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All About Veganic Gardening At Home

We at Housedelic take great pleasure in introducing a new segment, aptly titled, ‘The Practitioners’ Perspective’. In this, we invite guest writers to share their experience about an activity or aspect related to home. They are professionals and practitioners in the area they will delineate about. To kick-start this segment, we have Arun, giving us a glimpse of Veganic* Home Gardening.
I consider myself fortunate for having spent my childhood in a home that has a good collection of different varieties of plants – trees, edible fruit/vegetable bearing plants, greens, and flower bearing plants. I vividly remember watering them, and relishing their gifts. I am so thankful to my parents for this. However, after I left home for my college studies, there had been a void in my life for close to 15 years. But last year we (my spouse and me) started growing a few varieties of green leafy vegetables, and I could establish a connection to my childhood once again.

VeganicSpinach
Let me clarify an important aspect here – we live in a small 1 BHK rented house, on the second floor of a house in Bangalore and we do not have the luxury of an elaborate garden. However, even we are surprised by our harvests from our micro garden – a modest set of 6 small sized pots. On an average, when our greens are mature, we have been able to prepare about 2 dishes every month from our garden. The produce is veganic – it is organic, and does not involve animal suffering. Both the water that is used for watering them, and the fertiliser used in raising them, are by-products of our kitchen, which are otherwise discarded as waste.

Given our space and water constraints, green leafy vegetables are the obvious choice – they are very small plants and do not require much space or water. And once they are big enough (which takes about 4 to 6 weeks), we can have our harvest once in two weeks – particularly, Spinach (Palak), Mint (Pudina), Fenugeek (Methi) and European black nightshade (This is a very popular green in Tamil nadu, and has been used for centuries; called Manattakkaali in Tamil; Scientific Name: Solanum Nigrum) are highly prolific. Surprisingly, we have found that the greens thrive better in pots, than on the land beside our home (possibly due to better sunlight and less competetion from other plants and trees).

Nightshade
The greens are fed with water that was used to soak or sprout beans or grains or wash vegetables (Essentially, by-product of our cooking process). For those who can afford more space and plants, using bio-degradable, safe and natural detergents and body cleansing agents can save a lot of water, if the water from bathroom or washing machines are used to feed plants.

What choices does one have, if one has to choose such safe cleansing agents? There are quite a few, actually. Krya soapnut powder along with lemon (left-over peels after juicing them are usually sufficient) or a little bit of vinegar is an effective combination for washing clothes, and I have been using it for more than 2.5 years. Krya also has a natural face wash powder. For bathing, chickpea flour, lemon peels and aromatic oils (like lemon grass oil) is a wonderful cleanser that leaves us fresh and clean (Our body does not need strong synthetic deodrants, if we consume a healthy whole plant based food, with minimal refined food like oil and sugar, and avoiding animal based food altogether). Apart from these, there are other soaps and detergents that can be safely used to feed plants. Rustic Art has a variety of bio-degradable detergents and body care products. A visit to a nearby shop that sells organic products will provide one more local choices.

VeganicMintLeaves
If we use small pots to grow these plants, how do we replenish the soil with nutrients? We can again use the by-products of kitchen – inedible fruit and vegetable peels, converting ‘waste’ to black-gold, or compost. (Switching back and forth among different plants – eg. among green leafy vegetables, root vegetables like carrots, leguminous plants – can also help) With the amount of waste we generate in cities, we choke the neighbouring villages with our wastes, which are dumped to them. With no proper segregation mechanism around, tons of mixed waste (kitchen waste, hazardous waste, electronic waste, plastic, sanitary and medical waste) pose a serious threat to the villagers and the environment. The government does not seem to be bothered much about people living near land-fills, but that need not stop us from doing our bit to at least lower our contribution to land-fill.

Daily Dump has made home composting very easy, with different kinds of composters catering to the needs of homes and apartments. Their home composter is a cleverly designed tool, that occupies very little space. It consists of three or four cylindrical clay containers stacked one on top of other. Because there are multiple containers, the total capacity of the composter is huge (A single deep container would have made access to certain areas of the container difficult; a shallow, wide container would have occupied more space on the floor).

Composter
Leave your fear of unpleasant odour from the composter aside – aerobic composting that happens in these composters is odour free (in fact, we get the pleasant smell of fresh earth when it rains after a long time, from the composting material after about 2 weeks from when we throw our first day’s kitchen waste). Have a look our composter in Table ref{tab:garden} – it is right next to our entrance to our home, where I have my breakfast during weekends to get my weekly dose of Vitamin D – for free! To accelerate composting, we can use peanut curd (find the recipe here) or the probiotic rejuvelac (soak 2 teaspoonsful of oats in a glass of water; keep it covered for 1 or 2 days, till we get a pleasantly sour odour from the water, indicating the presence of probiotic bacteria. We can use a little bit of this water to accelerate composting, to ferment plant based milk to curds, in baking as a raising agent, or drink it as such – it is rich in probiotic bacteria that can help our guts).

What do we do to protect our plants from insects who feed on them? We can use a repellent made from green chillies, ginger and garlic. Grind equal weight of ginger, garlic and green chillies and store them in an air-tight container for 10 days. Dilute this with water 100 times its volume and spray it over the plants. This repellent keeps worms that feed on the greens, away from the plants!

Veganic home gardening is easy. It gives us healthy, organic food that is cruelty-free. We can save our environment, and alleviate the problems of the hapless villagers whose only ‘fault’ is to live at the outskirts of our cities. We do not need extra water, or a lot of space to realise this. If this is not a win-win situation, what can be?

 

*The word veganic is derived from the words vegan and organic.

– A vegan is a person who avoids the use of products made from and tested on sentient beings, to the extent that is possible and practical. This means that vegans do not consume milk of other animals, meat, eggs or honey (substituting them with plant based ‘milk’, ‘meat’, ‘eggs’ and ‘honey’ for taste, if desired), leather, silk products (substituting with synthetic materials, if desired). Vegans are against the exploitation, confinement, torture and killing of our fellow sentient beings. Veganism is a generalisation of other social movements (including the feminist, anti-slavery movements) that stand against the exploitation of a particular class of sentient beings, justified on the basis that they are ‘different’, and therefore, they need not be given due consideration in our treatment of them. For more information on this, please refer to Earthlings. For support, please join the Vegan Bangalore Facebook group.

– Organic farming refers to the practice of farming without the usage of synthetic chemicals (say, for fertilisers, pesticides, etc.) It has traditionally been practiced for centuries, although farming with chemicals is often referred to as ‘conventional farming’. The primary motivation for organic farming in most cases is to protect our environment, and ourselves from pesticides and chemicals that are absolutely needless to consume, and are in fact harmful for our health. Veganic or stock-free farming is a kind of organic farming practice that uses plant based fertilisers and repellents to produce plant based food.
A kind contribution from Arun Rangasamy for Housedelic!

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