Source : Unknown.  ( Do reach out for image credit. ) 

Outfit anxiety and chasing perfection is the anti thesis of personal style. I found the most effortless style in an unlikely place – in the gardens and the people who tend them. It’s not that they are wearing cool clothes that I usually don’t see in my everyday life – overalls and worker wear. It’s that they are doing their work in style.

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Poet M.S. Merwin planted an entire FOREST in 30 years !

Jeannie Phan, Illustrator and gardener. 

Anne Schwalbe, Photographer. She knit her sweater.

Laura Silverman, Founder of The Outside Institute. 

[ Some second hand finds : rain boots, denim overalls, utility overalls ]

 

My Yard Clothes

A gentle plea for chaos, worn proudly

My rules :

  1. Practicality is the key. Dress for comfort. Buy for durability. Choose details that add to the utility factor of the garment.
  2. Do not run out and buy new worker wear to do some amateur gardening. Use your old worn out clothes. ( I declutter regularly and didn’t have any. )
  3. Find your over-alls second hand. They should be oversized. You should be able to bend, squat, do splits and crouch in them. Let them be in a crazy color for therapy. You could look like to your fruits and vegetables. They should have enough pockets to carry pruning sheers and some produce.
  4. My garden is in a very initial stage of it’s life. (It is a neglected land with two old trees.)  I weed, prune, lug and dig every week. Have dedicated clothes that you wear when you work outdoors. Remove them before you come inside. Hang them in the sun and wear them again tomorrow. Wash when needed.
  5. Do not ruin your day clothes by wearing them out in the soil. I water my plants every morning at 6 am. Wear an apron on top ( at-least ) .
  6. A short cotton trench coat or a denim shirt make good layering pieces for when the days are chilly.
  7. A garden is a relationship one has with the land. There is a start. But there is no end. The work load never seems to lessen. Make sure you take care of your gardening clothes too so that they may last. One set of overalls per decade is allowed.
  8. Rain boots and sweaters pair well with the overalls during the cold seasons. Warm your body up by working harder.
  9. @TheInternet : If you plan to guilt trip me by saying ‘you don’t need a style to work in the garden’, stay away from my style blog. There is no OFF and ON button on my body.
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Overalls

Never in my life did I think I will wear corduroy. I “eeewwww”-ed at the thought of it in the past. But these are what I found in my local thrift store. They are men’s size small – gives me enough room to bend and crouch. The fabric is sturdy. This was a pragmatic choice.

T-shirt

Found it at the same thrift shop. I don’t wear pink. But why not try it out ? I wanted something that will show dirt stains as the work cumulates. When it has holes, I will start to call myself a gardener. I will eventually use this tshrit to dress the scare crow that I am making.

Shoes

Men’s sandals from an Indian regional store. The farmers in my village wear the same.

Hat

I found it on a hiking trail and picked it up.

Zero Waste Gardening

What I have learnt so far

Plant as many trees as your yard will allow. Plant deciduous trees on the North side, so that they let the sunlight though and warm your house in the winter. In the summer, they do the opposite.

What is the point of  living in a house with a yard ? Urban density and zoning regulations are a big problem where I live. Emissions from commute are a big chunk of our air pollution. If I have a yard, it has to do more than allowing me to lounge around. I want to convert the soil I have into a carbon sink. I want to plant something on every inch of it. The plants grab CO2 from the air, break it down during photosynthesis and transfer some of the carbon to the soil. Do not let your soil sit bare.

Save on some food miles and packaging waste by growing some edibles. I may not be as efficient as the farmers who do this for a living and know the techniques, but even if I get 50% of the desired yield from a certain plant and eat it all up, I still am better off than the efficiency of the conventional grocery store pipeline out there.

I do gray water irrigation. The water from my washing machine goes to the plants. I do my dishes in a rubber tub and use an olive oil soap. Every day, one tree gets watered from the water collected in this tub.

Kill the lawn. Grow some food instead. It is not worth the water a lawn uses considering the returns the alternatives can give. I am slowly killing mine in incremental patches.

Plant drought tolerant species. Learn to properly water your plants so that they will develop strong root system. They will need much less water when they mature. Collect your rain water.

Plant some natives. They would have evolved over millions of years and do well in the local climate/soil conditions. They are good for the local animals and birds.

Plant for the bees. Have a shallow dish with water for the bees and the birds.

Use companion planting, crop rotation, row covers, … to deter the pests if possible. I use a neem oil spray when I need some help.

Start from seed to avoid buying plants in plastic pots. Propagate them if you have a friend who is willing to share some cuttings.  If you do buy plants from a nursery, look into your city’s recycling policy to check if they take back the pots. Some nurseries welcome them back for reuse.

The plastic bags in which they sell soil should be recycled at a grocery store that takes back plastic bags.

Stop buying plants on an impulse. Only buy what you can take care. The right plant, right location and the right nutrients – recipe for success.

You will eventually need fertilizer that comes in plastic bottles. Look for an outlet that takes back these empty bottles.

Compost to make your own fertile soil. But there is no assurance that your soil will be balanced on Carbon/Notrogen/trace minerals. You might have to make amendments later. But not composting while having a garden, is wasteful. Compost is super food for your plants !

Mulch your soil. You can recycle dried leaves from the garden. Mulching prevents the loss of moisture from the soil. It helps with preventing weeds. Worms leave the land as soon as the soil stops providing them with food to eat. They stay if you can mulch with organic vegetation.

Use human physical labour intense devices like leaf rakes and brooms to do the upkeep instead of buying appliances. ( Count it as exercise and subtract a few minutes from your gym session. ) Rent tools from a library / neighbors / friends instead of buying everything. The ones you need on an everyday basis, can be found second hand on Craigslist.

Do not design a garden to please the eye. Plant a garden to provide for the animals and the humans. Understand that you are a part of the local eco system. Conserve it.

A gardener whose channel I am watching currently : Siloé Oliveira. So good !