one of my college professors once told me that veganism is “a radical political statement.” i like to think that growing your own food can be just as political. when you plant your own vegetables, you don’t have to think about GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, food miles, government subsidies or unfairly compensated farmers because you have almost complete control over each step of your food production. incidentally, it’s also really fun. once you’ve got all your tools (i only really even use my hands and my garden shears) and soil it’s pretty affordable. composting your kitchen scraps makes the soil part even cheaper. you also have a much wider range of choices when you grow your own vegetables. i’d suggest planting the most expensive grocery store produce yourself. leeks, heirloom tomatoes, or whatever rare species that looks cool. green zebra tomatoes. watermelon radish. cosmic purple carrots. chioggia beets. get weird with it.
you also don’t need much space to garden. if you live in an apartment, you can grow your own herbs, greens and sprouts on a windowsill. if you have a patio, you can have an extremely productive vegetable garden.. i’ve grown plenty on mine. last year i grew a bunch of species (including about fifteen tomato plants) and my patio is not that big. if you try this method, be sure you pick varieties that are suited to containers. root vegetables can be tough to grow in containers, for example. if you have any size yard (back or front), you’re really set. just make sure your soil is safe (not contaminated with salt or heavy metals, for example).
one other thing to consider is companion planting. this is an organic gardening technique to maximize pollination, efficiency and yield. some species “fix” nitrogen, meaning they convert nitrogen from the air into more readily available forms to fertilize nearby plants. remember that from your nutrient cycle lessons in middle school? the nitrogen cycle always confused me, but this is why it’s SO IMPORTANT. beans are one of the most widely known nitrogen fixers. you can also plant species near each other which attract beneficial insects (pollinators like bees or pest predators like spiders and praying mantises) or repel pests (aphids, cabbage loopers, etc). certain herbs can repel pest species with their strong scent and others like nasturtium will attract pests and keep them away from your true crop.
if you’ve gardened before, your seed catalogs may already have arrived in the mail. if you haven’t gardened or just never ordered seeds online, hold onto your hats. there are infinite seed websites. here are just a few of my favorites:
the websites listed above offer plenty of organics, heirlooms and medicinals, if that’s what you’re into. now go nuts. give monsanto the finger and let uncle same eat all that corn he paid for.