We all know that growing fresh fruit and vege at home can save money while providing one’s family with healthy kai.
But like many DIY endeavours, there are more effective ways of going about it and less effective ways of going about it. Sadly, I have seen dozens of examples of failed home and community gardens that suffered from poor design and poor management.
For example, many fruit trees have died at an unsuccessful community garden at the top of Carson Street in Castlecliff due to poor design and installation. Hundreds of dollars worth of fruit trees have been “blown away” because the trees were not given protection from the coastal winds and “leached away” because they were planted in sand without sufficient soil amendments.
Unfortunately, when it comes to fruit trees and vege gardens, being cheap can be expensive. In community gardens this represents a waste of money and sends the wrong message to the local community. In a home garden, it may be that a failed attempt discourages a family from trying it again.
The good news is that this can be avoided with appropriate design and installation. I am fond of the phrase: “Do it once. Do it right.”
This is not to discount the value of making mistakes and learning from them, but it is always better to learn from someone else’s mistakes and subsequent learning. With this in mind, here are a few things I have learned.
There are four main factors in food production: sun, wind, water and soil. Unless you are Maui, the only one that cannot be actively managed is the sun.
The easiest of the rest to manage may be water. Living within city limits all you need to do is turn on your tap for unlimited free H2O for your lawn and garden. However, this can be wasteful if you live on sandy soils because most of the water leaches away carrying some of the nutrients you may have put on in the form of compost or chemical fertilizer. Additionally, it is highly likely that at some point in the future Wangaui will have metered water and we will pay for what we use.
At our Castlecliff property we have invested about $400 in topsoil that greatly enhances the productivity of our fruit trees and vege gardens by slowing the leaching of compost away from the plants’ roots. The return on this investment is far in excess of $400 in abundant organic fruit and vege. (It takes money to save money.)
We also invested about $600 in substantial wind protection. It makes no sense to plant a fruit tree in Castlecliff if you do not protect it from the coastal winds. (It takes money to save a tree.) Adequate wind protection reduces stress on trees and results in higher fruit yields. For example, one Black Boy Peach tucked away in an especially sheltered corner of our property is perhaps the healthiest and most productive organic tree of its kind in the city.
Other fruit varieties on our property include: plums, apricots, prunes, guavas, grapes, figs, bananas, oranges, loquats, feijoas, apples, olives, raspberries, and more peaches.
Alongside good property design and proper installation of garden infrastructure comes good management. Together, they can account for many thousands of dollars in fresh fruit and vege for your family with little effort. The savings on your food bill can be significant but it’s critical to invest first for success later.
If you are interested in learning more about the best practices in organic garden design and management, check out the sidebar.
Workshop: Low-Input / High-Productivity Gardening
Thoughtful design and management of a vege garden can increase productivity and decrease the hours of labour. Invest two hours in this workshop and save dozens of hours weeding your garden.
Sunday 9th November, 3-5 PM. Registration and deposit required.
06 344 5013, firstname.lastname@example.org