Another year, another chance to be clucky

Well, here we are again back for another year of gardening - the world didn't end on December 21 so now we don't know if or when the last day will come. (That's life!) The most likely problems will be extreme weather patterns, causing all sorts of losses and grief all over the planet.

This is a good reason to ensure you have a good garden of vegetables growing all year round as a healthy supplement to your food chain during both good and bad times.

I read with interest a front page story about the hardship many will face this year trying to stretch a budget to feed, clothe and home their families.

Growing your own vegetables is certainly a good way to help any budget.

It's back to the way we were 50 odd years ago, growing lots of fruit and vegetables, then preserve, bottle, freeze, make chutneys, sauces and jams.

It is so easy even for those who have no experience, just grab a copy of Edmonds Cookery Book or search the internet for how to do any of the above with your surplus produce.

Over the holidays I was delighted to hear that lots of people have started the old practice of keeping a few chickens in their backyard. Small hen houses are in big demand for those unable to build one themselves. All you need is enough room to house three or more chickens.

Place a concrete pad for the floor of the chicken house so it's easy to collect the droppings when they roost. This is the best natural manure for your gardens.

They need a run outside of the hen house which should go over a dirt area or lawn. This gives them an area outside to have soil baths and scratch.

Kitchen scraps, weeds from the garden along with the outer leaves of lettuce etc can be put into the run area for their diet.

Slugs, snail and caterpillars can also be collected and fed to them. Clean fresh water, (non chlorinated is best) some wheat and chicken mash each day and you will be rewarded with fresh eggs the likes of which are hard to buy.

My grandchildren in Auckland obtained a few hens recently and they are down feeding them first thing in the morning. Just like myself at their ages.

Fluctuations of temperatures make gardening difficult as it is easy to overwater or underwater plants when trying to judge what the temperature is likely to be.Overwatering will cause losses especially to young plants and also promote diseases.

Sprays of potassium permanganate (Condys Crystals; a few grains to colour up the water nicely will help control a lot of diseases). Use as often as required and just wash produce later.

Potassium Permanganate is available from some of the better garden shops, it's no longer a chemist item or if it is, it's very expensive to buy from them.

The other problem is pest insects, which should not be allowed to multiply in your gardens.

On the first sign of any pests spray with Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum just before sunset. Repeat every seven days till under control.

Look for the pests on other plants including weeds and even next door.

Now is the time to plant your winter crops of vegetables and flowers, repeat plantings every three to four weeks till the end of March. Use Neem Tree Granules to help prevent insect damage.

Keep soil moist with non-chlorinated water but don't over water.

If you have any problems phone me on 0800 466 464 or email

The Southland Times