Thursday, 16 May 2013

Restricted space

Where I am from originally, space is a commodity that not many people have the luxury to afford. While I initially grew up on a farm and later in a house with a nice garden and know how privileged I was, many people live in small apartments surrounded by concrete and houses. Some might have a small 10 sqft backyard or maybe a balcony, but a real garden that would invite planting and growing of food is not granted to everyone.

Being in such a situation might make some people feel that things like growing their own food is an impossibility. Here is the good news: It is not! Anyone can grow food or have some beautification of the otherwise dull surroundings right where they live. And anyone can grow plants. Anyone. No excuses. No 'green thumb' is needed. No talent for plants is necessary. And growing plants does not have to be a lot of work either. Especially growing plants in a small space is very little work. Imagine having a balcony with those hanging long boxes that normally house pansies you could have 9 ft of that on a small balcony and you could plant 3 ft with onions in two rows.

We are growing onion in an old roasting tray, there is room for an even dozen. 

That would not be enough for a winter larder, but it would be sufficient for several meals. But what do you think is going to be easier to take care of, those three feet in the box or the same amount outside in a garden? You don't have to bend down for the balcony boxes. They are right there. No grass will encroach on the space. No other plants will try to take over. Plant another 3 ft with lettuce (that would be about 5-6 heads and you can cut them instead of pulling them giving you twice the harvest) and another 3 ft you can plant in some beets or radishes or whatever else you like. In between the heads of lettuce you could plant some Nasturtium. Those plants will hang down over the box and therefore will stay out of the way of the lettuce. Now you made 3ft into 6ft effectively, because you stack your space. Stacking in space can be very effective. It can allow you to double, triple or even quadruple your available space and get a high yield from something that never looked like it could even produce one meal. 

While most of the plants shown here are 'just' horticultural,
this house demonstrates what can be done in a small space. 

Let's continue with a balcony as an example. How about a trellis on the side wall. You could grow some grapes or even kiwis. After the plants have grown to the top, trellis along the ceiling all the way to the other side. One or two pots of tomato plants can be placed on that side. Put in some basil around the tomato plants directly in the pot.  Hello bruschetta!

I even heard about people that use small aquariums to grow water chestnuts on balconies. Many possibilities are out there. Many things have been done before, but many more still have to be tried.

So this year there is no excuse not to grow some food. Even if it is just a supplementary amount food tastes better when you grow it yourself. Have fun!

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