Vegetable Gardening in New Zealand is so easy!

I can confidently say that I've not got green fingers. But I've found growing vegetables in New Zealand to be unbelievably successful.

I've grown all sorts of ordinary vegetables like salads, courgettes (zucchini) and potatoes but have also managed to grow many more exotic things, like Ancho chillies (super-tasty Mexican chillies), lemongrass and tomatillos (for salsa). And I'm not even in the North Island (which is warmer) — I live in Christchurch, halfway down the South Island.

Why's it so easy?

I don't know the science behind it, but I imagine it's because New Zealand gets loads of super-sunny days, the air is clean and living by the coast means sea spray keeps the slugs away.

Failure, then success

That said, my first attempt, planting veggies in the garden, failed miserably - they were quickly swamped in grass and weeds - and I'm too lazy to do lots of weeding. Fortunately, I heard of a great lazy man's method of veggie gardening: using containers.

Scrummy goodness from my garden!

The lazy man's method

You just fill containers with sterile potting compost (so there are no weeds), place them somewhere the grass and weeds can't reach them (I put them on the deck), plant your favourite seedlings and hey presto! Super-tasty, Super-prolific home grown fruit and vegetables.

For containers, I had great success using old kerbside recycling containers. These are about one foot cubed, so big enough to grow a good amount but not so heavy you can't move them around. Drilling some extra holes in the bottom helps keep the soil healthy.

Rotation gardening ... or not

At first, having done a superb organic gardening evening class (at the WEA, Christchurch), I tried doing something called rotation gardening, where you change the plant group in each container from one year to the next to prevent nutrient depletion and build up of pests in soil. It's a very smart, efficient way to grow crops.

The four plant groups used in traditional crop rotation are:

  1. Legumes

    beans and peas

  2. Root vegetables

    eg. carrots, radishes and onions

  3. Leafy greens

    eg. spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli

  4. Fruit-bearing

    eg. tomato, capsicum (bell pepper), corn, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, eggplant and chillies

I gave up on rotation gardening after a couple of years because I was only interested in growing 2 of the 4 plant groups. I couldn't get excited about legumes (beans and peas) or root vegetables.

What was most successful?

I've had fantastic success with Mediterranean foods, like tomatoes, bell peppers and herbs, and semi-tropical stuff like chillies, tomatillos and lemongrass.

My favourite?

Without doubt, my favourite is the Poblano (Ancho) chilli pepper. They're like a cross between a chilli and a bell pepper, with the most amazing smokey flavour.

And each one off the bush tastes different — some are are mild, some are spicy, some are super-smokey. Incredible.

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