Saturday, June 4, 2016

Nothing to do with writing, by Renae Kaye

Those people who follow me on Facebook or Instagram will know that I love to grow my own vegetables.  I struggle to grow flowers, although I am getting better at it, but vegetables are wonderful and easy.

This morning I read an article on the news about the benefits of organic foods.  The article talked about pesticides and how they affect the human body.  It mentioned that organic is usually better for the environment because the farmers use the earth more responsibly.  These are all good reasons to buy organic, and you can benefit these from growing your own food too.
Oranges starting

Last week I was scrolling through a Reddit thread and something popped out at me that I’d never considered before.  It has resounded with me for days.  The Reddit user asked a question about what things does a person do that makes you realise that person grew up in poverty?  There were the usual answers that I expected – buys the cheapest item on the menu, hoards canned goods, doesn’t buy new clothes unless they need it – but then a couple of answers came back, and the responses were… astounding to me.

One person commented that her boyfriend had never eaten fresh strawberries and asked her parents if he could have one when he saw them in their fridge.  Another person said that their new friend was over for a visit and had to ask what that food item was – it turned out to be blueberries.  Many more responses echoed this.

To this! Laden with citrus

Then several people came back and commented – one person in particular using the word “urban poor.”  They pointed out the huge difference between being in poverty in a city, and being in poverty in the country.  In the city, if you’re struggling, you forgo the fresh food.  In the country, if you’re struggling, you end up eating only fresh food that you can grow yourself or forage.

It is an amazing parallel.

As our lives become busier and our block sizes in the suburbs becomes smaller, I am finding more and more people who either don’t have a garden (ie they’ve paved their entire backyard) or have no clue in how to start a garden because they never had one growing up.  Our schools now have a large push to teach the kids how to grow their own vegetables because they don’t have this experience at home.  People come over to my house and are amazed at not only the garden, but the wealth of food that is coming out of my own backyard.

For me, growing my own vegetables isn’t rooted in wishing to be organic, the better taste, saving money, or saving the environment (although all of these things play a part), it’s more to do with being able to fend for myself.  If I know I can make the food myself, I feel satisfied.  It’s more to do with having a space and utilising it.  If you have a swimming pool but never swim in it, why do you have it?  For me, I have a backyard, why not use it?

I’m all for maximising use.  If I need to plant a tree for shade, why not plant a tree that grows fruit as well as providing shade?  If I wish to grow a plant that feeds the bees (which are extremely important in our world and are dying out) then why not grow a plant that has flowers which turn to fruit?  I also believe in recycling – not only for environmental reasons, but why waste something I can use?

I have two worm farms.  If you’re looking for some way to start off, whether in a house or apartment, a worm farm is great.  You can spend lots of money on a proper farm… or you can take a plastic container (an ice cream container, chinese takeaway, etc) and use that.  Seriously.  Find some worms.  I’m not sure about where you live, but I could dig in some leaf litter in the park and find some earthworms.  I find them in the corner of a patio in some rubbish.  Try it.  Find at least three worms, put them in your plastic container with a handful of raw fruit/vegetable food scraps – apple core, potato peelings, that piece of lettuce that fell on the ground – put the lid on and check it every couple of days.  You will see the worms begin to eat the items and leave behind “worm poo” which are called castings.  Make sure it doesn’t get too wet, or too dry.  Put some fresh stuff in when they start to eat.  Rip up an old envelope and put that in.  They love damp paper.
Peas, turnips & sweet potato

Castings are brilliant potting mix, fertiliser and seed raising mix.  When replanting a pot, or preparing my veggie garden for the next batch of seedlings, I mix in an ice cream container of castings from my farm to renew the nutrients in the soil.

In my garden I also have four composting bins.  These are filled with scraps and green waste from the garden (leaves, branches cut up, weeds, prunings).  They break down and give me lovely soil that is dug back into my gardens.  Why waste it?

I also have chooks (chickens or hens to you non-Australians).  Not only do they eat the bugs in my garden (especially snails and slaters), but they give me fresh eggs which taste ten times better than the shop ones.  A by-product of chooks is chook manure and hay from their nesting box.  It’s not wasted!  The hay and chook poo is composted. 

Even the pots and gardens are recycled in my house.  Last week I repotted up some strawberries.  We use an old wheelbarrow for a garden bed.  The wheelbarrow has good drainage (because it’s got holes in the bottom which is why we stopped using it!), can be moved around easily if needed, and looks funky.  Strawberries seasonally sent out “runners” on which new strawberry plants grow.  So I had found my wheelbarrow had lots of weeds in it, and the strawberry plants were now all on one side.  So I carefully dug up all the plants and put them aside.  The weeds were stripped out and fed to the waiting chooks, and then I removed all the old soil.  On the bottom of the wheelbarrow, I laid a bucket full of hay and poo from the nesting boxes.  Then I chucked in more poo from the bottom of the chooks’ sleeping area.  Then I returned the soil and chucked in some worm castings, before finally replanting my strawberries and watering them with water from my rain tank.

It didn’t cost me a thing.  And now I will have fresh strawberries through the year.  Cost saving.  Recycled.  Environmentally sound.  Organic.  Tastes great.  Fun.  Easy.

Everyone should be able to grow something in a pot.  A bit of parsley for some flavour?  Some fresh mint or oregano?  A couple of strawberry plants?  A lemon tree?

Try it.

It’s fun, and it’s also a good way to be healthy and environmentally aware.  Just think of slicing fresh strawberries on your corn flakes and knowing that it has no pesticides, it took no petrol or gas to make it to your front door, and it was free?

These websites have some brilliant tips and ideas about gardening without a backyard.  Good luck!

1 comment:

  1. Wow never had a fresh strawberry! Something my children take for granted.