The Vegetable Garden

Organic Gardening and Permaculture

When we think of organic gardening and permaculture we tend to conjure up images of leathery-skinned bearded warriors who dedicate their lives to working long days in their vegetable plots.  Whilst this may be a wonderful way to live your life, it doesn’t suit the average suburbanite with a full-time job and a hefty mortgage.

Growing food is typically seen as either an art form or damned hard work.  It’s no wonder very few people do it on a serious level.  But what if a technique came along that was so easy and so prolific that even the busiest corporate executive could grow a significant portion of their family’s food in less time than it takes to drive to the shops.  Ecological gardening just might be the answer.  In my experience, it’s the ultimate modern-day convenience veggie plot.

I didn’t have a light bulb moment that said, “Ah, so this is ecological gardening”.  My vegetable garden was no different to anybody else’s for many years until I made a few changes.  The first and probably most significant was squeezing far more plants into a given area.  The second change was to never dig the soil.  And thirdly, I upgraded my composting system.  Once these simple strategies were in place I noticed the garden taking on a life of its own.  Weeds virtually stopped growing in the beds and plants started living much longer.  The garden could endure longer periods without water, I was yielding far more than I ever had and I could harvest every day of the year.   I wanted to know what was happening at a scientific level and applied my university training as an environmental scientist to understand why I was getting such amazing results.  I had to completely let go of all my preconceived ideas as a gardener and look at the plot through the eyes of an ecologist.  After some time I realized that I had created an ecosystem made up of edible plants, and it behaved in exactly the same way as a natural habitat.  I became more of an observer than a gardener and the role of head gardener was pulled from under my feet as nature took up the reins.