”

A Hume from Wairoa writes, “My husband is growing ALL our garden veges from seed. He has found a useful way of using 2 litre milk bottles as seedling pots. He cuts it halfway up, fills the bottom with soil, then cuts the top into 4 divider slots & slots them in. We use every container that comes into our house - yoghurt pottles, plastic bottles, and polystyrene containers – and best of all, they are all reusable.”

Keen as Mustard from rural Palmerston North uses non-shiny pamphlets, photocopying paper, invoices, statements, phone bills, electricity bills etc to make paper pots for raising seeds. Just fold the paper into a pot shape, fill with soil and add the seed. Once it has germinated and is strong enough, plant the whole lot into the garden without any disruption - the pot will disappear very quickly. “Now I look forward to getting my junk mail and bills as all I can see is the food that they will start!”

Denis from Opotiki has a smart idea to lighten heavy pot plants. “Use broken up polyurethane packing in the bottom of your pot plants. It keeps them warm and is lighter when you need to move your large pots.”

TXMA from Glenfield has this tip for using kitchen waste. “Instead of buying blood and bone for your garden, get a fisherman's heavy duty meat grinder (burly maker) and grind up the bones to use as fertiliser. Dry the bone meal in the oven as you cook your next roast, or just dig it straight in.”

Do you have a favourite money-saving gardening tip that you would like to share with others? If so, please send it to us at or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

© Scoop Media

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