To Meet Our Needs, We Will First Source Whatever We Can From Our Own Piece Of The Earth, Taking Care To Tread Lightly, Respect The Seasons And Observe What Is Plentiful.
So here we are halfway into February and it’s about time to begin planting a garden.
Ok, that sounds fantastic. Right? Hours of sweaty work in July, dirt that refuses to be removed from underneath fingernails and the worst part… weeding. But you know what? I don’t care. I love gardening. But perhaps you think gardening isn’t for you. Or perhaps that you don’t have time in your incredibly busy life. Perhaps you think you kill everything. Or perhaps you just don’t like vegetables.
Whatever your reason, let’s just accept that fresh produce is delicious and completely worth the time and effort it takes to grow it. So how exactly does one grow things? Gardening seems like a crazy impossible thing to get started with. I mean, there are farmers who have been doing it for years and they’re still learning new things! How am I supposed to plant things and keep them alive if there are 75 year old dudes who have been doing it their entire lives and they don’t even totally get it?
To this I say, “Don’t worry. It’s really quite easy and we’ll start a garden for you in 5 easy steps.”
*Note: This post has a lot of links in it. They’ll all open up in separate tabs or windows, but this post isn’t meant to teach you everything about gardening, rather it’s meant to give you the resources to feel confident enough to try it yourself.
Step 1: What do you eat?
The first thing you should consider is what you eat most. Do you love lettuce? Tomatoes? Garlic? Onions? Do you not really like vegetables? What about fruit? Look in your kitchen and pantry and see what you have lots of, or conversely, what you need to get from the grocery store. What do you spend a lot of money at the grocery store on? Do you get a lot of microwave dinners? Try growing herbs. And most of all, don’t discount vegetables or herbs as beautiful plants. I’ve have basil plants in my front yard that grew to the size of small bushes and when they began to flower they were covered in purple flowers that looked like they came from a salvia flower.
Step 2: Where to find plants
Do you want to start with seeds? Then there’s quite a selection of places you can get seeds. We love seeds around here. They’re so much better to ship (environmentally and cost-wise), you can save your seeds for next year and you get so many more choices to try. But if that list is overwhelming then here’s a few places you can try looking:
Except for Johnny’s, all of these companies are Monsanto-free seeds, meaning that the seeds aren’t genetically modified (unless it specifically says it is), so if you’re worried about GM food, worry not. If you’re looking for transplants (which are seeds that have already been started for you and thus are little baby plants), it’s best to look for a local greenhouse.
Step 3: Where do I put these things again?
So the next thing you’ve got to work on is figuring out where you’re going to put these eventual plants. There are all sorts of cool things you can do to plant. Just scroll through Pinterest for five minutes and tell me you didn’t get all sorts of awesome ideas. If you have a lot of space and not much time, try looking into Square Foot Gardening. If you’re lacking space but have a bit of time, try a hanging garden (perhaps inspired by The Hanging Gardens of Babylon). Are you lacking both time and space? One of my favourite websites, ThinkGeek, has a few different geeky options for awesome things you can grow easily, including an herbal tea garden, a grow your own coffee kit, and these awesome little Boskke SkyPlanters. If none of those entice you, they also sell Seed Bombs, which yes, are exactly what they sound like. Or perhaps, you’re not the geeky type and you just want some fresh basil. Yes, we remembered you too, Amazon sells pre-build seed boxes that already come with seeds and soil. I prefer the boxes sold by Living Whole Foods because they’re made from reclaimed barn wood and they’re not expensive.
Step 4: What do I do now?
You have seeds or transplants. You have a place to put them. Follow the directions on the seed packet or if it’s a transplant, then just dig a hole, put it in the soil and cover it up. Add a little water on top of that and you’re all good. If you’re using some of the awesome products from ThinkGeek or a pre-preprepared seed box, then there are usually directions inside that explain things way better than I can. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can watch a few Permaculture videos and learn about designing your yard to grow tons of food in a very small space. Here’s an excerpt from a Geoff Lawton DVD for the more adventurous of you (Please note: he’s a bit hippy-ish. And by a bit, I mean he’s 95% hippie, 4% hair and 1% Australian accent. But the things he mentions are worth watching.)
Step 5: Weeding, upkeep, wait… where did these 50 kilograms of tomatoes come from?
This is the part that everyone hates. Weeding. Watering in the middle of August. Sweating. Ugh. But this is also the most rewarding part. After weeks of doing things that no one likes doing, you’re presented with a bounty of food like you’ve never experienced. One of the first things you learn in Permaculture is that nature is never stingy. Nature doesn’t put a price on everything and in return for your care and effort in creating an ideal environment for your plants, it always presents you with excess. So when your tomatoes or basil or whatever it is you grew starts producing, you’ll receive it in an amount you rarely expect. This is one of the best parts of having a garden, not the exercise, not the products; it’s the ability to create and mold an environment that gives back to you many times over and places you as the steward of an abundance.
What you do with that abundance is completely up to you, but let me give you a suggestion. First, take care of your needs. You may eat a lot of salad and so you’ll need a lot of greens, but what about that excess? Share that excess with someone who has things you don’t. Trade products with others. And when you still have excess, give it back to the earth and compost it. Let your abundance do good for yourself, others and the earth that gave it to you in the first place. That’s what a garden is really about.
The video above is long, it’s a TEDx talk by Geoff Lawton, but if you have time then watch or listen because it opens up a set of ideas and connections that many of us fail to notice. Don’t worry if you don’t understand all of it or if you don’t agree with all of it, you don’t have to. Our goal with Gastronomic Permaculture isn’t to convert you to everything we believe, but to equip you with the tools and resources to learn and decide what you think is best. So go ahead, explore, research, learn, try new things. Perhaps, a garden can be your first step to a healthier life.