Gamer turns gardener: Lukas and his clucking companions
Today’s weather is the last thing today’s interviewee needs. Raindrops slide down the windowpanes, there’s even the occasional snowflake, and according to the weather forecast, frost is on the way tonight. With the weather playing up in early April after the mild winter, it’s enough to make Lukas’s hair stand on end! The one good thing is that, although he planted his potatoes only yesterday, he made sure they were frost-proof.
Lukas comes from a small town in the west German region of North Rhine-Westphalia and discovered the joys of gardening just over four years ago. “Previously, whenever I came home from school or my apprenticeship, I just spent all my time on the computer,” explains Lukas, now 22. “All I did was play games or watch YouTube.” But as it turns out, some of the videos he saw changed his life. You see, he came across the YouTube channel run by Rigotti, probably the smoothest channel operator in the German-speaking world when it comes to gardening and self-sufficiency. Lukas was fascinated by Rigotti’s videos and started wondering for the first time where all the vegetables in the supermarket came from. At the tender age of 17, he began growing his own vegetables in a four-tier PVC greenhouse on his balcony. He then expanded to 10 square metres in his mother’s garden before moving into his own allotment a few months later. Apart from a few exceptions in winter, he no longer buys any vegetables because he now supplies himself, his family and friends with fresh greens almost all year round.
Lukas clearly takes after his parents. His mum had always grown vegetables in her own garden for the family. Meanwhile, his dad worked for the allotments association, and when he was out planting trees, he often took young Lukas with him.
Lukas, now a qualified bathroom fitter, has since leased his third allotment, which is nearly 600 square metres in size. As well as plants, he also looks after poultry and owns a small flock of chickens. Lukas’s personal feathered favourite is a white hen called Helga, who is extremely communicative and by no means camera-shy. “Helga really is a crazy chicken!” Lukas tells us with a grin. We, too, are charmed to bits by this inquisitive hen, although she does like to steal the show from him in front of the camera and clucks away nineteen to the dozen. Lukas explains why she’s so trusting: it turns out that Helga was his very first chicken. She was just four or five weeks old when he got her from the breeder and he often fed her by hand. “The rest of the poultry normally ignore me – unless it’s feeding time!” laughs the chicken whisperer.
In the meantime, Lukas’s fiancée Viktoria has also caught the poultry bug. “At first she was a bit wary of my chickens and normally kept her distance,” he smiles. “But now she’s not at all nervous of them, and even feeds them now and then.” In all probability, his future wife simply succumbed to Helga’s incomparable charms. Only Lukas’s sister still keeps a wide berth around the henhouse. But we assume that sooner or later, the egg-straordinary Helga will also conquer her heart!
Anyway, back to the allotment. We want to know what Lukas thinks about companion planting. “Well, I plant garlic alongside strawberries, for example,” he explains. “Otherwise, my motto is that what goes well together on the plate also goes well together in the vegetable patch.” Sounds logical to us. And then we ask him what he thinks of using chemicals and artificial fertilizer on his allotment. “I don’t let chemicals get anywhere near my plants!” he replies emphatically. “And the only fertilizers I use are natural. Whenever I noticed any deficiency symptoms in my plants, previously I treated them with nettle liquid manure. But thanks to my new urine-diverting toilet, now I can use my own manure as fertilizer.” By the way, he still uses nettle liquid manure (which contains loads of nutrients) as a natural pesticide, for example to deal with aphid infestation.
When it comes to natural pest control, Lukas has a few more tips up his sleeve. He sprays courgettes, tomatoes, pumpkins and other vulnerable vegetables with milk early on to prevent mildew. (Note that this only works with fresh milk – don’t use UHT!) And he covers cabbages, lettuce and onions with nets from the outset to keep insects off.
Are there by any chance any plants that Lukas can’t grow? “Yes, aubergines!” he answers promptly. “For some reason, I never seem to have any luck with eggplants.” It’s reassuring that even he experiences the odd gardening failure. (Whenever we see all the wonderful photos in those gardening magazines, we feel like the only ones without green fingers. Don’t worry – everyone has something that just won’t grow. At Kildwick, it’s rhubarb!)
Inspired by self-sufficiency specialist Rigotti, Lukas launched his own YouTube channel called ‘Freizeitgarten’ (‘Hobby Allotment’), which already has over 1,600 subscribers. We asked him why he set it up. “I think it’s important to give something back to the people out there,” says Lukas. “I’m my own best example. Go outside, plant your own fruit and vegetables instead of being stuck in front of the computer. You’ll get fresh air and exercise. And you’ll be doing something for your soul, your health and also the environment. I don’t really care how many subscribers I have. I’m delighted about every single person I reach with my videos and whom I can interest in gardening. I want to show people, particularly young people, that there’s a world out there beyond the computer screen that’s very liveable, fascinating and satisfying.”
“Gardening has changed my life for the better,” Lukas adds. “I’ve met loads of like-minded people. For example, I was invited to a meeting of gardening YouTubers in Erftstadt. Although I’d only just started gardening, this gave me an opportunity to talk shop with experienced allotment gardeners. That was fantastic!” He also regularly receives invitations to seed festivals.
Now we want to find out a little more about Lukas’s work as a filmmaker. How often does he post his homegrown videos? “I try to upload an episode every Sunday. In winter, that’s a bit difficult because there’s obviously less to do on the allotment,” he explains. We wonder how he does his filming. “I film everything alone using a tripod. And to be honest, I don’t allow anybody else to be around because I’m incredibly shy,” Lukas tells us. We’d never have guessed that from his videos. In fact, he comes across as very authentic and likeable. The episodes are very varied: sometimes there’s a tour of his allotment, sometimes he gives viewers cultivation tips, sometimes the chickens make an appearance or Lukas presents delicious recipes on his barbecue.
At the moment, viewers can watch him setting up his new allotment. The chickens have moved into part of Lukas’s white-and-green caravan already familiar to viewers from previous episodes. His next project is to redo the bathroom in his caravan. And that’s where we come in …
Lukas’s allotment isn’t connected to mains drainage, but he definitely needed a loo. He was looking for an alternative solution, which is why he got in touch with us. He loves his Kildwick toilet, he assures us, and that’s saying something – for being a bathroom fitter, he knows what he’s talking about! “I chose the EasyLoo because it solves all my problems. I don’t need any water or chemicals, or to be on mains drainage. The composting toilet even offers me several benefits as far as my self-sufficiency is concerned, because I can use both solid and liquid waste as fertilizer. My fiancée and I don’t take any medication, so this is ideal to complete our quasi-natural cycle! Mind you, I’m not sure whether my neighbours will exactly jump for joy when I offer them tomatoes fertilized with our own urine!” he laughs. “If only people were willing to think about it a little more, they’d soon realize that this is an entirely normal process which has many positive aspects.”
We’re very impressed by these wise words from someone so young. It’s often said that the younger generation is spoiled and spares no thought for the future. But Lukas is part of a new generation with the potential to change the world. And if we at Kildwick can contribute to this, we’ll be incredibly proud.
By the way, when Lukas hasn’t got a gardening tool, video camera or chicken feed in his hands, you’ll often find him restoring old motorbikes. He regularly goes out for a ride in the country on his motorcycle. And for a complete change, he also enjoys going fishing.
But the highlight of 2020 is still to come – and for once it’s got nothing to do with plants or chickens. In September, he and Viktoria will be getting married. We’re thrilled for them both – after all, they already work together perfectly on the allotment. Viktoria makes sure everything is beautifully in bloom while Lukas keeps the fruit and veg under control – they’re an absolute dream team!
If you’re also taken by Lukas, his flower fairy Victoria, and of course Helga the hen, then give them a big thumbs-up on YouTube and subscribe. Speaking of subscribing, Lukas’s Freizeitgarten can also be seen on Instagram, along with great photos of Helga. By the way, Lukas, isn’t it about time you designed some autograph cards for Helga?!