10 Aug 2018


Victorinox and The Lazy Gardener

Today, people increasingly aspire to the pursuit of happiness, a fact that has become strikingly apparent even in the world of gardening. “Urban gardening” is the new buzzword taking the world by storm. Banking executives in Japan take to the roof garden of their skyscrapers on their lunch break and spend a contemplative half hour tending the gardens.

Gardens are not only abloom with roses, lavender, tomatoes, and apple trees; happiness is blossoming as well, for many reasons. Most people agree that being in a garden is thoroughly pleasant and inspiring. The simple act of observing nature has a soothing effect and is an antidote to our hectic lifestyles and the constant barrage of information. Finding happiness in the garden is not just a matter of quiet contemplation, gardening work yields the same result. Sharing the tomato’s journey from planting to harvesting forges a bond, not only with the food we consume, but also with nature itself. Growing from a seed into a juicy, tasty tomato is also nature’s message to us humans. Everything in its due time. Nature defines for us what can be done and what must be done. That is challenging in these times, where everything is moving ever faster, and must be instantly available on demand. And so whoever understands this lesson is truly blessed. The lesson nature teaches is “the luxury of life in the slow lane”.

Learning the ropes
The garden is a place for self-fulfillment. Even a small community garden plot can be a source of creative inspiration. The garden is the place to try bold ideas – then dig them up and put them on the compost heap if they aren’t quite right. And while very few amateur artists ever turn into a Monet or a Bonnard, there are plenty of amateur gardeners who over the years successfully dig, snip and plant their way into the upper ranks of garden artists.

A summer garden for the senses
Summer is the time for strolling past a shady tree, admiring a flowerbed bursting with color, grasses rippling in a light breeze, birds twittering away in the neighborhood trees, these magical experiences that leave a lasting impression. The way a summer garden can stir our senses is seen most clearly in children and the elderly: Hands instinctively reach out to touch fruits and leaves, noses lean down to catch the scent of flowers. 

The summer garden sparks our imagination. It is there to be newly discovered every day. Sometimes I get so mesmerized by a plant, a bumble bee or a butterfly that I completely forget what I was planning to do.

Gardening with nature
Many people would like to approach gardening the way they eat or live their lives: Things need to happen quickly and any problems need to be solved as soon as they arise. But in the same way as eating, gardening is actually a philosophy and an affair of the heart. And it can mean taking pleasure in a simple stroll and being able to enjoy the moment. The secret is to realize that the garden plays by its own set of rules. It is a place where a tree takes a while to bear fruit, where vegetables take time to ripen, where we cannot manipulate or bend the rules, a place where we are subject to the laws of nature and the seasons; they dictate what is possible and what must be done. In the garden you can literally see the fruits of your labor and the effort you have put into it. Our experience has shown us that people who spend time outdoors in nature or in the garden are happier and more fulfilled. Because nature itself is our greatest healer. In a few years, it’s quite likely that spending free time in the garden, undisturbed and off the grid, will be at the top of everyone’s list of priorities.

The quality of the items you grow in your own garden and the bond you share with them is one-of-a-kind. And you can also rest assured that it has all grown in a healthy, pesticide-free environment, because when you tend your own garden, you control the entire process, from planting until harvest.

We are convinced that growing our own vegetables, fruits and herbs helps us develop a more careful approach to our environment, our nutrition and to nature itself. By doing things with our own hands, we realize that our nutrition comes from nature in its purest form and there are few things we enjoy more than sharing our food with family and friends. And the practical aspect of all this is that food grown in your own garden is the freshest, the tastiest, the most nutritious and most ecologically responsible asset we can utilize. At the same time, putting sustainability into practice is our important contribution towards a future worth living.

Enjoying the benefits of lavender
The wind wafts the unique fragrance of fresh lavender into the house. In the warm southern countries, lavender shrubs are often planted close to the home so that their pleasant fragrance permeates the house. Lavender is often placed in laundry cupboards or closets, and is used in bath essence and perfumes. An essential oil, it helps heal wounds and burns and has a calming effect on the senses. Lavender, which possibly comes in second only to rose petals in terms of its usefulness, is used in perfumes, bath essence, skin creams and soaps, and attracts honey bees, bumble bees and butterflies to the garden. Lavender is extremely easy to cultivate and can be left to grow in the same location for many years. Planting lavender among roses not only makes for an eye-catching color palette with its whitish-pink to violet-blue flowers, but it also helps keep greenfly away from the roses.

If you are practicing mixed cultivation together with vegetables, herbs or under fruit trees, as we have seen in the Provence region, lavender is an ideal way of attracting the beneficials which pollinate the almond, apricot and cherry trees there.

Giving the soil a beauty treatment
Comfrey and nettles are two of the key plants we use for strengthening and fertilizing other plants. Nettles are packed full of nitrogen and they accelerate the formation of chlorophyll in leaves. They are perfect for vegetables with a high nutrient uptake such as cucumbers, zucchini or cabbage; they strengthen these plants and protect them from aphids. But useful plants, such as the leaves of vegetables like cabbage, rhubarb and tomatoes, can also be used as raw materials for organic pesticides. They contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, which are proven and well-known fertilizers. Ever since we have been giving our plants the daily beauty treatment with nettle and comfrey extracts, we have eradicated problems with pests or plant disease, since healthy soil yields healthy plants. The other thing we find fascinating about these homemade extracts is that they don’t cost anything, since all the ingredients can be found growing in the wild. If you aren’t able to find these wild plants, you can buy them dried at your garden center.

Tips: Instant fertilizer made of nettles and comfrey
Take a walk to the edge of the woods and you should find nettles and comfrey growing. Soak the plants in your irrigation water for 24 to 48 hours; Water vegetables and herbs daily with this undiluted mixture.

Stop weeds in their tracks
In summer, it sometimes seems as if the weeds are growing faster than the vegetables. As a preventive measure, we like to take a pendulum hoe and rough up the surface of the beds; this keeps weeds on the run and gives them no time to germinate. It’s so much easier than having to deal with weeds after they germinate.

Working with compost
Since it’s now growing season and shortly before harvest, fruits and vegetables need to absorb as many nutrients as they can from the soil to make the harvest as bountiful as possible. That’s why we now need to step up the delivery of nutrients to prevent soil degradation. After giving the garden beds a light compost treatment in the spring, we now apply a further light round of nutrients from compost to our plants to see them through the summer growing season. Our general rule of thumb is to apply 2-4 liters of compost per square meter and we also add a biological nitrogen fertilizer supplement to cover the nutrient needs for a growing season.

Just bear in mind that plants with a high nutrient uptake, such as cabbage, tomatoes, pumpkins and zucchini, need more nutrients than low-uptake plants like lettuce or herbs.

Green manuring after the harvest
The harvest is in full swing. Green manuring is recommended for land that is left unused after harvesting, such as potato, cabbage or bean beds, as well as land for berry crops. Green manuring (for example using phacelia) smothers weeds because the bare soil is covered, plus it improves the soil structure as the soil is broken up and enriched with organic material. What’s more, the green manuring delivers nutrients for the benefit of the next crop planted and also prevents soil erosion during periods of heavy rain.

Cultivating peppers
Peppers need high temperatures (around 20–25° Celsius), mild nights and a sunny location. They thrive in loose soil and regular fertilization. (In our case, this means a daily dose of nettle and comfrey water) Peppers can be harvested when they are still green. Of course we prefer the red, fully-ripe specimens with their signature fiery flavor. They can be prepared either fresh or dried. The best way to dry them is to lay them out on paper in a warm, dry place, such as on the window sill. When they turn brittle, the drying process is complete. When the peppers are used to prepare a meal the seeds should be removed, since they are very spicy and can cause irritation to the skin and eyes. You should never rub your eyes with your hands while handling them in the kitchen. That can be very painful. (I’m speaking from experience here)

Exotic sambal recipe
This sambal is a great way to add an exotic touch to any dish.

2 tbsp. oil (olive oil or sunflower oil)
200 g peppers, finely chopped (remove seeds)
1 onion, finely chopped
½ tsp. lemon zest
approx. ½ tsp. grated ginger root (optional, spicy)
½ tsp. lemon juice or vinegar
½ tsp. salt

Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the peppers and onion and simmer for 15 minutes at medium heat. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to simmer for a few minutes while stirring. While still hot, transfer the sauce into sterilized jars.

What to expect in September:

  • Nature shows its true colors
  • Harvest time
  • Preparing raised beds and mounds
  • Planting roses
  • Prune like a pro
  • Green tomato chutney
  • Fresh mint, chives and other classics for winter
  • Fall chores in brief

A brief biography of Remo Vetter “The Lazy Gardener”

Born in Basel in 1956, Remo ran an international company selling natural products for over 35 years. He’s now in demand as a garden designer, consultant and author and has created many successful garden projects in Switzerland, England and Ireland.

  • Self-employed since 2018.
  • Lectures in Switzerland and abroad exploring sustainability, our interconnected natural world, and finding meaning in life.
  • Numerous appearances in radio, TV and print media in Switzerland and abroad.
  • Monthly columns in various magazines.

His book “The Lazy Gardener und seine Gartengeheimnisse” Achieving Better Results in Your Organic Garden with Little Effort is available from atVerlag ISBN 978-3-03800-941-2