I am unashamedly a mad, passionate, vegan, organic food-producing gardener. Perhaps a better way to describe my obsession would be to call me simply a Garden Tragic.
I’m not formally trained and I’m by no means an expert. I have made some monumental stuff up in the process of creating a fairly successful organic garden, and plan to keep making mistakes. I try a lot of things, do a fair bit of experimentation, plant things I shouldn’t (why did I plant that coriander again???) and fumble my way through things. I am also happy to share whatever I can grow and whatever knowledge I have gained along the way with pretty much anyone who will listen, or is happy to eat non-supermarket vegetables.
Falling in love with the garden
But I didn’t start out loving the garden. I had always thought that gardening was strictly an “oldies” past-time and preferred the backyard to be fully paved, covered deck, sand-pit or a swing for the kids and maybe a token lemon tree. I thought the modern gardening trend of covering up all the dirt with paving bricks or painted concrete a terribly practical way to have a no-work garden.
Until it happened. One day I came across an organisation here in Australia called The Digger’s Club.
Oh wow! Heirloom seeds…it was love at first sight. Tomatoes all the colours of the rainbow, yellow, white or striped, zucchinis, silverbeet in seductive shades of red, yellow, cream and pink, purple carrots, potatoes and beans, yellow peas. Tomatoes with crazy and exotic-sounding names like Black Russian, Wild Sweeties, Reisetomate and Wapsipinicon Peach. Melons called Moon & Stars and Cream of Saskatchewan and Delice de la Table. I was lost in a world of deliciousness.
I was totally converted. Suddenly I saw our standard suburban block now as an opportunity for me to grow all of these wondrous and mysterious fruits and vegetables.
I will sit up in bed at night reading the Digger’s catalogues. Glossy pictures invited me in and I plan where I would plant which newly re-discovered delight they had to offer. How can I fit 20 fruit trees in the backyard? Where can I grow those giant sunflowers? My husband likes to call my beloved catalogues “gardening porn”. And I’m okay with that. I have them stored safely in chronological order on my bedroom bookshelf.
Opportunities for growth
I used to admire big, flashy or beautifully kept houses as I walked around my neighbourhood. Now I see big yards, vacant blocks and nature strips as wasted opportunities. There are not too many spots in my yard that doesn’t have something planted in it. With two 50-year old Liquid Ambers providing such cool, deep shade in the front yard that I couldn’t possibly part with, most of the food production takes place out of sight in the backyard. I did manage to sneak in four dwarf fruit trees amongst the scrubs along the fence line, and my front planter box currently contains Scarlet Runner beans, happy on bamboo tripods.
I am also adamant about not involving any chemicals in the space that my family loves as much as I do. I instinctively knew that spraying for weeds and bugs couldn’t be healthy – both for the bugs and the people eating the food sprayed with it. Bugs are important to our garden and weeds are simply plants that have grown in the wrong spot. The kids know not to kill spiders and that they are not safe to touch. It doesn’t stop us all admiring the amazing work and incredible skill displayed in a newly created web. The boys marvel at seeing a giant dragonfly swopping down into the backyard to munch on mosquitoes or having a bright green praying mantis crawl up their sleeve. Every insect has a role to play. Imagine poisoning all that away!
You may not ever get the level of gardening fervour that I have but even a little is a triumph. I believe that solving the big issues starts at home. If you can maybe manage to grow your own lettuce or tomatoes or herbs and you provide something that nourishes yourself, your family, your friends, your neighbours or a complete stranger, you have made a difference. The satisfaction of achieving that is what will get you fired up. My husband likes to think of it as “saving the world, one backyard at a time”.
Stay tuned for some vegan gardening
All this should give you a sense of what to expect in my upcoming columns:
How to grow your very own vegan organic food for free, how to love all the creatures in your garden and make sure you don’t cause those so called pests any harm, how to create vegan compost and how to nurture your vegan backyard. I hope you will fall in love with gardening as much as I did.
So, pick a spot or a pot and grab a pack of seeds or a seedling or two and go for it. Make mistakes, learn along the way, and perhaps the most important thing of all, have fun!
Happy gardening =)
Cover Image: Shutterstock.