Want to know something about me I’m embarrassed to admit?
Over the past year I’ve visited in excess of 14 established Permaculture and organic home gardens ranging from 680m2 blocks, to 32 acres. I’m ashamed to say, sometimes in my early days, I would look with disappointment and even distain at the veggie gardens I saw. They were small, sometimes ramshackle, and seemingly ‘unproductive’.
Even when I visited the co-founder of Permaculture, David Holmgren’s garden, I wasn’t as impressed as I expected. Despite the fact his home was on acreage, his actual veggie garden was only half the size of my old sub-urban back yard in Brisbane.
You see, I’d been conditioned to equate abundance with the immense supply we see in supermarkets, or the immaculate gardens we see on television shows like the ABC’s ‘Gardening Australia’.
That’s what a garden’s supposed to look like. Neat rows of seedlings and jam packed garden beds full of plants. No weeds in sight and only deep, luscious soil and green foliage spilling out. Food seems to be everywhere you look in those magazine photos and television segments.
What I’ve come to realize, in the past few months on my own gardening journey, is these assumptions are false and misleading. As modern consumers, we’re used to seeing a lettuce as just that, one lettuce. When you bring it home from the supermarket it may last you a week, if you’re lucky.
Here’s the trick.
When a lettuce is growing in your garden and you pick only the leaves you need, as you need them, it keeps growing!
So, in fact, one lettuce becomes multiple lettuces when it’s planted in your garden. You’re going to get a whole lot more food out of one lettuce in the garden, than one lettuce in your fridge.
This is useful to understand when you’re just starting out, because it means you don’t need a lot of space to grow a lot of food.
I looked at my backyard with suspicion when more experienced gardeners (my friend Dee Humphreys) said I’d be able to grow plenty of food just in the back corner. I envisaged rows of raised garden beds stretching as far as the eye could see down my newly bought 1 ½ acre block.
I still look at the productivity of my own small garden with surprise.
Dinner at Nicola’s Place
Last week, Chris’ friend Jerome and his mother came for dinner. Typically French, they love food and they love to eat. Thankfully, it could have been a stressful experience of hurriedly preparing a meal for gourmet food lover. It turned into a fantastic night; thanks to my imperfect, but productive, veggie garden.
Jerome is a scientist, but his passion is food. So I armed him with the secquatures and we headed down the back steps to gather our dinner. Five minutes later he was preparing a crisp, light and delicious salad for us all to enjoy with a French stick (of course), dipping bowls of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc (after a mouth-watering green juice Chris made with ingredients from the garden). We ended the evening with Pineapple Sage tea (the leaves were picked right outside the back door and seeped in boiling water) and a block of 70% dark chocolate. The result: a simple, enjoyable and delicious meal.
When I don’t know what to have for dinner, I take a trip out the back door, pick a couple of kale leaves, a handful of rocket, some lemon balm, sorrel, sweet basil, a few snow peas, and my favorite Lebanese cress, and I’ve got a massive salad.
I always end up with more than I can actually eat. And the garden appears as though it hasn’t even been touched!
Abundance doesn’t always look the way we expect it to. It’s often much more simple than our complex and competitive minds like to envisage.
In a similar vein, when you don’t live in a garden, you expect there to be fruit available when you want it. But of course, nature doesn’t work like that. Seasons come and seasons goes.
Sometimes an orchard looks barren. The mandarin trees are close to the end of their season now. There are just a few hanging off the very tops of the branches that I’ll need a ladder to harvest. After that I won’t have any fruit on the trees for a while.
But I know from last year, and seeing the nectarine tree transform into beautiful flower and bud, that soon, very soon, there will be an abundance of nectarines!
Nature knows we need variety.
And she doesn’t let us eat the same thing all year around. Unless, that is, it’s been waxed, gassed, or shipped from the other side of the world to pile up in a supermarket shelf.
We’ve become so disconnected from the cycles of nature; it’s easy to see lack where there is, in fact, abundance:
•Abundant health from the rotating diversity of nutrient dense food
•Abundant pleasure observing time through changing seasons (the leaves have almost finished falling, and the blossoms will soon look like the Japanese cherry blossom festival in the orchard)
•Abundant nutrients from the best food we can eat
•Abundant sustainability with no packaging or shipping required, and any leftover recycled on site through composting back into soil
So, my hope is that you’ll take my word for it, and next time you’re looking at your 1 x 1 m balcony, or your suburban backyard, you’ll know you can grow abundant food for you and your family. (Smaller spaces are easier to maintain!)
Your garden doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to be huge, and it doesn’t have to impress me or anyone else (although I will be impressed since I’ve learned to see abundance with new eyes!)
Organic gardener Nicola Chatham shares tips, videos and fun stories in her acclaimed free weekly newsletter Sprout!.
If you want to grow your own organic food at home, have more fun in the garden and create abundance in your life, join Sprout! and get your FREE guide 'Discover Your Green Thumb' now at http://www.nicolachatham.com/