We should ask ourselves the question, ‘Why do we garden’? Is it because it gives us an excuse to get outdoors away from the hustle and bustle of our day to day lives? Is it because once outside we want to look like we are doing something constructive rather than just wandering around aimlessly? (Bit like owning a dog so you have an excuse to take walks.) Is it just another chore that one needs to do to keep the outside tidy? On the other hand there are people that love to get out amongst nature and enjoy the sight of plants growing and being partly responsible for this accomplishment.
To answer the question one needs to look back thousands of years, to a time when we were hunters and food gatherers. One would get out of their cave in the morning and with a spear and club in hand, go out foraging for food. If there were plenty of editable plants and game in your area all was well. When your family and neighbours (tribe) grew in number then when the area you foraged in could not supply your food needs you would pack up your belongings and move to a new area. A nomadic life style which changed when we learnt to plant seeds and farm animals. The first reason then for us to garden was to obtain adequate food from the place where your cave was. Neatness was not a priority and in many cases this even applies to a certain extent today, where the gardener that gardens for food, is not so concerned about how tidy things are, rather how good the crops are.
On the other hand we have those gardeners that love to have pretty gardens, filled with flowers and roses because the supermarket is where they do their hunting and gathering. If you were fortunate enough to watch ‘Inside New Zealand’ (Wednesday 12th on TV3) You would have learnt some interesting facts in how our food industry and government, have sorely let us down in providing a healthy food chain.
Instead of wholesome, natural foods we have chemically saturated food stuffs packed with preservatives, colorings and chemical flavors, many of which are not good for our health and well being.
One of the experts on the program said that she would tell her patients that the area around the walls of the supermarket was the area to shop as it contained real food where down the isles was the chemical foods stuffs. Another point caught my attention when it was stated that if you locked the doors on a fully packed supermarket and left it like that for a hundred years or more and then opened the doors you would find all the food around the outside gone, rotted away but the food stuffs in the aisles would still be there ready to eat! The damage that the chemical foods do to our health and well being can be easily summed up with all the health problems that people have these days. We are always hearing about increasing rates of cancers and other disabling health conditions. Logics tells us that many of these problems are as a result, over time, from the food we eat. For thousands of years our bodies evolved to eat natural foods, but over the last 20 to 30 years we have being feeding our bodies chemical foods.
It would likely take a few thousand years to adapt to this new diet.
So lets get back to basics and grow as much of our own health giving fruit and vegetables as possible, which was the original prime reason to garden anyway. It is you and your families health that is at stake so find the time and space for some simple vegetables. For those starting out, lets keep it simple; pick up a few bags of compost from the local garden centre along with a bag of sheep manure pellets and a bag of blood & bone. Seedlings such as lettuce Buttercrunch, Silverbeet, spinach, spring onions and a packet of radish seed. Either make a space in the gardens where it is sunny or use containers.
Sprinkle the blood & bone on the soil, cover with a couple of inches of compost and plant the seedlings with a few sheep manure pellets in the planting hole. Later scatter some more sheep pellets around by the plants. In containers make a mix of the compost, sheep pellets, blood & bone along with a little soil from the garden. Use this mix to fill the containers and plant up.
For those that wish to add more nutritional value to their crops use Ocean Solids and Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) Then all you have to do is keep the growing medium moist by watering regularly.
In the past I have always favoured hearting lettuces such as Triumph and Great Lakes but a few months back I planted Buttercrunch instead and very pleased that I did. They provide a continual supply of lettuce leaves by picking the big outside leaves until the plant eventually goes to seed. Freshly picked and eaten in salads or sandwiches you are obtaining maximum nutritional value. Silverbeet is another perfect vegetable as you only harvest the outside leaves till it goes to seed.
For those gardeners that would like something different you will need to look at the Niche Seed Stands which are in many garden centres.
Here some examples, Carrot, Rainbow selection and Carrot Purple Haze, these coloured carrots taste just like ordinary carrots but have special health giving properties in each colour.
Onions; Heirloom Pearl Onion, Mini Onion Purplette and Onion Sweet Walla Walla. Did you know that if you have high cholesterol problems that by eating a small raw onion everyday you will bring down your cholesterol levels to normal? Growing these sweet type onions or red onions such as Mini Onion Purplette makes eating them raw a breeze. If the taste still bothers you chop up a small onion (about the size of a hen egg) and mix it with liquid honey to eat. After having a onion daily for say about 6 weeks go and get your cholesterol levels checked. Much more natural than the medications.
Here are some more unusual vegetables to grow; Mini Pumpkin, Baby Bear produces small pumpkins ideal for a single serving.
Radish Japanese Daikon for those that are on diets, shred and use in salads.
Salsify, Black Vegetable Oyster, grown like parsnips but black in colour with an oyster flavor.
For wonderful tasty, leafy vegetables try, Heirloom Spinach, Bloomsdale Long Standing with glossy dark green crinkled leaves, Spinach New Zealand for all year round harvesting, Swiss Chard Bright Lights, coloured silverbeet, or Swiss Chard, Envy, juicy, mild flavored leaves on short plants.
Tomato fanciers might like to try; Tomato Jack Cider, large yellow fruits with great flavor, Heirloom Cherokee Purple, unusual variety, rich full flavour or Heirloom Black from Tula, huge fruits with a great spicy taste and cold tolerant.
Zucchini are another easy plant to grow and the Niche Seeds have a packet with 6 different individual types in the one packet.
For those with little gardening space, does not preclude you from growing some fresh greens by using a Bio Set sprouter and selecting the Niche organic seed mixes for sprouting.
Far superior to the sprouts you can buy as yours will be fresh from the sprouter not days old.
One thing that I strongly recommend to growing is wheat grass and juicing it through a manual juicer.
For just on two years now I have been growing wheat grass and having a little toddy of the fresh juice first thing every morning. Do you want to know something? I have not had a cold or the flu since I started it. I often feel a cold coming on, but next day its gone. Having a strong immune system must be the reason.
Our health is the most important asset we will ever own and we should do all we can to ensure that we stay healthy for as long as possible.
A simple bit of gardening and sprouting will go along way to achieving great health. That is of course, if you avoid as much as possible those harmful chemical found in our conventional food chain.