Canny Kiwis give green thumbs-up to growing their own vegetables

By Michael Dickison

Photo / Natalie Slade
Photo / Natalie Slade

Almost 60 per cent of New Zealanders say they have taken up vegetable gardening in the past 12 months.

A Herald-DigiPoll survey of 750 people found benefits in growing your own food during a tough economic year.

As the price of fruit and vegetables rose 12 per cent in the year to November in Statistics New Zealand figures, 57.6 per cent of people said they had started vegetable gardening.

Women were more likely to have taken it up, at 62.1 per cent, but the majority of men also answered that they had.

In Tauranga, a community garden with 57 plots was formally opened in November and the spaces were taken up within a month.

John Goldstone had no experience growing vegetables, but now tends his plot every day, usually after his work in engineering.

He has corn, lettuce, capsicum, spinach, onions, broccoli, silverbeet, strawberries, tomatoes, basil, rhubarb, radishes, jalapeno peppers and potatoes sprouting.

The garden charges $5 a week for enough space to feed a family of four all year round.

"I take a lot of pride in my garden," Mr Goldstone said. "It's great. It's stress-free. It's a really peaceful time."

A $2 punnet of capsicum seedlings yielded 100 vegetables - at the supermarket it would have cost at least $200, he said.

There were solo mums at the gardens who had children with allergies. By growing their own vegetables, they knew exactly what had gone into them and could be assured they were safe.

The garden had three experienced gardeners who helped the rest with their plots, Mr Goldstone said.

It had been fresh fruit and vegetable prices that had pushed him to start gardening, but since he started, the joy of it had taken over, he said.

"I'm absolutely consumed by it," Mr Goldstone said.

"The word's out there. Everyone now knows. It's amazing how many people are talking about growing your own vegetables."

Warren Knight, one of the experienced gardeners, said growing vegetables had been saving many families $50 a week.

Extra produce was donated to food banks, and the community garden had also taken up a 16-year-old for community service who had become a great asset, Mr Knight said.

Elderly residents living nearby who had not grown vegetables for years had picked it up again.

"I'm amazed at the number of people who haven't done any gardening before trying it out," Mr Knight said."But they're lovingit.

"They'll feed themselves over summer, and then feed themselves all year round."

LEAN TIMES LEAD TO SURGE IN DIY

A tide of New Zealanders have taken up do-it-yourself crafts in the past year and the popularity of sewing, knitting, making cleaning products and doing repairs is surging.

A Herald-DigiPoll survey found more than 40 per cent of women had taken up sewing, knitting or another craft during the past 12 months, and more than a quarter had begun using home-made cleaning products.

Seventy per cent of people said they had started repairing or making things for themselves.

Wendyl Nissen, author of books on living more self-sufficiently, said a tough economy had spurred people into trying handcrafts - and they soon realised it was much more fulfilling than watching television.

"What's happening is a whole return to more simple things," Nissen said.

"People said they don't have time - but you just watch less television, because it's all crap anyway.

"Is your life really going to be any better watching celebrities on an island or chefs throwing pots at each other?"

Women particularly seemed to enjoy domestic crafts, despite feminist notions that females should not be limited to household work, she said.

"There's a whole generation of us, we were born in the 60s and we didn't do any of that stuff and it's a novelty. None of us were really taught that," Nissen said.

"My experience is once you start, you find you really enjoy it. It goes against everything feminists taught us."

The trend was kick-started to save money but it had become more than that, she said.

"It's not green or Greenpeace, it's just old-fashioned. That's why people are going back to it.

"People stopped being so materialistic, stopped needing the latest TV or the latest car or anything."

For novices, Nissen said her advice was to try just one little thing - such as growing a lettuce in some potting mix.

- NZ Herald

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