The utopian dream of self-sufficiency free from the aisles of the major supermarkets can seem just beyond your reach. It may seem a nice idea, but merely a distant idealist luxury to the time-poor busy modern human. Yet, some simple steps can see you reaping the rewards from the garden and in doing so have the most positive response from within as your soul cheers for joy!!
Starting off on the quest to some level of self-sufficiency is an easy step to make. Far from being a time sink and frustrating mess, if planned well, the home garden can be a rich source of useful foods that can sustain not only your appetite and wallet, but also be an effective way of nurturing our poor neglected souls. All this, with minimal investment of time and money.
I know that when I get the chance to get into the garden on the weekend and pick some spinach with my daughter or pluck some weeds whilst listening to the birds or chooks scratching in the dirt nearby, I am transported away from the stresses and demands of modern life, receiving much needed soul therapy as beneficial as meditation or yoga.
It’s the feel of the texture of the rich composted soil through your finger, while digging and planting new seeds, the distinct aroma of tomato leaves and fresh basil, the buzz of the bees as they pollinate strawberries and other flowers, and the joy in seeing beans pop their infant heads through the carpet of hay.
It’s the connection to the flow of life through seasons and the changing climate, and gaining a better understanding of forces and processes beyond our day to day conscious awareness, which I know my soul yearns for.
No matter what we do, no matter how small, simply growing a plant of any description can be rewarding for the soul. So don’t get to too carried away in aiming to make a faultless start to vegetable growing. Even when it’s a complete failure you’ll have a good time. Unlike putting up a new fence or painting your house, mistakes are not definite and there to remind you that you’re a failure – far from it!! A garden is living, it’s dynamic, and change is constant.
Last summer, after starting with such promise and potential after a warm spring, unusually high rainfall set in over the summer, and instead of what was planned as being a bumper crop of tomatoes and cucurbits, I ended up with an unruly mass of yellowing leaves covering unripened fruit that couldn’t avoid the onset of disease. At least the possums didn’t complain.
But rather than despair and vow never to be tempted to try my luck with these crops again, I’ll learn from my mistakes, find out how to better manage the canopies of both plants, research organic solutions to controlling disease, or simply move to a drier city!! And even with little to show for my efforts, the joy brought to my spirit and soul during the dry Sunday afternoons I did have were like the most inspiring Church service I could hope to attend. Even the wet ones were fun, splashing in the muddy puddles with the kids!!
So a garden at home is definitely worth trying for anyone. The benefits include:
- Availability of fresh produce on demand – simply walk outside and cut!!
- Discovering new vegetables and recipes to cook produce that is in season;
- A healthy and proactive form of relaxation that will boost your soul and lift your spirits even if it’s a failure!!
Simple Recommendations for Starting a Soul-Nourishing Vegetable Garden:
- Location: choose a well-light (preferably morning sun) location, that is easily accessible and preferably close to the kitchen
- Size of garden: for a constant supply of vegetables throughout the year, aim for four to six (depending on mouths to feed), 3m long x 1.5m wide beds.
- Bed height: Raised beds are easier to maintain and prevent pests and insects. 60cm high beds are a good size (sleepers are usually 20cm wide)
- Materials for bed: the thicker the material used, the better it will be at holding water. Concrete beds are ideal but expensive to make. Timber sleepers are cheap and easily available. If you use timber, it’s worth putting a lining of builders plastic on the inside of the beds – this will prevent soil drying out.
- Soil selection: for the lower layers of the bed, you can use something a bit cheaper (pebble mix is cheap and good for drainage), but for the top 20-30cm, spend a bit extra and get a good soil mix from a landscape supplier. There’ll be less chance of weed seeds and it’ll have manure and peat mixed in.
- Preparation prior to planting: Add chook, cow or horse manure and mix it well through the soil a few weeks before planting. Adding worms will help to break it down into useable nutrients.
- Plant selection: get all the herbs that you would usually use, plenty of leafy vegetables (spinach, loose leaf lettuce, arugula, silverbeet, etc). Cucurbits grow quickly and yield well. Strawberries are a hit with the kids. Tomatoes need some care but if managed well pay dividends.
- Seaweed Solution: This is the best fertilizer that is available. It is organic and your plants will love them. Apply per the directions every 1-2 weeks (alternating between the two).
- Mulch regularly. Try lucerne hay or sugar cane mulch. All nurseries will have a selection. Mulching will reduce water loss, prevent weeds and increase organic matter in the soil.
- Water Management: A dripper or sprinkler system is cheap and easy to install and will save time when watering. Consider water crystals. These increase water holding capacity of the soil and are great if you are away from home a lot and watering is sporadic.
Sal Weiss: Always a gardener, lover of our Earth, mother nature and all things nurturing of the soul, Sal is tirelessly reading and challenging myself to look at the deeper issues facing the world. If not gardening then she’s scouring the internet looking for new ideas/ interesting and important goings on in the world and then combining the two interests by writing about them – it’s her obscure/behind the scenes way of supporting new ideas or websites. This essay about human nature is really fascinating.
Image Source: John Athayde/Flickr