Emergency Garden, Not long ago, I did a live with Marcelo Pinhel, executive director of Favo Tecnologia. In our conversation and chat with the audience, the subject that did not want to be silent was: “what is the importance and how to make an emergency garden?”. At the time of the live and as I write this article, we are in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, and this has awakened and awakens this growing need in thousands of people. But why all this? Why would you and I make a vegetable garden, right now?
The importance: Emergency Garden
The main reasons include independence and food securityBesides avoid exposing ourselves to contagion, visiting supermarkets frequently. By growing our own vegetables, we are free from having to go weekly to stock our fridge in supermarkets and fairs. If you stop to think about it, the only real reason why we have to go to the supermarket is for fruits and vegetables.
They are perishable and few can be frozen for later use. Everything else can be arranged. Meat in general can be frozen, eggs, dairy products and cold cuts can be refrigerated, even our daily bread can be made at home, from flour and yeast available in the pantry. Milk these days lasts for months inside tetra pak boxes, but what about vegetables? Those that replenish us with fiber, minerals and vitamins and that are essential for a healthy diet?
Have you noticed that we need to buy them all the time? A head of lettuce is quite durable and can last for 12 days. But try to save the arugula or kale for this time. Kale will turn yellow in a few days, and arugula will likely rot. And the same happens with other vegetables, which are the most sensitive among vegetables. Speaking of fruits, we will see that some can last for months, like apples or pumpkins. But what about the banana? So present in our food, it rots in a few days after it matures. Strawberries, like other red fruits, are very perishable. And even in the fridge they will appear covered with mold in a few days.
And have you ever thought that by cultivating a home garden, you can get rid of ingesting pesticides used in large-scale crops? A home garden is best used when its management is organic, with fertilizers of natural origin, which take care of the soil and plants, and do not poison the rivers or nature. It seems like a dream, but it is possible to grow safe food at home, poison freethat we can eat with confidence and offer to our children.
Other important issues involve the economy, because once you learn to remove the vegetables that make up the family’s food from your own backyard, you have money left over for other basic needs, such as hygiene, cleaning and non-perishable food. And as you may well know, the pandemic is not just a health crisis, but one that seriously affects the economy, with many people subject to pay cuts or even the loss of their jobs.
In addition, with the pandemic demanding social isolation, in order to protect us from contagion and prevent the rapid spread of the disease, we undeniably spent more time at home, with our family, and looking for ways to spend time productively and constructive. Thus, gardening becomes an emergency in terms of occupational health, to keep us sane physically and mentally during this difficult time. It is already more than proven that it has benefits for our health, such as moderate physical exercise, which is good for the heart and strengthens muscles and joints.
Pulling the simple weeds out of the garden and turning over the beds with the hoe will result in a lot of sweat and tired and stimulated muscles, which if they don’t get you in shape, will at least prevent you from gaining weight and guarantee a good night’s sleep. The psychological benefits cannot be overlooked. Occupying the mind taking care of plants, strengthens self-esteem and prevents anxiety and depression. Many people still discover a new meaning for life, a new passion and reconnect with nature.
Last but not least, we are experiencing a moment of awareness about the impact that our actions have on the planet. We realize that everyone needs to do their part, and home gardening is directly related to this new phase. When we produce our own organic compost, for the healthy production of our fruits and vegetables, we are recycling a good part of the domestic waste, reducing our environmental footprintfor a better world.
Now that we realize the undeniable advantages of a vegetable garden, where do we start? What should we do to put this idea into practice?
Step by step:
1. Choose the location:
Understand that the vast majority of vegetables need full sun to develop well. Thus, the most important criterion for choosing the location is insolation. Your future garden should be given 4 to 6 hours a day to produce herbs and vegetables, and at least 6 hours to produce roots and fruits. A water source close to the space will make your job of irrigating a lot easier. Vegetables are thirsty and will not grow and produce if they become thirsty. It can be a corner of your backyard, a terrace, a balcony and even a well-lit window. Many people can grow vertically to take advantage of window lighting in apartments. In other words, there are no excuses not to start.
2. Protect the space:
The garden space must be protected mainly from pets. They, like us, love to tinker with plants and soil, and you won’t want to see what their gardening is like. Let’s just say it’s a bit destructive, although a lot of fun (for them). Especially after so much care to start your little garden. Cats may even think your garden is their new bathroom. And you don’t want your vegetables messed up and growing along with your kitty’s needs. Surround the space, and use repellent plants around your garden, such as tagetes for example. In addition to keeping pets away, they act by repelling pests from your garden, such as aphids and caterpillars.
3. Prepare the ground:
From a poor and hardened soil it will not be possible to harvest much. Soften the soil at least 15 centimeters deep, and if you’re going to plant roots, like carrots and beets, you’ll need to work twice as deep. Take into account that even if you fluff at the right time, over time, watering and rain will settle the soil again, which loses depth. An alternative to this work of deeply fluffing the soil, is the partial addition of organic compost.
The compost, in addition to enriching the soil, will give more volume of land for the plants to grow. It is essential for an organic garden, as it provides the nutrients necessary for plant development, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. It also helps to maintain the temperature and humidity of the beds, and the aeration of the roots. Consider making a raised bed, protected on the sides with wooden boards, bricks, blocks, tiles, whatever you have available. The raised bed makes your garden easier to manage and reduces the chances of erosion breaking up your beds.
4. Choose your plants:
Most root vegetables (and many fruit vegetables) grow much better when planted from seed. Vegetables and herbs can be purchased as seedlings at the florist, or you can prepare your own seedlings at home. Take advantage of purchased vegetables to extract both seeds and seedlings for your garden. A tomato plant or a pumpkin plant, for example, can easily come from the tomato and pumpkin you buy at the supermarket. We can also re-sprout lettuce, carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, beets, cabbages, arugula, mint, among many other vegetables. The most important thing here is to test and choose the plants that you like to consume. Do not plant something different, or that you use little. At least not now at this beginning. Resist the temptation to make a huge vegetable garden with as many varieties as possible. Start small, and as you get the hang of it, expand. Fast cycling plants are ideal for starters like lettuce, arugula and watercress. But be sure to plant strawberries, tomatoes, herbs and some roots to get the hang of it. Take the season into account when choosing your seeds. Each has a better time for planting.
On a cloudy day, plant your seedlings and seeds, and water well afterwards. Many people ask me about the spacing between plants. The simplest rule is “imagine the size of the adult plant”. Another detail that we must take into account is access. If you plant a 2 x 2 meter square, you won’t be able to access the middle plants to care for without stepping on the others. So remember that your beds should be within reach. You should be able to walk around your garden to tend it without trampling the soft earth and beds.
6. Cover: Emergency Garden
Many gardeners forget this important detail. The earth can never be exposed. Cover your beds with straw, grass clippings, sawdust, dry leaves and even cardboard or newspaper if you don’t have access to natural materials. Covering the beds protects them from the effects of heavy rain, watering, prevents the loss of nutrients, maintains moisture and heat, and prevents the appearance of weeds. It is one of the basic rules for successful gardening.
Don’t leave your garden to its own devices, depending only on rainwater. Irrigate daily in the morning or at night, avoiding the hottest hours of the day so that the loss of water by evaporation is less. It is not necessary to soak the soil, water it abundantly, but do not create an environment that favors fungi more than plants. Remember that they need aerated soil to grow.
8. Lower expectations and learn to enjoy gardening: Emergency Garden
Gardening can be exciting and challenging, and it really is, but don’t get discouraged if something disastrous happens. A pest attack, a strong wind or a storm can decimate your plants. Nature is like that. Don’t blame yourself if something goes wrong, and learn from every plant that died or didn’t produce. Try to understand why this happened. And plant again. Every plant is a wonderful gardening teacher! See what each one has to teach. Visit your garden every day and inspect it carefully. The careful look of the owner is what fattens the cattle, as the old saying goes. Seeing pests early in the attack and new weeds sprouting is much easier to control than when you’ve already taken care of your plants. And don’t forget to celebrate each achievement, each seed that sprouted, each new leaf that appears, each flower and each fruit. This is the greatest pleasure of gardening!
Now it’s your turn to get your hands on the ground and start your homemade vegetable garden once and for all. To help you, Marilua Feitoza and I have developed an e-book on organic fertilization. And remember to share this article with your friends and loved ones.
If this article helped you. Then Share this article and help spread this information.