Apartment gardens: You do have space

This guy showed up in my garden the other night – a pretty strong endorsement.

With concerns over food safety and nutrition increasing, more people are trying their hand at home gardens. Something that was actually pretty common until a generation ago. Growing up in New Zealand, I remember my parents had a lot of the area behind our home planted with vegetable gardens and fruit trees – as did many of our neighbors. But fewer people have that kind of land available these days as more of us crowd into cities with shrinking free space.

I’d been wondering for a while if I could grow something at my apartment but balcony gardens didn’t really seem like a starter with all the wind that whips around my building. I also figured there wasn’t really enough space or light inside but I should probably try an experiment at some point just to see. This went on for some time… until a friend gave me one of my best birthday presents ever: seeds, soil and growing containers – and a gentle push in the right direction. (Thanks!)

My first effort has been modest: a window sill garden packed with kale and molokhia plants, but I’m also doing a trial to see how using water heated in a microwave oven affects the growth of spinach and komatsuna (more on that soon). A small start but I’ve really been enjoying giving my green thumb a workout. The next step is to buy some vertical shelving and expand the farm.

Lessons learned
The most obvious take home point has been that once the seeds are in the soil, except for regular watering, your work is basically done. The plants are inside so there are no worries about pests or weather. You just need to check them for overcrowding and stealthy funguses, etc. Plants grow; that’s their thing.

As with urban foraging, an indoor garden isn’t going to make you self-sufficient. But if, for example, you focus on growing leafy greens, it can make a real difference to your diet. The biggest payoff though – apart from the pleasure of watching stuff grow – is probably that you are connecting with the food you eat. It just tastes better and means more when you grow it yourself. Although harvesting can be kind of tough…

I had a similar thought when I was snorkeling around Zamami in Okinawa: kids need to learn this in school. We would probably treat our oceans a whole lot better if we saw everything that lives in them up close and personal.

Now that I understand how easy and rewarding this is, I will be heading to the local DIY shop to pick up some vertical shelving. There are walls in my kitchen and bathroom with more than enough space and light to grow things if the plants are stacked. I will probably put the leafy greens here and use the kitchen window sill for mint, basil, lemon grass and other herbs. And there’s probably room beside the washing machine for a tomato plant.

2 Responses to “Apartment gardens: You do have space”

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  1. Chris says:

    Check out Reworking the Western Diet – “Britta Riley: A Garden in My Apartment”

  2. Kym says:

    Thank you! I just tracked down the presentation on TED and the window farms Web site. Brilliant stuff. I’ve seen various vertical systems but hadn’t come across this community before.

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