Wally Richards: if you can eat it, grow it!

Dig up some lawn and make a plot for vegetables…

Growing vegetables and fruit has always been one of my main gardening activities since I was a tot. If you can eat it, grow it, all other plants are for show. This does not mean that I don’t like my roses, annuals, ornamental trees and shrubs. They all serve a good purpose which I can enjoy when my belly is full of my own, homegrown produce.

This thinking dates back to 50+ years ago, when many New Zealanders used to grow most of their own fruit and vegetables. In the last 50 years things changed and we started to depend on others to grow the produce that we put on our tables.

Initially this produce was healthy, grown with compost and similar natural products. It contained nutritional value and fed a growing nation.  Progressively things changed as super phosphate and other chemical fertilisers were used by the market gardeners. Nutritional values dropped, the crops were attacked by diseases and pests, chemical sprays were applied and the health of the nation declined.

The heartening news is;  many gardeners have woken up to this problem and are now taking more notice of what harmful substances are in the food we eat.

I have spoken to a number of garden centre owners and they all report that they have never sold as many vegetable seedlings and seeds, this new season, than ever before.  I believe that people do not want to have illnesses such as cancer and that they realise that cancer and several other health problems are largely resulting from the chemicals in our food chain.

The answer is simple; grow as much as you can of your own produce so that your body receives a reasonable amount of wholesome goodness. The food tastes that much better and your health will be far better off as a result.

Dig up some lawn and make a plot for vegetables. Build raised gardens, grow in containers, remember where there is a will, there is a way and it’s your health we are talking about.

There are some basic rules to grow healthy produce:

  • Remember that whatever you put into the soil will be in your food.
  • Avoid all chemical fertilisers, sprays and chemical weed killers.
  • Use only natural composts, sheep manure pellets, blood & bone, liquid manures, lime, gypsum, dolomite etc.
  • Enhance the number minerals and elements in the soil by using mineral rich products such as Ocean Solids, Rok Solid and Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL)and  Sea Weed Extracts.
  • Feed the beneficial microbes and fungi with Mycorrcin and MBL.

Doing the above will build an excellent soil food web which is the key to the health of all living things on the planet.

The next question is what vegetables to grow?

This depends on the amount of garden room you have or alternatively grow in containers such as the polystyrene trays.

I grow the following in these trays:

Lettuce, silverbeet, spring onions, beetroot, dwarf beans, radishes, parsley, chives, garlic and my favourite ‘Bright Lights’ silverbeet.

The same trays are perfect to grow wheat grass for juicing which in my mind is the ultimate in nutritional value and health giving properties.

Lacking room?

‘Space Saver Vegetables’ are the answer, which are part of the Niche Seed’s range. These allow you to plant in small gardens and containers a number of vegetables such as the following:

  • Mini Cabbage, which has conical heads, sweet and tender ideal for summer salads, coleslaws and cooking; maturing in about 2 months.
  • Mini Cabbage,  Red, an early red cabbage with smooth, round, medium sized heads with superb flavour. Leaves are tender, crisp and pleasantly peppery.
  • Mini Cabbage, Savoy cabbage Alcosa, Small deep blue-green crinkled heads with very light cream interior leaves, ideal for growing in cooler temperatures.
  • Other Space Saver vegetables include; Baby Corn, Mini Pumpkin (Teddy Bear), 3 types of Rock Melon, Mini Leeks and Mini Onions. Besides not taking so much room in the garden these vegetables are quicker to reach maturity from seed. For one or two person households, they are perfect for fresh use, without the waste of a larger item that needs storing in the fridge.

Capsicums and peppers are great for your health and the Niche range of seeds provides 11 varieties plus a 4 pack that has two hot and two sweet peppers in separate packets on the main packet. In fact the Niche range includes a number of multiple packets of seeds in one packet which gives you a greater selection to grow.

Many gardeners like myself are always looking for something different to grow and those of us that like to do our Chef thing in the kitchen when entertaining, just love a vegetable that is not commonly available. Not only can you skite about say, the purple carrots you have included in a dish, you can also say they were grown by you with no chemicals to contaminate them.

Carrot Rainbow Selection has carrots of purple, white, yellow and red. These carrots have existed for hundreds of years and recent research has suggested that the natural pigments of the carrots may help prevent heart disease, cancer and reduce cholesterol. These are the types of vegetables we need these days and though they grow with different colours, they still taste like carrots.  Another root crop is Salsify (Black Salsify) which is sometimes referred to as the vegetable oyster having a flavour that is oyster like.  Burdock Root Minto Shirohada, is grown like parsnips and has a crisp nutty flavour. Used in a number of Japanese dishes and stir fries.

For the unusual try any of the following also;

  • Gherkin Mexican Sour vines produce masses of 50 to 77 mm fruits like miniature watermelons, which fall off the vine when ripe. They taste like a sweet cucumber which is contrasted by a surprising sourness as if they were already pickled.
  • Asparagus Pea is a true connoisseur’s vegetable producing copious quantities of delicious winged pods for about 10 weeks if picked regularly and kept well watered.  Commence harvesting when pods are about 25mm long and cook lightly (steamed) to bring out their unique flavour. (bit like asparagus)
  • Okra Burgundy is a colourful, decorative plant with flashy red pods which turn dark purple when lightly cooked. Pods remain tender up to 175mm long.
  • Shallots can be grown true from Niche seed for their mild onion flavour.
  • Zucchini Super Kumi is an interesting one to grow, developed from the original Kamo Kamo (Kumi Kumi).  Picked when the fruits are 120 to 180 mm long they are zucchini, allowed to keep on growing they become 2kg Kumi Kumi instead of the traditional marrows that one obtains off normal Zucchini.

Is that enough to wet your appetite? You will find the full range of Niche Vegetables seeds in most garden centres.

To obtain the best flavors and results follow the information supplied above and remember you can only get out of your gardens what you put in.

2 comments on “Wally Richards: if you can eat it, grow it!

  1. Wendy Wood on said:

    Hi there. What is the best way and time to water tomatoes?

    We have just put up a small greenhouse and have made a mix of sheep manure(seasoned) from a woolshed mixed with compost and now we’re ready to plant, but, we have been told two different ways for watering.

    1, attach an irrigation system which will spay upwards onto the leaves and to do this in the late afternoon/evening.

    2, run an irrigation system in the ground to only water the roots.


  2. Hi Wendy, 
    Considering you have tomato plants in there, I’d choose option 2.  Tomatoes don’t like being watered at night either.  So early morning is best and a drip to the roots is also best.  Otherwise mould forms on the leaves.

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