Gardeners need to consider several factors — including value for money — when deciding which crops to grow for future harvests.
The latest Food Price Index (FPI), which charts the change in food prices on a rolling monthly and annual basis, shows that fruit and vegetables in June 2012 were nine per cent more expensive than the preceding month. Looking over a couple of years’ worth of the same data shows that while fluctuating dramatically, fruit and vege prices have generally trended upwards.
Getting the best value from our gardening endeavours is but one factor in deciding what to grow in our limited-sized vege plot. The other determining factors are:
- what we love most to eat from the garden
- what is fun/enjoyable/rewarding to grow
- what is possible given soil and climate
With the busiest time of the vege-growing calendar now upon us, below is my choice of the top ten highest value crops to grow, albeit some of these will not be planting for some time.
If you plan to grow chilli peppers this year, raise them indoors in pots until December and only plant out once summer appears to have arrived! If you fancy something a little different, grow sweet paprika peppers (seeds available from www.koanga.org.nz), and once the fruit is harvested, remove seeds, dry skins and grind to make your own paprika. Similarly, if you grow jalapeno chillies, these can not only be dried and ground to give chilli powder but also smoked (a fish smoker is ideal) fresh or dry to give chipotle — a traditional, fiery Mexican condiment.
And despite their lowliness on the value scale, it is still worth growing the odd potato as the taste, smell and texture of freshly dug spuds alone is worth it.
Approximate market value of home-grown vegetables
|WHEN TO PLANT||WHEN TO HARVEST|
|Rocket salad||$40||Spring-autumn||All year|
Top 10 gardening tips
As sent in by HFG readers, selected by Daltons:
- Raise seedlings in cardboard egg cartons and then plant straight into garden. The carton will turn into compost.
- Wrap rocks in tinfoil and place in your garden to stop birds coming in and eating your veges.
- When sowing seeds directly into your garden, cover them with seed-raising mix. It eliminates the need to sieve soil to cover fine seeds, helps the geminating seed break through easily and also marks the row.
- Plant mint in a tin then plant the tin in the garden to prevent the plant from taking over.
- Good soil preparation is the key to gardening success. Gypsum provides calcium without changing the soil pH and improves the structure for easier digging and better growth in wet winters!
- Save the little sachets of silica gel that come with shoes to keep your home saved seeds nice and dry until you want to sow them.
- Plant borage to encourage lots of bees to help pollenate plants. The flowers are great in salads, too.
- Put sand around newly planted cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli plants to stop slugs getting at them — safer than laying down pellets for animals, too.
- Keep a record of each of your plants’ name, species, purchase date, fertiliser dates, re-potting dates etc. It will help you to maintain your plants systematically and get the best growth from your plants.
- Blueberries prefer acidic soils, so do not ‘lime’ where you plan to grow blueberries. Blueberries also need good drainage so they can be planted on raised beds, and you can use gypsum to improve drainage of heavy soils without raising the pH.
Daltons’ top five gardening tips
- Hand-water crops little and often for best results.
- Fertiliser is food for growing plants. Choose a high-quality fertiliser for safer, more even nutrition.
- Only save seeds from organic varieties: the hybrids have been sterilised and won’t reproduce.
- Always check if fruit trees are self-pollinating or need a partner before you buy them.
- Always apply fertiliser little and often throughout the season.