Great time to try: starting a vegetable garden

Tania Malréchauffé/Unsplash

Rachel Goldlust, La Trobe University

Being in isolation might be a great time to try something new. In this series, we get the basics on hobbies and activities to start while you’re spending more time at home.

There is a long history of looking to one’s own garden or small farm when the weight of economic and political chaos becomes too much to bear.

A suggested ‘cottage garden’ published in The Town and Country Journal, 1891.

Since the first major depression that hit Australia in 1892-93, there have been calls to get back to the garden as a material response to potential food shortages, and as an emotional salve that lends elements of feeling productive and in control.

Urban food production in the second half of the 19th century soared. It was common to grow a wide range of vegetables on small plots alongside piggeries, dairies and livestock in the crowded inner and outer suburbs.

Small-scale local production was the most convenient way to make sure local communities could get fresh food. But as a deep recession loomed, there were calls to get people onto the land. A new generation of urban workers started to look for security, autonomy and opportunity in rural or semi-rural self-sufficiency.

Gardening a new landscape

This move towards growing one’s own food was based on dire economic need, but it also came to symbolise a turn away from the modern, providing social and spiritual regeneration.

For early suffragists, self-provision was deeply political. Ina Higgins, Vida Goldstein and Cecilia John started a women-only farm cooperative on the outskirts of Melbourne in 1914. Producing food during the first world war was practical and necessary, while also providing social and economic emancipation.

Ina Higgins in the garden at Killenna, 1919.
National Library of Australia

Allowing women to escape the confines of home and factory, small farming meant they could transgress expectations of labour, marriage and motherhood and re-interpret production as physically beneficial, morally uplifting and socially responsible. It allowed women to take control over their own livelihoods in a way that had been previously unavailable to them.

The hippies of the 1970s started the call once more. With a dedication to homesteading-type activities such as craft, food preservation and practical up-cycling, the children of the post-war generation found comfort in the “old ways”.

These were simple, home-based activities that also fulfilled their desire to set environmental limits and take responsibility for personal resource use. Growing food was not only nostalgic but reflected distrust of advertisements and commercial interests and a general rejection of consumerism, labour and materials beyond the home.

Nimbin in the 1970s became Australia’s counter-culture capital, with a strong emphasis on self-sufficiency.
Harry Watson Smith/Flickr, CC BY

Today there is yet another resurgence in backyard and small-plot food growing, canning, bottling and preserving.

Growing your own food at home may not solve all of your family’s food needs, but the practice of picking, preserving and cooking one’s own food brings a sense of control and calm.

Read more:
Anxiety and depression: why doctors are prescribing gardening rather than drugs

Tips for your own venture into veggie gardening

Observe and interact

Look at the space you have and the resources at hand. Will you grow in pots or in the ground? Think outside the square: can you use your nature strip, a balcony or perhaps even a friend or relative’s garden (while still maintaining social distancing)?

For those growing in the ground, your time is limited as we head into winter, so start small. Remove as much of the existing grass and vegetation from the garden bed as you can. Dig in some quality compost, such as mushroom compost, to improve soil quality.

No-dig gardens sit above the ground, with layers of organic material forming the perfect growing environment for veggies and herbs as they break down. These can be started with very little investment.

You can look to buy (or build) some raised planter boxes that wick up moisture from a reservoir built into the box. Raised garden beds are great for growing small plots of veggies and flowers. They keep pathway weeds from your garden soil, prevent soil compaction, provide good drainage and serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails.

Planter boxes can keep gardens tidy and well-watered.
Jonathan Hanna/Unsplash

Never reach for a chemical pesticide to solve a bug, weed or disease problem. Build up your soil. Add organic matter, side dress with good compost, use good organic fertilisers. If you pay as much attention to building up the soil in the garden as you do tending the vegetables, your vegetables will practically grow themselves.

Check on your garden daily. The more time you spend there – even if it is just five minutes early in the morning – the more you learn about it.

Look for community

There are mountains of Facebook groups, blogs, websites and community organisations providing resources for basic vegetable gardening. Find one in your area that is suitable for the weather, soils and conditions, and learn from other’s experience.

Local networks will be able to tell you what’s best for planting, how to make a garden if you’re renting, or even share seeds with you!

Even a small balcony box can be rewarding

So what if your spacing is a little off, or you are a week or two late in planting? Or maybe you’ve just started with one tomato plant? A vegetable garden doesn’t require perfection to produce food.

As a way of getting outside, or into nature, or just having a moment to yourself, gardening may be just the reprieve you’re looking for.The Conversation

Rachel Goldlust, Phd candidate in Environmental History, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Sodom found? The quest for the lost city of destruction – Part 3

By Brian Nixon, special to ASSIST News Service

Tall el-Hammam sits in the northeast quadrant of the Dead Sea, in an area known as the Kikkar, or the “disc of Jordan.” It is an area lush with farmland, water, and natural beauty.

Geographically, it is east of Jericho, at about the same level above the sea. To this day, it is one of the most important agricultural areas of Jordan, providing many fruit and vegetable crops for Jordan and for export.

As amazing as it may sound, Tall el-Hammam may also be the location of the ancient city of Sodom.

According to archeologist, Dr. Steven Collins, this site fits perfectly with the geographical profile outlined in Genesis 13-19.

How Dr. Collins arrived at this conclusion involves years of research, digs, and textual research with many colleagues, including Dr. Peter Briggs. Drs. Collins and Briggs developed a means to determine if an ancient text is a “true narrative” through a scientific methodology called “criterial screening.”

The finding? Genesis is reliable for geographical profiles, and therefore can be used to locate sites.

With this bit of knowledge, Dr. Collins set out on a course of discovery.

“When I first had the idea that the traditional site of Sodom (in the southern region of the Dead Sea) was wrong (based upon the geographical indicators), I began to think through the text, coming to conclusion that it was northeast of the Dead Sea.”

After a 250-page research paper, hours of research—in the U.S., Israel, and Jordan— Collins concluded that the site of Tall el-Hammam was the ��?one.’

“I came to this conclusion based upon its geographical location and the biblical text. In the Bible, Sodom was mentioned first in order; therefore it must have been the largest and most prominent city in the area. We find that Scripture usually orders cities by prominence and size. With that bit of knowledge we choose the largest site.”

“As a matter of fact,” Collins continued, “Tall el-Hammam was the largest site by a huge margin.”

Under the auspice of the current dig, Tall el-Hammam’s general area is 40 hectares (roughly 100 acres), which is huge by ancient Bronze Age standards.

With the current dig well under way, the findings have been staggering.

“Not only do we have the right place geographically speaking, but it falls within the right time frame (the Bronze Age), and it was destroyed during the time of Abraham (the Middle Bronze Age). When you add in the pottery, architecture (it was a fortified city), and the chronological consistency of the region to the biblical text, it is a match made in heaven, so to speak,” Collins beams as he shares this with me.

“To make it even more intriguing,” he continues, “there is great mystery concerning this site, and all of its associated sites. For some reason there is what I call a “historical hole or LB Gap” regarding the site. Meaning, after this cluster of towns was destroyed during Abraham’s time, the area was not re-occupied until much, much later; later than the sites in the regions surrounding this particular cluster.”

“It must have been seen as a taboo site of some kind. Something terrible must have happened there that caused people to stay away for so many centuries.”

I then ask Dr. Collins for some evidence.

“Well, to start with, the Tall el-Hammam site has 25 geographical indicators that align it with the description in Genesis. Compare this with something well known—like Jerusalem—that has only 16. Other sites have only 5 or 6. So, this site has many times more indicators than any other Old Testament site. That is truly amazing.”

“Second, our findings—pottery, architecture, and destruction layers—fit the timeframe profile. Meaning, we should expect to find items, like what we are finding, from the Middle Bronze period. This is exactly what we are uncovering.”

“Lastly, we have secured internationally recognized experts to review our findings. One such person is Dr. Robert Mullins, and then there are our colleagues from the Department of Antiquities in Jordan. Dr. Mullins is an expert in Bronze Age pottery, and there are many others as well. My ceramic expertise also covers the Bronze Age. Their conclusions on the matter reflect that our findings are correct. Once again, this is incredible.”

“Though we are still digging and uncovering a plethora of material and artifacts, and much research still needs to be conducted, I feel that the evidence for this being the ancient city of Sodom is increasing by the day.”

“As a matter of fact, even some critics of the Bible are giving this site some attention. There is a host of web activity—both scholarly and downright weird—that has been spawned from this discovery. It is a wonderful time to be in archeology! I must confess that I am both humbled and excited to be a part of something as significant as this.”

Report from the Christian Telegraph