#StayHomeAndPlant or How to Use What You Have to set up a garden 101

#StayHomeAndPlant

Disclaimer: What follows is more-so a plea to go back to the habits of closing the circle more than a merely ‘how-to’:  plant the seeds, compost the peels; do not waste but regenerate.

A few weeks ago I was eating some fruits by the seaside thinking how crazy it was that we nowadays need to be told to save the seeds of the fruits and vegetables we eat and to be reminded to make compost with the peels… How strange it was that what should be very natural had become very foreign !

Today,  the situation is quite different from that week-end at the seaside: we’re in lockdown in Mauritius and we’re living very unusual times that many were not expecting to undergo. It seems, however, to be quite a good moment to re-kindle  these habits.

Many seem to wish to focus on gardening at the moment, be it due to the realization of our reliance on supermarkets, the emotional well-being that spending some time outdoor/with plants can create, or the educational value of such an activity for those with kids.

The challenge though is to use what we already have right now… A beautiful exercise in creativity in my opinion !

> Challenge 1: …But I need seeds !

Option 1: You already have some seeds with you that you bought before the lockdown: Awesome – you can proceed to creating your garden with these !

Option 2: You do not currently have any seeds with you to plant…Or so you think !
Here’s the perfect time to remember that we can save the seeds of the vegetable and fruits we eat: When you cook a vegetable or eat a fruit, just scoop the seeds aside, give them a rinse if needed, and let them dry. Once dried, you can preserve them for later-on [keep them in a cool and dry place and label the seeds envelopes]; Or you can get creative and plant now [read below].

Okay, truth is…it can be a bit more complicate than that…  I am really making it as basic as possible here to encourage you to START. Some seeds do need to be preserved and planted differently – but here’s your opportunity to learn!
Why not do some researches on the vegetables/fruits you have at home in your kitchen and see how to preserve and plant theses seeds  ?
What I really want to convey here is that we often do not see what we already have right at hand: our kitchen can be full of possibilities. Take notes of what you already have right here and right now. Do the researches. See the Opportunities and what you can do Right Here, Right Now.
Make do with what’s available for now – we’ll get super creative  and fancy with our plant choices – as well as build resilient community of seed exchanges and all – after this lockdown. Design by limitations this time.

Also, seeds are not the only way to propagate plants…

If you have culinary herbs in the kitchen, even the ones from the supermarkets [just to make it clear: we’re talking the ones still on their stem. Sadly those dried herbs in pots won’t help in our case], chances are…you can regrow those in some water !
Once again, take notes of what you have and do a quick research.

Chouchous, sweet potatoes and potatoes are also some of the items you most likely have at home that you can plant and grow. If you only have to let the potatoes and chouchous sprout before planting them, for sweet potatoes it’s different [you’ll have to grow some sweet potatoes slips first and then plant these -I am sharing a few resources on the how at the end of this post].

There’s even some vegetables you can regrow  in water -very often from pieces you’ll usually throw away- like celery, or carrots for their greens [yes, it’s edible; the whole carrot won’t grow though] – so you’ll reduce your waste AND have some free vegetables !

& the list goes on!
Have avocadoes, ‘giraumons’ or peppers ? You can save and plant these seeds quite easily. A tomato at the bottom of the fridge? You can cut a few tomato slices [mostly the middle part with the seeds] and put that directly in the soil [not the most common method, but it does work]. A potato or chouchou that you can spare? You can plant that one to grow more of these. Sweet potatoes? Learn to make some sweet potato slips and grow an amazing edible ground cover [did you know that you can also eat sweet potato leaves?].
A friend of mine is growing microgreens from mungbeans she had in her cupboard and I’m pretty sure I grew green beans from some dried beans found in our kitchen pantry once… It’s all about possibilities.

Just keep in mind that local fruits and vegetables/ those that can grow locally are the ones you want to keep for your garden. We should also keep in mind that if you save the seeds from something grown from hybrid seeds, you might not have a plant identical to the one you saved seeds from… but these are things you’ll learn along the way – the important thing is to START somewhere.

Option 3: You already have a vegetable garden?  Get in the habit of leaving a few of each of your crops ‘go to seed’ [aka complete its cycle and produce seeds, often we harvest our crop before it does so] to be able to collect and plant these. Also valuable for ‘When you’ll have a garden’.

Yes it might not be about planting to harvest something RIGHT NOW, but it’s about learning, forming new habits and investing in our future. As the saying goes ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Challenge 2: …But I don’t have space/soil !

Once again…let’s think creatively here and observe what’s already around us.
Some pots will make for a great balcony garden if you have some soil to put in these! And many containers that you can up-cycle will make perfectly fine pots…
Cardboard egg crates will do perfectly fine seedling trays, and you can fold newspapers to create pots !

Are you sure that you have no soil at all, not even some that can be found under your garden hedge or such? Really look around. Is there’s an area you could be growing in that you’re not thinking of  [if it’s too shaded or such, you can try to see if you have the plants that would be right for that place] ? Sme soil you can have access to [as stated, even if it’s to then grow in pots]? Some plants can be put on trellis and only the roots would need to be on the ground and in the soil  [such as chouchou that we were mentioning before] as to maximize production space even with a very small area /amount of soil.

If you really don’t have soil, as mentioned further up, some vegetables and herbs can be grown for quite some time in some water; for that some glasses of water and windowsills will do. You can also, for now, just start to germinate the seeds using some wet papers/cloth.

You can also finally start this compost you were thinking about since years – to then add to the soil you’ve found and keep building soil.

Keep your vegetables and fruits peels, add some [plastic-free, unprinted if possible] cardboard or dried leaves from the garden for the carbon content [compost is a mix of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ organic matter aka organic matter with high nitrogen content and organic matter with high carbon content. See resources about that at the end of the post] and here you are, ready to start ! Just add some moisture and turn from time to time to add air, and here you go !

For now, even a hole in the ground can serve as ‘compost bin’ – it won’t be the easiest thing to manage and animals might scavenge some stuffs in it… but you’ll still be able to create soil nourishing compost.
Otherwise, internet is filled with ideas of compost bins made from scraps materials…

Even when it comes to tools you can get creative and see what you already have at home – I’m sure you’ll find something that will be able to help.

And finally: if you really -after observing and thinking about it – don’t have space/soil/seeds… you can still use this time to learn more about these topics in order to then set into motion your garden !

Let’s use this time wisely, #StayHome for everyone’s health and safety and plant while being creative with our resources. We can encourage each other by sharing our pictures with #StayHomeAndPlant on our stories or feed, Facebook or Instagram.

Some cool reads to start your quest:
> A few seed savings tips for different vegetables: https://www.almanac.com/content/how-save-vegetable-seeds-seed-saving-guide
> How to grow sweet potatoes slips: https://growinginthegarden.com/a-fast-and-easy-way-to-make-sweet-potato-slips/
> Re-growing supermarkets herbs: https://momsindoorgarden.com/2019/10/18/how-to-grow-herbs-from-supermarket-herbs/
> Vegetables you can regrow ?  https://www.ruralsprout.com/regrow-vegetables/
> More about ‘Hot Compost’ and ‘Greens’ & ‘Browns’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1kIpCBD3UI&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3b513CsxgXb5CbyG5m3QGigMsVFgq5qIeFq-vlzQlhk6a1xiZuZ0zH2hI
> Some DIY compost bin ideas: https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2013/06/7-ideas-for-homemade-compost-bins/
> DIY pots from newspapers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7JaWj46llU

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