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Oily Rag - Spring has Sprung

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Oily Rag - Spring has Sprung
By Frank and Muriel Newman

Some people say they don’t have the time to garden, which is why busy oily raggers like ‘easy’ gardening. Frugality is a matter of degree so we would not expect everyone to transform their entire back yard into a food basket, but everyone can do something to enjoy the benefits of a home garden - and reap the financial rewards that come from it.

An easy garden starts with a raised garden bed. In gardening terms easy means no bending so an easy raised garden is about bench height, which is about 700mm.

The garden bed does not need to be too fancy, some spare (i.e. free!) 150mm x 25mm timber for the side boards and 100mm x 100mm for the posts (again free). An important addition is a capping board along the top - make it wide enough to sit on. The 150mm x 25mm timber is a suitable width for most bottoms! Nothing like having a seat while weeding the garden.

The overall dimensions of each garden bed can be whatever works in your space. Just keep in mind that an easy garden would be no wider than 1m so reaching in from the side is easy.

Arty and crafty types may like to dress up their gardens to make them more fun. Try lining the sides with recycled (free) corrugated iron, colourful kids’ art, pre-loved garden tools, etc.

Once built, place the planter on level ground and place a thick layer of newspaper as ground cover. Fill the bottom with loads of (free) seaweed or animal manure then add lawn clippings, food scraps and so on. Top it off with compost from your compost bins. The result will be a rich soil ready for spring planting.

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There are lots of easy care plants for the back-yard gardener. Try some of the following: tomatoes, melons, sweet corn, pumpkins, peppers, potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, beetroot, and salad vegetables. For herbs and companion plants try basil, rosemary, lavender, chamomile, and marigolds.

For those new to gardening start with lettuce. In fact, you do not even need a raised garden bed because they will grow in almost anything: pots, hanging baskets, window boxes, growing bags, wall gardens, and so on. For a continuous harvest, sow more every two weeks or so.

The versatility of lettuce also makes them a great way to introduce kids to gardening. Plant a fancy leafy variety in a decorative pot and place on a sunny windowsill. In a matter of weeks the children will be enjoying the benefits of their harvest, and, more importantly, they will be saying how tasty their greens are!

There are lots of different varieties of lettuce available, but they generally fall into types that form tight heads and are harvested whole, and the perpetual ones which can be picked leaf by leaf as required. The leafy ones are the easiest to grow and can usually be bought from plant centres in a punnet of mixed varieties.

Here are some lettuce types you may like to try:

Iceberg is the classic lettuce with a firm head or heart. The leaves are crunchy with a mild flavour. This is the lettuce that often ends up in burgers. They form into a large plant and should be spaced about 30cm apart in the garden.

Cos is a leafy lettuce also known as Romaine. It is a favourite for Caesar salads, and is perfect for growing in pots and tubs.

Cosberg is a cross between iceberg and a cos lettuce. It is suited to all sorts of salads and makes a great food wrap!

Butterhead has waxy leaves and is fast growing with a buttery taste. It is perfect for small gardens and comes or green or red varieties.

Green Coral has crinkly leaves with a slightly bitter flavour. It also comes in a red variety.

Within 8 to 10 weeks of reading this column, oily raggers everywhere will no doubt be enjoying fresh summer salads! If you have a favourite salad recipe, you can share it with others via the oily rag website.

Please send in your tips and queries by visiting the oily rag website (www.oilyrag.co.nz) or by writing to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

ends

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