I’m about to reveal my number one lifestyle tip. Brace yourselves.
Are you ready?
Here it is: grow your own food!
Yes, this is more important than watching what goes in your trolley, more important than learning new and frugal ways to luxuriate in life’s goodness. This is something that will transform your whole relationship to food, and to life itself, forever. Trust me.
What’s that? You can’t garden? It simply isn’t possible because of your health, living circumstances, lack of natural talent, limited budget, tight schedule?
Fiddlesticks! Whatever your excuse is, I guarantee that I have a rebuttal. In fact, here comes an iron clad guarantee: If you can get to the end of this blog with ANY of your excuses still intact, then I will let you off, scot free. I’m telling you right now, though: I will not let you off lightly.
My goal in the coming weeks is to inspire as many mamas as I possibly can to get out into the garden and start growing things. I want each and every one of you to begin eating your own dirt-cheap organic produce. What’s your excuse?
Welcome to my 101 course for all beginner organic gardeners (hello!)
Whatever your circumstances, if you follow the steps I’ve written down for you, you will dine on premium, fresh organic produce within months (if not weeks).
What’s more, after an initial investment in your garden, it will become a very cheap and fruitful thing to do.
Gone will be the days of choosing between eating pesticide-ridden produce or ridiculously overpriced kale. I think you will be surprised at just how easy it is to grow great tasting food.
This will be a real gardening 101 course. It is for beginners, and especially for people who would like to give gardening a go, but think they can’t due to personal circumstances.
Hopefully, by the end of this series of blogs I will have managed to convince curious mamas that EVERYONE can garden.
Even better, it would make my day if some mamas out there read this piece and got the confidence and gentle push they need to join me in this wonderful, wonderful world. Gardening is awesome.
Gosh, let me see. I’d say if you are someone who is too overworked to garden, you are EXACTLY the person who should.
- It’s cheap (if you do it right).
- You know what goes on your vegetables; no nasty pesticides, growth accelerants etc.
- It’s super-satisfying.
- It’s dead easy (I promise!).
- The rewards you reap from nurturing a garden more than compensate for the time and effort invested.
Before I begin, I will say that I am still a student myself; a very enthusiastic novice, but still wet behind the ears. I figure I must be doing something right, though, because my garden seems to look pretty good, if I do say so myself!
If I can do it, anyone can.
There is always more to learn, but even people who know very little can grow a pretty amazing garden. Plants are typically pretty forgiving that way.
So, without further ado,
Getting past barriers: how EVERYONE can garden.
It doesn’t matter how healthy you are, what your living arrangements are like or what sort of budget you have to work with. There are no barriers that can’t be overcome, mamas! Don’t believe me? Read on.
Don’t need convincing? Feel free to skip this beginning and go straight to my next section, planning your garden.
There are so many compelling reasons to do so that the real question is, why not? I’ve been sitting here with a cuppa, mulling over why it is that people don’t garden. I’ve come up with five main reasons, and given a few ways to get around them. They are as follows:
- “I don’t like gardening.”
- “I don’t have the energy or time.”
- “I don’t have a green thumb.”
- “I live in an a flat or rental property that you think is unsuitable for gardening.”
- “I have a chronic medical condition that makes gardening very difficult.”
I will not deny it; all of these are challenges, but they needn’t stop you. Whichever one applies to you, hopefully a click on the links above will give you some ideas to get around them.
“I don’t like gardening.”
There can be bending, heavy digging and other hard work involved.
Notice my use of the word “can” in the previous three sentences, though. That’s because these things are avoidable.
What’s left, potentially, is all the lovely bits of gardening: communing with green things that only ask for a bit of water and fertiliser and give you so much back.
If you like plants but hate bugs and heat, I recommend you try growing things in pots. Grow a window box of herbs in the kitchen, pot up a miniature kitchen garden out the back with chillis and mint. I promise, you will not look back.
There’s a bit of messing about getting everything planted and settled, but after that, you only need to wave a hose or watering can at them every day or so, or even less in cool weather or if they are exposed to rain.
Then you just need to get a slow-release fertiliser and chuck a few pellets of that on every once in a while.
Ideally, you should use a liquid fertiliser every fortnight as well, but these can get a bit smelly. Provided you use good quality potting mix you can get away with using nothing but water. No weeding, bugs, stinky stuff or sunburn involved!
Just gorgeous, lovely green things that will love you back by giving you good things to eat.
Excuse #2: “I haven’t got a green thumb and that’s all there is to it.”
I suspect the biggest thing stopping people growing their own produce is lack of confidence.
People confuse “I don’t know how” with “I can’t.”
They figure that nurturing plants is some kind of magical skill – the proverbial “green thumb,” if you will. Gee I hate that term. I’m telling you, there is no such thing!
It’s the same with people who think they must use processed food and TV dinners because they “can’t cook.” In fact, most people are a decent recipe book away from cooking food that tastes every bit as good as something Jamie Oliver would dish up.
This unlearning of skills is a recent phenomenon. Let’s claim them back!
Anyone can learn to garden. Our ancestors did so out of necessity, and we can too.
The truth was, I just hadn’t learned how to do it yet.
As a kid I enjoyed “helping” my parents with their veggie patch, but I was too young to really glean any knowledge.
Then when I was a teen, I completely lost interest in gardening. Like most teens at the time, I preferred to spend my free time eating bowls of cereal in front of Degrassi Junior High and talking on the phone to my friends.
My interest in gardening returned as a young adult, but it all sounded very hard and scary. I knew I wanted to grow food organically, but it sounded frightening.
I’ve attempted to read organic gardening manuals throughout my life, but the information tends to be so complex it makes my head swim.
All the details about soil PH, which plants like manure or lime or whatever else.. it is quite daunting. For other mamas who are have had similar feelings when looking at gardening books, I urge you not to despair.
You don’t need to have encyclopaedic knowledge to grow a really respectable garden. All you need is your powers of observation and a preparedness to give your garden lots of love and nurturing.
Anyway, onto the next barrier to gardening:
“I don’t have time.”
“But we are living in modern times. We all have to work. I don’t have time or energy to garden. What’s more, times have changed. I can go to the shops and buy what I need.”
It’s true, of course. We can always just pop into the local supermarket and buy some vegetables. Why bother? We’re all busy people, we don’t have enough hours in a day as it is. Who has time? It all sounds like more trouble than what it’s worth.
Except gardening can actually be a source of energy, instead of a drain. There’s something about looking at new leaves growing on your plants as you water them that is so powerfully soothing.
Watering the garden is an excellent way to reset your brain from work to home mode in the evenings, or to begin your day feeling calm and optimistic.
Invest a bit of time setting it up, and you can get away with doing very little. Gardening in pots is particularly low-maintenance.
Depending on where you live, you might also be able to join a community garden.
Community gardening can be a really superb option for people who have little or no time. We have members at our garden who work in the communal section without having their own individual plot.
The beauty of this is that they can abandon gardening in busy weeks or if they are not feeling up to gardening, while offering much-needed help to the community and getting some free veggies when they DO have time.
On “off” weeks, they can take the time off they need, knowing that other members of the garden will keep things going. I think if I was super-busy or travelled a lot, I might consider this a great option. It’s gardening without commitment. A nice idea, yes?
“I can’t garden because I live in an apartment.”
Even if you rent a home with a great set-up for a garden, it can be demoralising to put so much work into a garden only to have the landlords sell up or want to move back in and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Annoying, right?
It’s a challenge, but it’s not insurmountable.
One solution is to garden in pots, although this can quickly become expensive for larger crops.
Even so, there is no reason why you can’t grow a few simple things, like herbs, lettuce and cherry tomatoes, and there are ways to minimise costs as I will explain.
Or join a community garden, if there’s one around! Hello, ready-made garden beds, often with great soil!
Once you join a garden, it’s yours to use as long as you want it. Another bonus is that community gardens typically provide tools to use, so you won’t have to find space to store tools if you live in a compact space.
“I can’t garden because I have a health issue.”
One way is to build a garden in pots. I used to work in disability support and I worked with a woman who had been a keen gardener in her youth.
She now has limited use of her arms and she uses a wheelchair. That hasn’t stopped her from gardening!
One of my favourite parts of the day was helping her by picking her brains about gardening as I watered her potted plants.
She would tell me which plants needed what, and I learned some great gardening tricks by helping her maintain her plants.
She was an absolute fountain of knowledge and it was good to be able to support her to continue her passion.
Another thing to do is to involve yourself in a community garden.
As I’ve said, an increasing number of community gardens are setting themselves up for people with disabilities and chronic conditions. Some now have wheelchair access: ours is developing wheelchair access and raised beds at the moment.
If your garden doesn’t, the exciting thing is that your local council often offers a whole raft of grants to make public spaces more accessible to you. It can’t hurt to ask if you are interested!
We have a woman who volunteers at our garden with chronic pain and fibromyalgia. She can’t do heavy work, but she can participate in working bees by planting seeds, painting signs, watering plants and helping out with other non-strenuous tasks.
That way, she gets to indulge her passion for gardening and enjoys free home grown veggies without worrying about her health.
My dad has a chronic condition that affects his strength and mobility. A keen gardener of almost 60 years, he wasn’t going to give up that easily. He and mum set up no-dig gardening beds.
Although there is quite a bit of work involved initially, these are much easier to care for than regular garden beds. I’m not going to write about no-dig gardening because I’ve not attempted it myself. One day, I will interview my dad and get the lowdown.
Have I managed to convince you that gardening is for everyone, even you? If so, it’s time to get planning!