The autumn garden and some tips

Those living off the smell of an oily rag are usually keen gardeners – because fresh is best, it’s a great way to save money, and it can be a very fulfilling. So let’s head off into the oily rag garden, to show that it’s never a bad time of the year to be active in the garden!

For most oily raggers, the gardening year gets going when the temperature starts to drop. Autumn is a good time to rejuvenate soil after the summer harvest. Empty the compost bins into the garden beds, and add lots of rotting vegetation, manure, and other organic goodies.

If you are giving some beds a rest over the winter, grow a green nitrogen crop by digging in lupin and mustard seeds. It’s a great way to add goodness into the garden ahead of spring planting.

Just because it’s getting cooler it doesn’t mean you need be without home-grown greens. Try planting rocket, chard, spinach, kale, hardy varieties of lettuce (try miner’s lettuce), broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, and silver beet.

If you have a greenhouse, you can extend the range of plantings – depending on your climate. Greenhouses come in all forms. At the most basic level, a reader recommends cutting off the bottoms of 1.5 and 2 litre drink bottles and placing them over young plants. By pushing them firmly into the ground you will protect the plants against the cold air as well as garden pests like slugs, snails – and rabbits!

Mary says, “We have a number of raised garden beds. This is an ideal base to add a mini green house. We built one that was only about 500mm high with sloping lid which can be propped up with some old casement stays from the shed (my hubby never throws anything out!). It’s perfect for winter greens, and a great way to utilise beds that would otherwise sit empty over the winter”.

Kerry says they use a hinged window frame that they picked up for a very reasonable price (nothing!). They boxed it in to make it draft proof, but this works well on raised gardens (just lay the window frame over the sides of the raised garden).

Michael has a simple method to make compost. “To make rich compose, place lawn clippings, weeds and other garden waste into a big black plastic bag (such as a big garbage bag). Seal the bag and leave. Turn it once a week and after three months you will have good garden compost.”

Another oily ragger has four black plastic compost bins that they fill with household scraps and clean garden weeds. When the first bin is full, they start the second bin, and so on. By the time the last bin is full, the first is ready to use. If there is any material that has not rotted, it is transferred to the one at the far end of the line, and put through another “cycle” until it breaks down.

Now to some general tips.

Karen from Dunedin writes, “I dehydrate 1kg bags of frozen vegetables. It is so worthwhile, as they can be used for camping and emergency situations like floods and quakes. They are light and easy to carry and store.”

Sue from Auckland has a high-finance budgeting system: “To make sure all expenses are prepared for, I have separate bank accounts for different purposes – eg power, groceries, car, education, gifts, fun, etc (12 accounts in total). Every week at payday I put the calculated weekly expense of each category (averaged across the whole year) into each account. Through the year as each expense comes up, there is always ample to pay for each thing. All accounts are interest-bearing, as well as the account my pay goes into. My bank allows me to name my accounts, so it is easy to tell which account is for what.”

Gaynor from Paraparaumu has a couple of tips: “I always buy powdered (skim) milk – cheaper, less to carry home, and no bottles to dispose of. Instead of buying a winter duvet, buy a second summer one and use both in winter.”

Lyn from Hamilton has a mortgage tip: “Making mortgage repayments four weekly rather than by calendar month, cuts both the term of the mortgage and the cost of it dramatically.” It certainly does because in effect 13 payments are made a year instead of 12. The same benefit would be gained by increasing the mortgage payment amount or by making one-off payments with surplus funds.