Record observations like the number of pieces of litter picked up on the beach, how many grams of soft plastic collected at school, the number of footprints on tunnel traps, chew marks on cards, observe number of birds at the local park or collect weed seeds off socks and count them.
Collect and record data over time and analyse it.
Discuss the changes you observed and suggest how you could find solutions.
Look at what happened after you made changes, what happened before and after.
So why not pick a project you want to champion and get stuck in cleaning up the environment? Why not start a worm farm or compost heap at school for all those apple cores from your lunch boxes then use all that lovely compost to start a school vegetable garden? Be part of Sustainable Christchurch at home, in school or out in the community.
Nothing makes my day like a “hold available” notification from CCL for a crisp new garden book, and this week I got my hands on a real gem. Grow for Flavour by James Wong (of Grow Your Own Drugs fame – not nearly as dodgy as it sounds) is a fresh ray of light in a forest of glossy gardening books that look pretty, but can sometimes be a bit guilty of repeating much the same information.
Don’t get me wrong, Grow for Flavour is very a attractive volume indeed (who can resist an author who photographs his Star Wars figurines in his garden shots?), but it’s not just a pretty publication. It’s full of interesting facts and innovative ideas for getting the best flavours out of your home produce.
Wong argues that much of our gardening ‘wisdom’ is based on (British) Victorian gardening practice – essentially the time when yield was beginning to be prized over flavour, a sad trend that’s come to its lacklustre fruition in our supermarkets today. This book is a strike back in defense of taste. It’s full of simple ways to boost flavour in all sort of fruit and vege crops – and the thing I love best is that all of its tips are firmly rooted in science. (You see what I did there?)
Yep, Wong is a scientist as well as a herbalist and a gardener, which means that his observations, remedies and treatments all have solid scientific research behind them – a nice change in this subject area, where solutions are so often presented without a lick of evidence stronger than “Well my great Aunt Hilda swears by it!”
It’s one of those books I think my partner secretly hates. Inevitably, when I get hold of a volume like this, his quiet evening will be peppered with interruptions along the lines of “Hey, did you know I hate coriander because I have the OR6A2 gene that makes it taste like soap and bleach?” or “Can I turn the laundry bin into a fungus farm?” It’s not uncommon for these exclamations to turn completely nonsensical, like “Aspirin and molasses on tomatoes? Genius!” (Well, it made sense to me…)
We’re well into planting season now, so grab a copy today. You too can be making inscrutable garden related exclamations in no time…
Started gardening – albeit in a small way – about 4 years ago when I decided that I needed fresh air and to give myself permission to wear a huge floppy hat like Greta Garbo (about the only similarity between us), whilst working on making various parts of my body vigorously protest at the unaccustomed exercise.
In that time I have tried growing all sorts of vegetables and flowers with varying degrees of success. Only this morning I learned a new gardening word ‘Chitting‘, and, as instructed, have laid my Jersey Benne seed potatoes on newspaper in the garage waiting for them to sprout so that I can plant them in September.
Last year as Christmas approached, with barely contained childish glee (not called ‘Peter Pan’ in my family for nothing), I dug deep into my potato sacks, ferreting around for my carbohydrate treasure trove to tumble out onto the patio; the reward for all my hard work. The end result was pitiful – Nothing; Naada; Nein; Zippo – OK, slight exaggeration but certainly just enough for a plate at most.
Where had I gone wrong? Well, obviously I hadn’t done enough research on the subject… I needed a book devoted entirely to the ‘starchy’ issue and I hadn’t even thought to look in the Children’s section!
Gardens come in all shapes and sizes and there is an abundance of information via our library resources whether it be non-fiction books, magazines, eMagazines and library website. Personally, my garden area is small so I concentrate on pots, containers, raised beds, trying to get as much as possible – produce-wise – as I can. I am still working on it, but have now got sidetracked by the necessity of colour in my garden and my search for minimal, low-cost ideas designs has proved very enlightening.
Check out all the resources available to you with simply a library card and a PIN/password – it promises to be more bountiful than my last crop of potatoes.
As Spring approached I began to feel lethargic about cleaning around the house – so disheartening when the dust just keeps returning! Suddenly the garden looked promising territory – strange in itself as any previous enthusiasm in that direction quickly disappeared when it became apparent I had pulled up plants not weeds.
Books abound in the library showing when, how, what to grow in your garden with colourful illustrations of healthy, ripe and appetising garden fare. I decided to buy myself a vegetable plot kitset; erect it; fill it with topsoil and then trawl the abundant library resources to find the perfect veggies to nurture from infancy to adulthood.
I am now avidly waiting for signs of ‘life’ to emerge from my plot and fantasize about what I can do with my impending vegetable glut. Grow It, Cook It was one of many to choose from in the 641 non-fiction area. All my produce – when it arrives – will be assigned to a delicious recipe from the book. My pantry and fridge will be filled with culinary delights – yes, you’ve guessed it, I have finally lost the plot …
What vegetables grow quickly and require minimum maintenance?
The Chelsea “Flower” Show this year was full of them, the film Grow Your Own celebrated them, Steve Wratten recently showed how to do it on TV and with food costs constantly in the news now is the time to start planting your veges. I am lucky enough to have a full quarter acre garden but most people have far less.
Don’t despair – there are many books devoted to vegetable gardening and small space gardening, from raised beds to containers. The doyenne of them all is probably Square Foot Gardening, Mel Bartholomew’s enthusiastic guide to growing your own pretty much all year round. Being American you do have to reverse the seasons and cope with vegetables like the mysterious “summer squash” which I finally realised was courgettes. Marcus Schenke’s Gardening in small spaces on a simlar theme is also excellent, and a new Australian title One Magic Square converts the foot to a sqare metre. Diana Anthony’s The small edible garden provides a New Zealand slant.
Overseas vegetable books ofen wax enthusiastic about New Zealand spinach, but how often have you seen it in a NZ garden? I tried it once and it took over and was not particularly nice, which brings me to the golden rule of growing vegetables – grow what you like to eat. No point in having an abundance of beetroot if the family won’t eat them.