"Life begins the day you start a garden" Chinese Proverb
Isn't that the truth? Not that I don't remember my life before gardening but life has just gotten that much richer through communing with Mother Nature in this way. Gardening is the best mirror for anything emotional or physical that I'm going through and by working in the garden I'm able to work on my own interior growth in a softer more intuitive way.
I want to share with you some tips and resources so that you can begin a garden in whatever manner you're able to. I truly believe the most radical thing we can do for our selves, our communities, and the world, is to start a garden. These tips will be leaning towards the tropical community, but honestly the principles of gardening are the same everywhere. Build the soil, water the plants, let Mother Nature shine her light upon the babes, and patiently wait as the plants do their incredible work!
Without further ado, here some tips!
1. Build the soil!
The number one thing you can do today for future plants is to start adding organic matter to whatever growing medium you're using. If that means starting a compost pile outside or keeping a compost bin on your balcony, do it! Compost is the best food for baby plants, which here in Florida if you're wanting a annual garden, we start seeding things in September/ October. Yes I know, confusing right? But here in the tropics our "growing season" is opposite the rest of the country, from September to May. Here's a blog post by Little River Cooperative about Spring gardening in Florida!
Now that's not to say we're not gardening in the summertime. In fact Summertime gardening is some of my most active work. If you're interested in building a food forest, this is the time. The time to spread mulch, the time to plant bananas and papayas, when the rains come down in plenty and the sun shines so abundantly things are breaking down // composting at a rapid rate, which is amazing! It's one of the most brilliant things about gardening in the tropics. Here's a link to a blog post on mulching by Eric Vocke a fellow permaculturist in Miami.
In regards to finding mulch, I highly recommend Chip Drop, which is a free online service that works with arborists and home gardeners so that you can put in a request for mulch to be delivered to your home or property! Key note is that the mulch will come by the truck load, as most tree trimmers will drop off too. Another mulch finding hack is to talk to tree trimmers when you see them working in your neighborhood or local neighborhoods. It's often WAY easier and cheaper for them to drop off near by, so don't be afraid to speak up!
If mulch is too much of a commitment, I get it a truckload of mulch is a lot. A lot of work and a lot of space is needed. Look at your neighbors who are raking up leaves and bagging them neat and tidy. That's great organic matter you can add to your soil!
Get creative with it, they're so many ways to build soil. I love adding sargassum from the beach to my compost, also I routinely add moringa and Mexican sunflower aka plants rich in nitrogen and minerals. I'm going to blog about composting in the coming weeks because it's that potent.
2. Start Small
Meaning I didn't build my own food forest over night, I've been working on converting this quarter acre grass lawn over the past four years. I started with one 4 foot by 8 foot raised bed. Heck that may even be too much for some, start with one potted plant!
Just so you can start a relationship with the plant world. You can develop the sense of what it needs. Like anything in life, the more time you put in, the better you become. All plants want really is sunlight and water. Love and compost are just extra bonuses! Here's a great guide by Rob Greenfield on starting a garden in Florida! Highly recommend reading this for some super value on starting a garden.
3. Find seeds // plant cuttings
Now this may seem like the daunting step but really it's the most fun! Take a walk, more than likely, a few of your neighbors are growing tropical plants that can be used for food or medicine. Start relationships with your local community! Most gardeners, even if introverted, LOVE talking about plants. Strike up a conversation, it may be the most beautiful connection you'll make.
Support local nurseries, selling tropical plants like Little River Cooperative or Ready to Grow Gardens or Tree Amigos Growers Also Little River Cooperative sells seeds packets to ship in beautiful packaging just so ya know!
4. Planning your garden
This one may seem tricky but its really simple. Just keep in mind, most plants just want water and sunlight. With that in mind, I think the placement becomes very easy. As in, no you don't want to start a garden in a barren shady spot of your yard where nothing grows. If grass won't even grow there how do you imagine other plants will fair?
In regards to water, I like to tell people to plant things in places they will see. That way you'll remember daily to check on the plants. Here's a great blog post by Tree Amigos about planning a garden place that goes into more detail!
5. Be patient
You're not gonna grow 100% of your diet over night... we're not all Rob Greenfield ! I think one of the most powerful things I've learned from the plants is to slow down. The journey is the joy, growing one plant at a time is the greatest gift, so that I become super knowledgeable about it. I learn how it likes to grow, how to cook with it, how to work with it medicinally and then I'm not overwhelmed or burnt out. I know the process is ever evolving. There is still ample amount of grass on my lawn, which doesn't bother me too much. I know there's room for growth literally and figuratively. I'm not rushing into the growth but tending what I have in the ground already. Growing where I am.
There's so much more I could say, but I feel this is an abundant start and if you're interested in learning more follow the links I've put in! I'm not leading you astray I swear. If you have any questions please leave a comment or reach out to me!