Vegetable zen and the festive art of garden giving

21:00, Dec 20 2012
Alison Worth
This raised vegetable garden bed costs about $117 to set up.

Vegetarianism obviously wasn't a big thing when this nursery rhyme was about, was it?

Jokes aside, the spirit of giving at Christmas time (or solstice, if you lean the pagan way) is built into humanity no matter what your culture, denomination, roots, faith or upbringing is.

If I look deeper into what draws me to edible gardening, beyond the agrarian lifestyle and my spiritual relationship with Mother Earth, I find that it is the connection with other gardeners, like-minded people with a deep respect for our soil and landscape that keeps me on this green path. Gardeners are naturally generous people. We enjoy sharing, paying forward if you will, the abundance we receive from Mother Nature, whether it's with a box of veges, a bunch of flowers, cuttings or simply our time. Brush aside the ego that may be attached (mine is humongous, so it could take some time) to the naked intention within and you will generally find a person who is ready to connect, engage and share their love of plant life in all its glorious forms.

If I am sounding a bit philanthropic, then bear with me. For gardeners, it's not really about the immaculately mown lawns - although many start getting tetchy when the grass gets just that bit too long - or the pimped, primped, fluffed garden beds, boxed buxus and bevelled griselinia. It's about the enjoyment of and commitment to their greenscape that instils happiness and confidence enough to share what gardeners love with others.

Have you ever met or heard of a gazzillionaire gardener? No? Me neither. I think the reason is that all true gardeners treat what is important to them as an energy and keep it moving so it can grow and spread like a fruit tree. Most fruit trees bear enough fruit to feed much more than the average family, so sharing is inevitable, but trying to hold on to all that fruit will only see it rot - that's a bit of an odd analogy, but decipherable, I hope. Besides, I've yet to come across an original natural idea that could make me millions - they've all been thought of.

Sermon over.


Let's get to the nitty-gritty of the Christmas spirit of giving. Whether you are a gardener or not, now is the time to ask Father Christmas for that edible garden you've always wanted.

On a budget Untreated macrocarpa is out of the question in this category, so I edged the patch with hessian coffee sacks, obtained from Rocket Coffee in Hamilton for a gold coin donation.

I cut them lengthways to create one long piece of material, shovelled soil into the middle then rolled them up, leaving a flange on the inside to weigh down with our growing medium.

One cubic metre (or a trailer load) of organically certified compost from Landcycle in Cambridge was $35 and that filled my 5 metre by 2m plot.

Coffee sacks $8 + compost $35 = $43. I will swap vege seeds and seedlings with friends and, with cuttings of favourite herbs and gifted clumps of perennials such as rhubarb and berries. I should have a comprehensive edible garden up and producing nicely by this time next year.

Flash A 2.2m square bed made with untreated macrocarpa lengths - available widely for about $25 per length. Use four to make a square bed, then fill with half a trailerload of compost. This garden totals about $117, not including plants, and is much smaller than the $50 garden. The benefit of edging with wood is that you can attach a frame to grow beans or climbing plants or even create a protective cage for berries etc.

Handy/mobile Use an old apple crate - available from Trade Me or fruit-packing houses. These take a trailerload of compost. Just line with weedmat - you'll need about 4 metres. They are high and easy to work with. If you live rurally and have a tractor with forks on (or know someone who does), they're easy to move around to suit the seasons and what you are growing. Apple crate $50 + weedmat $16 + soil $35 = $101, not including plants.

I would like to wish all you lovely readers an enjoyable and relaxing holiday season and a truly abundant 2013. May Mother Nature be kind and forthcoming to your patch of paradise and your fingers be a verdant shade of green.