A spring in your step

The first day of September is a Red letter day for the DIY oily rag community. But first to your letters.

Alchemist from Dunedin writes, “Sometimes buying meat from a butcher is cheaper than the supermarket. Shop later in the day and make friends with your butcher. S/he will be happy to tell you how to get the best out of cheaper cuts”.

Rosiesview from Whangarei writes, ” When we are lucky enough to get free Limes we juice them and freeze the juice. We use it all year for cooking – and in drinks. Homemade Lemon Lime & Bitters is a particular favourite, along with Thai recipes.

Peedeenz from Hastings writes, “To get a better tasting citrus juice, do not – or try not to – get the oil from the skin in the juice. This is the stuff that they make into the citrus cleaner and is quite bitter. Next time you peel an orange or lemon, squeeze a bit of peel and you’ll see a fine mist spray from the skin. This is limonene. It is quite flammable and can soften adhesives used to attach jar labels. If you are courageous, gingerly taste it… yuck! It takes a lot of sugar to disguise its taste, so don’t include it. Either peel the fruit if you use a press or wash it off your hands after ‘squeezing’ each fruit if you use a lemon squeezer. The time spent doing either will give you a healthier juice and save you money on unnecessary sugar.”

A reader writes, “I am looking forward to the next Little Garden promotion by New World. My kids love collecting the seeds and watching them grow in the raised garden we have created. The Little Garden website says they are planning some exciting things ahead. Can’t wait.”

Unfortunately, New World has in the last day or so said they will be replacing the Little Garden promotion with one to reduce food waste. That will be a disappointment to many. While reducing waste is good, oily raggers are frugal folk tend to hate waste already! But what do you think?

September is the start of the best season of the year for the garden – and now is the time to get things ready for the harvest to come.

The secret to a good DIY garden is placing the growing beds in the right location and getting the soil right. With the basics in place, your garden will probably produce much more than your family alone can eat.

Raised garden beds about 300mm high are popular because the frames are moveable, and the beds are easy to work and free draining. Having a number of beds allows crop rotation and the opportunity to “recondition” soil in the bed(s) not being used. Growing a green fertiliser crop like lupin or mustard seed is good.

The ideal garden should be sited to collect plenty of afternoon sun. The sun warms the soil, and the warm soil then acts as an incubator for growth. The site should also be sheltered from chilly winds – preferably fringed by protecting trees and shrubs, but not so close that they block out the sun or that their roots invade your garden and steal valuable nutrients.

Once the site is right, the next thing to attend to is the soil. If your soil is heavy clay or infertile, then goodness will need to be introduced. You can, of course, buy various fertilisers at your local nursery, but those living off the smell of an oily rag will want to avoid this.

Animal manures are excellent fertiliser, but most will need about six weeks to dry out, otherwise it may burn the roots of young plants. Other sources of goodness are home-made compost, blood and bone (dead carcasses), haystack bottoms, sawdust, seaweed, lake-weed, and leaves.

For free sawdust, try a local wood-turner, joiner or timber-mill. These guys have heaps of wood shavings and dust and they are normally glad to give it to you because it costs them money to remove it. Make sure the sawdust is from untreated wood.

Seaweed and lake-weed can be collected while on a family outing, a sack full of leaves can be gathered from your own yard or from a local park, and haystack bottoms from farmers, who also may be able to supply various types of manure. Stables, of course, are a goldmine for the manure collector!

If you are new to gardening then you may want to start with seedlings, but those with some experience will find it even more satisfying propagating their own seeds. It really is so easy, and nothing beats fresh vegetables from your garden – even silver beet tastes good!