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No Cost Vegetables

The Oily Rag House of Frugality has a better suggestion than making fresh fruit and vegetables a little cheaper by removing GST; how about free fruit and vegetables by growing your own.

Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

The hollowed halls of the House of Representatives has been echoing with the sounds of the perils of GST and the virtues of cheaper vegetables. But the Oily Rag House of Frugality has a better suggestion than making fresh fruit and vegetables a little cheaper by removing GST; how about free fruit and vegetables by growing your own. It’s so simple, and can be done quicker than it takes to calculate the GST content on a kg of carrots!

There are so many great gardening off the smell of an oily rag tips that we could write a book about it (watch this space!). Here are some of our favourite suggestions sent in by readers.

  • Instead of expensive sprays to protect your brassicas try potting up mint and placing the pots in and around your young plants. The cabbage white butterflies do not seem to like mint at all and stay away. Just don't plant the mint in your garden directly or it will take over. – Canny Scot, Christchurch.
  • When planting my strawberries I have given them a mulch of wet shredded paper from my shredding machine. It mats together nicely keeping light out to prevent weeds. Makes use of your old bank statements too, and the advertising junk is very colourful when shredded. Will break down eventually and feed the worms helping the soil. – Canny Scot, Christchurch.
  • To make rich compose, place lawn clippings, weeds and other garden waste into a big black plastic bag (such as a big garbage bag). Seal the bag and leave. Turn it once a week and after three months you will have good garden compost.   
  • I have four round black plastic compost bins. I fill these with the household scraps and clean garden weeds. When bin 1 is full, I start bin 2, etc. By the time bin 4 is full, bin 1 is ready to use. If there is any uncomposted material in the first bin I transfer it to one at the far end of the line. It will eventually break down. – G.B.
  • I made a cheap “greenhouse” by purchasing clear plastic shower curtains and attaching them to the inside of my balcony with curtain hooks. It kept my plants warm and sprouting nicely. – Trixie, Christchurch.
  • When my grandchild was a preschooler we spent many long hours in the organic garden. One thing Emma wanted to do was to grow something herself. We chose silver beet, which Emma planted, watered and cared for. Now I am thrilled to say that she will go down to the garden, pick the leaves, wash them and above all loves to eat them! – Nannie Suzanne, Okere Falls, Rotorua.
  • If planting large seeds like beans, use the inners of toilet rolls, part fill with potting mix, put in the seed and top up. You can get about 12 of these to stand up in an ice cream container. And in due course plant out the whole tube. No transplant shock. The cardboard will rot away quickly. – G.B.
  • Next time you think about throwing out your old ice cream boxes cut them into strips and make little plant markers with them. – Canny Scot, Christchurch.
  • I crushed a piece of newspaper and shoved it among plants to save going to the house. Next morning I recovered and in it were 20 slugs of all sizes. I was so excited I put more crumbled paper around the plants. By the following morning I had 110 slugs. Prior to this I used expensive slug pellets that didn’t seem to work. Crumbled paper is the answer. It’s a plant and money saver. – P.M.

Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag by Frank & Muriel Newman is available from all good bookstores or online at If you have some favourite oily rag tips, share them with others by visiting the oily rag website or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

*Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at