You may already have your home garden with many flowers and plants that add a lot of aesthetic value and the much-needed connection with nature.
But have you ever wondered the potential that same garden can have supplementing your supply of food or even as a full-time home vegetable garden?
With ever increasing food prices and enthusiasm in organic food by health-conscious consumers, it can be prudent & sensible to consider your garden as an option to grow vegetables, greens, herbs and fruits making it your own kitchen garden.
You may just think how daunting the mere thought of it can be, but this post will just show you how it could be a lot less strenuous and an activity filled with a lot of fun and great pleasure!
There is one difference though when it comes to gardening by vegans (vegan gardening) which is called ‘veganic gardening’.
Besides being one of the most healthiest ways of gardening (better than organic!), it helps us preserve our vegan ideals with respect to animals & the environment having no reliance on any animal by-products and an attempt to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
Thus the vegetable garden ideas we’re going to discuss have a combination of veganic, no-till, no-dig garden methods which are easy, healthy, humane, environmentally friendly and have a lasting impact!
Why an Organic Veggie Garden Can Be Useful & Gratifying
- You know exactly what your food source is and have more control over it
- Easy access to your food supply providing convenience & saving time
- Large-scale agriculture can heavily impact the environment. The use of fossil fuels causes greenhouse gas emissions and can affect deforestation. By having your own vegetable garden you’re reducing demand for that industry
- There is a link between agriculture and livestock for various fertilizers and you reduce demand for such animal by-products as well
- No pesticides used
- Can be much cheaper compared to commercial food and it’s a saving
- If there is a food shortage during worsening economic/political conditions this can be a great resource
- Can be a healthy and a cheerful hobby for individuals or for families
The Advantages of No-dig, No-till Gardening Technique
- You don’t have to do laborious & backaching digging or turning the soil which also saves time!
- Since it’s a creation of an ecosystem the soil continues to be fertile (with mulching) and sustainable
- No-till system promotes soil fungi and a more balanced soil population making the whole ecosystem less prone to pests and disease.
- Watering is minimal due to the layers of mulch which provide moisture and reduce evaporation retaining the water content.
- The dormant weed seed will remain dormant since the soil is undisturbed
- With soil tilling the matter breaks down far too quickly and tends to release nutrients too fast whereas in a no-till system the plants will benefit from a slow & steady flow of nutrients.
- Can be done even on limited space
- Earthworms and other soil organisms play a great role in making soil healthy providing better soil structure, increased nutrient availability, aeration, and drainage. Tilling can disrupt this imperative subsystem especially beneficial for root growth.
- Reduces soil erosion
How to Start an Organic Vegan Vegetable Garden From Scratch
It’s fine to think big but let’s start small as a beginner gardener. As you learn the art & science of gardening with time, you can keep expanding in terms of space & variety.
Tools & Materials Required
- Seeds or seedlings
- Gloves (for safety when clearing land)
- Hand trowels or hand shovels (for planting & dig out weeds)
- Weed/grass cutter (you may use long/short-handled weeding hoes as well) >> refer step 3
- Rake to remove debris
- Hand pruners (for harvesting)
- A compost bin (refer step 1 under step by step guide below)
- Brown materials (for compost) >> select any of the items you can find here: leaves, straw, hay, dry grass clippings, chipped branch wood, mushroom soil, pine chips, pine straw, cardboard, sawdust, newspaper.
- Green materials (for compost) >> select any of the items you can find here: kitchen scraps, ferns, fresh grass clippings, comfrey, nettles, fresh garden waste, rotten harvests.
- Wood chips, leaf mold, hay or straw (refer step 5 under step by step guide below)
- Plug trays or pots (refer step 2 under step by step guide below)
- Wood, bamboo or metal stakes (for plant support)
- Cardboard (if required: step 5 below)
- Refer humane pest control below
Now decide what you’re going to grow,
Easiest Vegetables, Greens & Fruits to Cultivate in a Garden
You may wish to start with easy-to-grow vegetables, greens and fruits mentioned below and with experience, you can experiment with growing a wider variety.
- Bush cucumbers
- Green beans
- Bell peppers
- Onions and scallions
- Pumpkins (Baby Boo’ or ‘Jack Be Little’ varieties are ideal for limited space)
- Swiss chard
Greens & Herbs
Sources to Get The Seeds or Seedlings (buy non-GMO seeds)
- Local health food stores
- Seed exchange to get free seeds
- Free seeds from seed libraries
- Save your own seeds for future use
What Type of Land & Soil to Choose
When choosing a good plot of land to grow, it doesn’t necessarily have to be your backyard, fearing that choosing your front yard could spoil aesthetics.
Certain herbs, greens and edible flowers such as hibiscus, chicory, and squash blossoms can be incorporated gracefully to your front yard vegetable garden.
Irrespective of the land being a backyard or front yard choose an area that is exposed to enough sunlight. Observe the path of the sun throughout the day to see which areas receive sunlight & shade.
If you don’t have access to enough sunlight here’s a list of plants that do well with limited sunlight: Arugula, broccoli, red cabbage, green cabbage, beets, amaranth, swiss chard, asparagus, cauliflower, pumpkin, borage, Brussels sprouts, calendula, nasturtium, bok choy, celery, chervil, kohlrabi, cucumber, squash, cress, garlic, endives, spinach, fava beans, kale, lettuce, nettles, parsnips, leeks, peas, beans, potatoes, purslane, turnips, radish, rutabaga, and salsify.
In terms of soil type the ideal soils are loams, but if you do have a light sandy soil or a heavy clay soil you can always turn these into healthy soil by using matter which we will discuss in detail below.
Thus, three things to consider when selecting an area:
- Convenience of watering
Now most importantly let’s get to the process of creating your vegetable garden!
Step by Step Guide to Vegetable Gardening (organic, no-dig, no-till & veganic)
1) Start off with your compost preparation since it takes time to decompose. You need to have a good balance of brown & green materials to compose. For brown materials you can select >> leaves, straw, hay, dry grass clippings, chipped branch wood, mushroom soil, pine chips, pine straw, cardboard, sawdust, newspaper. For green materials you can select >> kitchen scraps, ferns, fresh grass clippings, comfrey, nettles, fresh garden waste, rotten harvests. A ratio with a good balance would be 2 parts green to 1 part brown (aim for a variety of brown materials). Using a 5 (width) * 5 (height) feet cube and turning the pile every 2-4 weeks can speed up the decomposing process to give you compost approximately in 3 months.
2) This step is not compulsory but it will be convenient if you can start with vegetable seedlings in plug trays or pots to be planted later till they’ve grown a clear root system. This will also make it much easier spacing out when you’re ready to plant with appropriate distance.
3) Once the compost is ready and the weather is fairly dry, clear the top layer with any debris, rocks while cutting back any grass & weeds (refer step 4). Now water the ground thoroughly.
4) Choose beds which are no wider than four feet (1.2m) where you will never have to step on the soil inside
5) Mulching (prevents digging & tilling): Before mulching in case if you still find a lot of weed you can lay wet cardboard before adding matter which will break down and provide a barrier to weeds which will kill them off eventually. Then add three inches (7.5 cm) deep layer of compost and then a layer of wood chips (you can use leaf mold, hay or straw as well) about one inch (2.5 cm) thick without mixing the two layers. This will drastically reduce the growth of weeds underneath while providing nutrients for roots. Make sure mulching doesn’t exceed more than 5 to 6 inches at any time for optimal use. This top layer would reduce water evaporation and continuously provide nutrition for soil.
6) Now set aside the wood chips to plant the seeds/seedlings or the plants you prepared in step 2 into the compost layer beneath.
7) If you ask how often you should water the vegetable garden, it all boils down to prevailing weather & climate conditions. Thus it is an art than a specific routine where you do the watering according to the retained moisture levels of the soil. You can just insert your finger 1 inch below the surface and see whether it’s well moistened. If it’s dry then it’s time to sprinkle some water. Good news is mulch keeps the moisture intact and the requirement for watering is required less frequently.
8) Adding Mulch can be done annually since the old mulch gradually decomposes and can lose its effect of weed control, while the new mulch can continue to make soil healthier with additional nutrients. You just have to follow the same steps we’ve discussed earlier in step 5. There is no need to remove the old mulch before adding new mulch again. Just make sure you don’t add more than 3 inches at any given time and the mulch doesn’t touch the base of any plants giving you a shape of a “doughnut” around the base.
Using raised beds around the plot of land is not essential, but the sides can support in containing added matter.
Few Tips on Humane (Cruelty-Free) Pest Control
No-till veganic garden methods should provide a natural, humane and biological control with regard to pest but it’s always better being prepared.
Garlic, fennel (for aphids, slugs, and snails), oregano, tobacco, basil (for flies & mosquitoes), lavender, rosemary, rhubarb, thyme, chives and other strong smelling substances/herbs can be used to keep pests at bay.
Barriers such as plant collars, netting, surface materials, and simple hand removal (safely with care & no harm) are other effective garden pest control methods.
Make sure that you keep any additional compost away from rodents and other insects as well.
So there you have it, now you have everything you need to know to go from an amateur to a pro as a gardener! You may make mistakes, but just like any other process, the more you engage in it the more you will learn. The greatest delight for you would be seeing your own homemade rich & healthy harvest making you realize what a great gardener you have become!
“Growing Your Own Food is Like Wealth for Your Health”
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