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Nowadays, the majority of us are becoming increasingly reliant on supermarkets and grocery stores for our fresh produce. This isn’t all too surprising. Most of us are out working jobs that mean we don’t have time to be entirely self sufficient when it comes to nutrition. Instead, we can source everything we need ready picked and ready packed from shelves.
There are, of course, certain people who still lead a highly agricultural lifestyle and grow their own produce and others’ produce for a living. This is a highly efficient system and everyone seems to benefit. But that’s not to say that you can’t try your hand at growing your own, just because you live in a city or away from rural areas. There’s just as much potential in these spaces, you just have to think outside of the box a little. Here are just a few different ways that you can grow your own food while living in the city!
Why Grow Your Own Food?
You might be wondering why exactly you’d want to grow your own food in a city environment. It’ll take an extended period of time and a whole lot of effort to grow something that you can pick up from a store down the road in moments. But there are various valid reasons that you might want to get a little green fingered for a change.
First, the achievement. Growing something yourself can be extremely rewarding. You’ll know that you have created what you are eating. It gives a great sense of self-sufficiency. Secondly, freshness. Foods that we purchase in the supermarket tend to have been treated and processed in various ways. When you grow something yourself, you know exactly what has gone into it. You needn’t worry about pesticides and additives!
Determine How Much Space You Have
Now, let’s start with the area that brings the most concern when growing your own produce in the city – how much space you have. Of course, us asking this is like asking how long a piece of string is. Everyone will have different answers.
Some individuals living in cities will still have sprawling gardens with sufficient land to grow a hearty supply of food. Others may live in studio apartments within a tower block and have no outdoor space whatsoever. So, the first step towards growing your own food is to determine how much space you have. This will entirely dictate what you can and cannot realistically and successfully grow.
Herbs (For Extra Small Spaces)
If you have hardly any space at all, you might want to focus on growing herbs. These require minimal room and as long as you have some sort of natural light within your living space, you should be able to see something grow to fruition. While most tend to prefer a sunny and light placement, there are definitely a few different species out there that can flourish in shadier areas.
Your best bet is to opt for herbs that don’t grow too wide or tall. Compact species will fit much better in your space. You should also opt for species that do well in containers. If your windowsill is south or southwest facing, you’re likely to have the most luck! Clear your windowsill and you should be ready to start out on your venture!
Invest in a pack of seeds of your chosen herb or a small starter herb plant if you want things off to a kickstart. Also, purchase a container that is around six to twelve inches deep. For a single herb, choose a container that is about six inches wide. For multiple herbs grown together, you can go for a longer width. Ensure that these pots have drainage holes so that water can seep out when the herbs are watered. This prevents clogging and can reduce chances of roots going damp and rotting.
If you’re concerned about keeping your windowsill clean, place a saucer or dish underneath too. Soilless potting mix is preferable for avoiding soil borne diseases. Then plant your herbs as per the instructions on the packet and conduct a little research into individual herbs to determine how often they should be watered. There are plenty of species specific tutorials and information sheets on there.
Common herbs that you might want to try growing on your windowsill include:
Window Box Vegetables
Another option when you have no or minimal outdoor space is to grow vegetables in a window box. This is a box that can be securely attached to your window sill, filled with soil, and used for planting. Nowadays, the majority of people use window boxes for decorative or ornamental plants to add a touch of colour to the exteriors of their properties. But you can use these boxes for growing vegetables too!
There is a little more to succeeding in this venture than simply planting your vegetables and crossing your fingers though. First, you need to prioritize water. Window boxes hold a lot of soil and can consequently dry out pretty quickly, so you may want to add a dripline. These can be installed and will keep your soil as damp as you need it to be.
When fitting your window box, you should also try to use a bracket that helps the box to protrude out from your wall a little. This will prevent water from running down your walls and pooling in your window box if you experience heavy rain. Too much water can be just as problematic as too little water! Once everything is secure, it’s time to start choosing your vegetables.
Vegetables that tend to flourish in window boxes include:
- Bush beans
Keeping Local Wildlife Away from Your Produce
Where there’s food, there are, of course, likely to be hungry mouths. Growing plants indoors means you needn’t worry all too much about wildlife. But if you plan to grow anything outdoors, keeping local wildlife away from your fresh produce can be relatively difficult. But just try to be tolerant and remember that these creatures are only trying to survive. Your home lies on their natural habitat and who can blame them for taking a nibble of fresh food that seems free to any set of paws that want to take it?
You can seek advice regarding humane deterrent of animals from animal control specialists. But remember that no animal deserves to be killed! Your main enemy is likely to be slugs. But keep away from the salt. Instead, lure them into plant and produce-free areas of your garden with cabbage leaves, citrus fruit rinds (moistened with water), or dry pet food. Alternatively, you can grow plants that naturally repel slugs around your produce.
Slugs tend to dislike the taste and texture of:
- Vegetables – bitter greens, such as kale, sprouting broccoli, and spring cabbage.
- Herbs – ginger, chives, garlic, mint, and chicory.
- Flowers – phlox, campanula, hemerocallis, astilbe, dicentra, viola, vinca, and digitalis (more commonly referred to as “foxglove”).
Renting Out Space at an Allotment
While individuals in cities might not have a lot of land, many do actively enjoy gardening and growing their own produce. Companies and councils are becoming increasingly aware of this demand and, consequently, more allotments are being built.
So, if you want to take your produce to the next step and would like a dedicated space where you can grow whatever your heart desires, why not invest in a plot at an allotment. This will give you a purpose built ground to try your hand at whatever you please. Sure, you are going to have to pay some sort of fee for this. But if you’re dedicated, it should be more than worth it. What’s more? It’s a great means of meeting others with similar interests, as you’ll be surrounded by other people dedicated enough to growing edible food to invest too!
Using Your Produce
Once you have successfully grown whatever it may be that you have chosen to grow, you should be able to eat it! Make sure to clean it down properly and you can cut it up to check it’s good all the way through. Then make sure to cook it as you would any other produce of the same variety, and you will quickly find yourself enjoying what you have grown as part of a wholesome, home cooked meal. All of your investment, time, and effort will come to a head and you’ll remember exactly why you got started in the first place!
Sure, you might not automatically put city dwellers hand in hand with growing food and produce. But when it comes down to it, living in the city doesn’t entirely prevent you from engaging with these types of activities. Hopefully, we have been able to exemplify how you can get involved and how you can grow a few different plants, vegetables, and herbs yourself, regardless of your living circumstances. As you can see, whether you have a purpose-specific plot of land or a mere windowsill, you could grow some sort of ingredients for your next meal!