Garden yourself into budget bliss

Last updated 05:00 23/03/2014
Vegetables
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SOW SOW: New Zealand’s 12-month growing season means you should never be without a choice of backyard crops.

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This week saw a joyous event occur. The backyard, formerly home to only an overgrown lawn and the occasional stray beer bottle, has burst into life.

A few wheelbarrow loads of good topsoil and some liberal watering has seen the first of hopefully many edible green things start to flourish.

Full disclosure: my involvement so far has mostly been limited to watching approvingly from the veranda.

However, the idea is we'll all chip in and get our hands dirty to keep our crop of veges in good health.

Why am I telling you this?

Because flexing your green fingers is another great DIY way to save some pocket money.

My yoghurt-weaving brethren are more interested in the merits of organic produce, untainted by chemicals, straight from Mother Earth's bosom.

My interest is, as usual, all about the money.

Fresh fruit and veges are the one part of the weekly grocery shop where I can't help but cringe at the prices.

You can buy frozen, canned and on special, but it's just not the same.

So why not grow your own?

Time is money, so you do have to be smart about it.

There's no point going to all the effort of growing sad, stunted little carrots, when they cost less than $2 a kilo on special.

The good dirt lies mostly with greenery - lettuces, spinach, silverbeet, broccoli, cauliflower and herbs.

The next step up is things like beans and tomatoes, which are a bit trickier.

Say goodbye to the days of paying $3 for a few fresh sprigs of coriander or rosemary - instead, pick some straight out of the basket outside.

The average household spends something like $20 a week on fresh fruit and veg, which is woeful. You could pretty easily save at least $5 a week just by growing a few salad ingredients.

Most New Zealand climates are mild enough that you can be growing year-round, so that still adds up to $260 a year.

Even if you're cramped up in the city, planter boxes, pots and hanging baskets can transform your balcony into a mini oasis of produce.

Gardening is a skill like any other, requiring practice and know-how. I've no doubt we'll have to do battle with creepy-crawlies, diseases and other things trying to threaten our bounty of goodness.

But having grown up in a household where all it took to get 5-plus a day was a stroll out the door, I'm also confident my grocery bill is on the way down.

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