Garden pests and produce

A reader contacted us recently about one of the perennial problems of the oily rag gardener – snails and slugs! So we went down into the basement archives and found this tip that may do the trick.

Trish from Tauranga says, “To keep slugs and snails away from newly planted seedlings, just make a small flat container out of tin foil and put 3 or 4 slices of cucumber on it. The cucumber and tin foil together seem to give off an unnoticed smell which slugs and snails don’t like. I put a couple of little holes in the bottom so they didn’t collect rainwater. We have a raised garden about 2.5 x 3 metres and I used 3 small containers about 12 x 9cm.”

We also came across this tip from Jules of Napier: “Save seeds from supermarket or market purchased vegetables. If the seeds are moist such as tomato, pumpkin etc, space them out onto paper towels or toilet roll sheets. Write the date and variety on the paper. I love checking out farmers markets for unusual varieties of vegetables that contain seeds to grow. You get to have your cake and eat it too! I always have small bowl on my kitchen windowsill to scoop seeds into when preparing meals. Once dried you can roll them up, wrap in tin foil and store for the next season. When planting time comes, simply unroll and lie on a seed raising container (cut paper to size if required) and cover with another layer of potting mix. Plants will grow well spaced. These collected seeds can also be popped into home-made gift envelopes, to make wonderful gifts for gardening lovers.”

Jules also suggests growing NZ native spinach vine plants. “They are a little known vegetable that is really fast growing, provides huge volumes, keeps weeds down, and is incredibly delicious. Simply pluck the leaves from the vine and it continues to sprout. Three to four plants will easily keep a family fed for the winter. It grows all year round and is idiot proof!”

We like the sound of the native spinach plant so we found out a little more about it. Its Latin name is Tetragonia tetragonoides. As a vine it sprawls across the ground or can be trained up a trellis or fence. Some people use it as an edible ground cover as they would grow nasturtiums. Not surprisingly it tastes like spinach and is cooked in the same way. Also like spinach, and brassicas, the leaves are high in oxalates, so blanching is recommended.

Denis from Opotiki writes, “Use broken up polyurethane packing in the bottom of your pot plants. It keeps them warm and is lighter when you need to move your large pots.”

Allie from Nelson says, “A good way to store and use celery in the winter is as follows. Cut off the base, and the very coarsest top leaves if necessary, and discard. Wash the remainder thoroughly. Dry and chop fairly finely (leaves and all) Store in the freezer in zip top bags. Add handfuls to soups, stews, stir fry and casseroles as needed. No waste, quick and convenient, stays fresh.”

A reader has written in about Jerusalem Artichokes. “They are vigorous and easy to grow. When they flower, they look like a sunflower and are as tall, but the edible part is the root tuber, which is harvested when the flowers wilt and the plant starts to die. To harvest, the plant needs to be pulled out. I cut up the plant and use it as mulch around my fruit trees. I cook the root the same way we do potatoes but we especially like to roast them as slices of about 5mm thick. We do this by laying the slices in a roasting dish and cooking for about 20 minutes in a medium oven. To give them some added flavour I placed them in a good quality olive oil and add garlic – but green herbs would also add flavour. They are so easy to grow and the plants look good too.”

SJ from Dunedin has this wonderful tip: “Recently I decided I would like to learn to knit and crochet, and when I was given a big bag of wool scraps, I knew it was time to get started. Instead of buying expensive magazines or getting books from the library, I approached our local rest home and asked if there might be anyone who would be able to teach me. I now receive weekly tuition for free and spend a wonderful afternoon chatting and laughing with the ladies. I’ve also learned how to play Chess with the gentlemen!”