Nicky Park: Get your green thumb going (+comp)

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Do you have a vege patch?Photo / Thinkstock
Do you have a vege patch?Photo / Thinkstock

I've been talking up growing an edible garden since I moved out of home almost a decade ago. A sunny weekend rolls around, I get inspired, head to the nursery ... then the project freaks me out and I end up walking home empty handed. I'm not good at long-term tasks. Or commitment. Even if it is just to a wee herb box.

Seeking support, I turned to edible garden pro, David Haynes. He's recently put a book together for the novice green thumb called The Beginner's Garden. Haynes and his wife, Serena, moved to a property just outside of Nelson and started cultivating their crop about six years ago. They're aiming to be fully self-sufficient with their eating. This year they're nurturing about 40 different types of fruit, veg and nuts.

Haynes said his passion for the garden came about with age and a desire to know the origin of his food.

"When hair starts growing out your ears you get this passion for gardening," he said.

"And ... I like this idea of this transition we've got that's not 'what shall we have to eat tonight?' but 'what is there to eat tonight?' I quite like being driven by nature and driven by the seasons and not the other way around."

As the weather warms up, Haynes said he's going to start experimenting with a couple of new varieties of capsicum - Hungarian hot wax ("I bought them just on the name alone, sounds like a rock band") and paprika. He's also going "nuts" for chillies.

However, if, like me, you're just starting out and need success to stay inspired, Haynes suggested planting more resilient seeds. He reckons radishes will produce crisp little treats in about five weeks. Salad leaves and silverbeet are some of the easiest things to grow, while cabbages, brocolli and potatoes will flourish in just about any conditions. On the other hands, steer clear from more climate sensitive seeds like berries and kumera.

Haynes said I'm an example of the most common mistake would-be garderners are making.

"People go in with these great intentions ... buy these seeds, pot them up and then they just get bored.

"You've just got to donate time and be diligent ... you can't hurry it."

I'm living in a share flat in Ponsonby with a large, dark backyard, not unlike a jungle. Sussing out soil is crucial to a thriving edible garden - a daunting task in my inner-city digs. Haynes said the best way to get my green thumb going is to work out of pots. You can grow most produce this way, it's just that there's more risk of dehydration so you be vigilant about keeping your goodies watered.

"It's about effort in, reward out," he said.

Before embarking on your edible garden adventure, ask yourself the following:

* How much passion and interest do I have?

* Do I have the necessary discipline and tenacity?

* How much time do I have to dedicate?

* How much space do I have?

* How resourceful am I?

Follow Life & Style Editor Nicky Park on Twitter and Instagram Nicky_Park_.

David Haynes will be joining us for a live chat at noon tomorrow. Send your questions in and you could earn yourself a copy of his new book, The Beginner's Garden, published by Penguin.

Nicky Park

Editor of Life & Style.

Nicky lives to wine, dine and thrive. As Life & Style Editor at the New Zealand Herald online, she feels lucky she can call this work. Nicky crafted her writing skills as a cadet for an Australian news wire. Amongst the coverage of sport, news, finance and courts she found a favourite in features. A stint as a foreign correspondent sent this chipper Aussie across the Tasman, covering the big issues of the Pacific Islands. Every single day Nicky relishes the opportunities she has to mix and mingle with interesting people, feast on delicious food, visit new places and write all about it. Nicky wants everyone to make the most of their minutes, learn lots and live their best life.

Read more by Nicky Park

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