Most people are a bit intimated when it comes to starting out as a gardener; some see it as all too hard or a pastime for the older folks. I see it as a chance to change our perception of growing our own food in our backyard and would love to inspire more vegans (or anyone really) to take up the challenge and grow something today.
There are many ways to start your gardening journey: do some reading, speak to a garden expert, search the internet for information – but don’t try to take in too much at once. Note that us gardeners will often be more than happy to share experience and information, often to the detriment of those who we are sharing with… We might get caught up in the moment and provide too much info as we are so passionate about what we do!
Don’t spend a fortune!
I have known people who get so fired up starting out that they will spend a small fortune at the local garden centre, buying plants, pots, seeds, tools and the works, only to find it overwhelming and too big a task to get started. So, try one thing at a time, get some successes under your belt and expand slowly but surely.
Remember, it is not about how much money you spend. Many of your gardening developments can be promoted with zero funds.
What do you like?
Do you want to grow a whole yard full of fruit trees and enough vegetables to feed the whole neighbourhood? Do you only have a small yard or a balcony? Are you dreaming of adding a water feature or naturalized pool? Do you rent and don’t want to leave your plants behind should you move? Are you a purely pretty flowers and butterflies person or are you a bit left of centre, like my dear friend, who will only grow cacti?
Knowing what you like and having a vision of your ideal garden in terms of aesthetics, functionality and maintenance will help you stick to the plan, and avoid getting side tract.
If you are starting out from scratch or redesigning a garden or plot, it is a good idea to at least have a basic plan of what you would like to do, and tackle it a step at a time. Trying to convert an overgrown jungle into a food producing backyard in a single weekend will end in disappointment, so allocate a small job once a week, and you will be on your way.
Seasons and climate matter
Learn about seasonal planting and what type of climate you live in. You will fail miserably if you try to grow tropical plants in a cold climate or cold loving plants in the dessert. Also don’t try to grow winter veg in summer or summer veg outside in the dead of winter (may seem like common sense but I have seen it attempted!). Most garden centres will be able to give you advice as to what to grow when and where.
The vegan approach
In anything that I do with my garden, my first priority is to not cause any harm to the creatures that live in our space. Keeping that in mind, avoid going down the track of buying herbicides and pesticides. Not only will you be healthier for it, but the birds and bees that visit your garden will thank you for it as well.
Feeding your garden
As a vegan, this is one of the trickier things to tackle. Most standard plant food (such as blood and bone, or fish liquid) will include something dead and will involve an indirect support of the farmed animal industry. I have regrettably used horse manure from a racing stable once which was just dreadful: so full of supplements and rubbish from everything they feed these performance animals, that it smelt horrible, not to mention the down side of supporting the race industry.
The trick is to find a friend who shares their backyard with a horse, or a cow or a sheep and who will welcome you collecting some manure, or asking a large animal rescue farm that sells their left-over poop to the public.
So what are you waiting for? Grab a pot, some potting mix, a plant or some seeds and give it a go! I plan to write a few more articles about specific growing techniques such as growing in pots, growing from seeds and herb planting, so keep an eye on this space.