Yes U Can Garden

Nature Seychelles’ Heritage Garden at Roche Caiman was opened on 16 October by the Minster for Environment, Natural Resources and Transport, with the ever-smiling Antoine Moustache the big chief of the Seychelles Agriculture Agency facilitating things and an enthusiastic crowd supporting us.

The new theme I introduced in Seychelles through this Garden is Edible Landscaping. Now I want propagate another practice I saw in New York (of all places!) – Low-Cost Gardening or what I have dubbed “Yes, U Can Garden”. Food, and other goodies like aromatic and medicinal plants, can be grown and maintained for very little money. And, you can beat the recession, fight the food crisis, be healthy, make new friends and save genetic resources, all in one fell swoop!

The first trick is to maximize your growing space. Make use of any potential area. The more space you create the more you can grow. Soil can be trucked from many places. Someone I know carried earth in buckets at the back of her car so she could grow herbs in her apartment.

Back yard composting is easy and there have been many local programs advocating this practice. Manure can be purchased from various places sometimes at reasonable prices. The compost produced by STAR Seychelles has the advantage that it does not contain seeds and spores of weeds.

Tools are expensive, but one can accumulate tools for little money. A friend of mine got her entire tool kit by acquiring old or discarded tools from neighbors and farmers– some tools simply needed a new handle. Containers for planting can be collected for free from various sources. One can use empty juice and milk Tetra Packs for seedlings. My father grows an amazing diversity of food plants in containers at the back of his house in the middle of town.

As for seeds, save them from your purchases at the shop or market. At home we collected seeds from those tasty cherry tomatoes and had a bumper crop. Some people in the US exchange seeds and seedlings- a Seed Swap. This is a great idea because it also builds friendships and personal networks. Many Seychellois sell plants at various events, the largest being the National Horticulture Show. At the end of these events some sellers dispose of their plants at discounted prices. And of course, save the seeds from your last crop.

And for materials like trellises, at the Heritage Garden we used discarded wood and braches scavenged from Casuarina trees to support beans and other vines. The best known trellis at the Heritage Garden is the one supporting the incredible Pom Edwar, an arial tuber used by Seychellois in the past but now shunned in favour of imported potatoes.

Last but not least – water. You don’t have to use treated water from the tap. Rain water harvesting is easy because of the high rainfall and sloping roofs in Seychelles. Containers such as the commonly available blue plastic barrels can be linked together to create an adequate reservoir.

Enjoy your Low-Cost Garden. Perhaps you can even recoup your small investment by selling some of your crop. Yes, U Can Garden!

Author: Dr. Nirmal Shah

Nirmal is a well-known and a passionate personality in the Seychelles environmental and sustainability scene having an encyclopedic knowledge of Seychelles biodiversity as well as a wealth of experience in environment management. He has worked in senior positions in the parastatal, government, private and NGO sectors and consulted for international organizations such as the World Bank, IUCN, UNEP, Sida and UNESCO. He has appeared on CNN, BBC, Radio France, PBS, NBC, ABC, SABC and others

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