Are you a big fan of green living? Then it’s time to put your green thumb to work! And don’t feel excluded if you’re living in an urban area! You’ll soon find the benefits of urban gardening and if you’re not gardening already, you will end up with a new hobby. The whole idea is to start growing your own food. Did you know that food in the US travels 1,500 miles on average before it gets on your plate? In all that time, fruits and vegetables lose part of their nutrients. For example, beans lose about 77% of vitamin C in 7 days. Also, tomatoes picked before reaching their ripe color could have lower nutrient levels. Vegetables and fruits also breath, and the longer they breathe, the less nutritious they become. So it is best to eat food that has been grown and picked locally. What could stop you to set up your own organic garden at home?
URBAN GARDENING – how to start an urban garden?
Gardening is fun and relaxing. The National Gardening Association says that 1 in 3 households are growing a combination of vegetables and fruits in the US and the number of gardeners is growing – a 14% increase in 5 years. Other studies have revealed that microbes in dirt and garden soil act like antidepressants and can boost our mood. Mycobacterium vaccae seems to be responsible for our higher serotonin levels. So get your hands dirty!
Here are some ideas for an urban vegetable garden:
If you’re living in a small condo, with no balcony, this could be challenging. And messy. However, a few options could work for you. Growing herbs in containers will allow you to add them fresh in your dishes, thus adding more flavor!
Sprouting seeds though is something that you could become very good at. Use only raw seeds, without a chemical layer such as a fungicide. Do not forget that warm and humid conditions that speed up sprouting are also favorable for bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. According to Foodsafety[dot]gov, you should cook the sprouts properly in order to kill bacteria. When dining out, you should emphasize that you don’t want any sprouts on your plate. Children, pregnant women and people with a weak immune system should not eat any kind of sprouts. However, sprouts are very nutritious.
If you have a balcony you can plan a small vegetable garden to cover an empty wall. Vertical gardens work well in small spaces. You can repurpose old gutter sections, recycle plastic bottles, use the Florafelt system, or even a hanging shoe organizer.
Furthermore, you can also talk to the board of your Homeowners Association and request permission to use the roof of the building for gardening. Most HOAs have a long list of rules, including pet restrictions! Rooftop gardening is nothing new. However, explain your idea and unless you want to cover the whole roof with soil (which could top 100 lbs. per sq. ft. and may require the approval of a structural engineer), you could grow a few pots with herbs, vegetables, and even some fruit trees without any problems! Maybe your neighbors will follow suit.
Growing vegetables in pots for beginners
Some vegetables can be grown successfully in pots or different containers. First, you will have to sow the seeds. Do this in several batches, a few weeks apart for a longer harvest. You can do a germination chamber/sweat chamber yourself, or simply cover the pots with a wrapping foil. Most seeds sprout in a few days, and the whole process could be very entertaining for your kids as well. Whether they have learned how to grow their own food at a public or private school, at home they can expand their knowledge and experiment freely. Of course, if you are homeschooling your children, then gardening should be a priority.
Use high-quality soil, perlite and even some good compost (you can try to prepare your own compost by layering dried leaves, paper, cardboard, and food leftovers). Some vegetables such as radishes, potatoes, beetroot, and spring onions may require larger containers for their roots, while others can be grown on the window sill. Vegetables need at least 4 to 6 hours of sunlight. If you’re growing any fruit trees in containers, make sure they bathed in sunshine for at least 10 hours a day.
So, have you been looking for a new healthy hobby? Container gardening is the answer. Here are some ideal plants for beginners:
Salad leaves – lettuce, arugula, roman salad
Sow the seeds from early spring throughout summer. Plants produce leaves until late autumn. You don’t have to cut the whole plant! You can cut only a few leaves at a time and your leafy greens will continue to grow. You don’t even need soil for them! Salads are suitable for aquaculture. Have you ever heard of aquaponics? Then you should experiment with it!
Packed with Vitamins E, A, C, B6, and K, radishes can be picked one month after sowing – a crunchy addition to any salad. For the best taste, don’t let them grow too large – pull them out when the root diameter is about half an inch. Through its high water content, radishes provide hydration. This vegetable is also a diuretic for those with kidney or urinary tract problems.
Another nutritious plant that can be grown indoors, Popeye’s favorite food is rich in iron, vitamin A and C and other magic chemicals that protect the eyes and reduce the risk of a heart attack or certain cancers. It can be harvested 40-45 days after sowing. What varieties to look for? Choose the smaller ones, such as Baby’s Leaf Hybrid and Melody.
If you like them fresh and raw, don’t think twice about growing spring onions in containers! Sow between March and July, and harvest after 8 weeks. Let them flower to obtain some free seeds! Some varieties continue to develop into large onions unless you pick them early.
A really simple vegetable to grow in containers. Take the garlic cloves, put them in rainwater for about a week, until they sprout. Then plant them not too deep in soil enriched with compost. Include garlic in your dishes more often because it improves digestion, combats allergies, lowers blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels.
A plant with a very interesting history, the tomato is native to the Americas. Europeans were introduced to this delicacy in the 16th century. The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that Americans eat between 22 and 24 pounds of tomatoes per person, every year, both raw or preserved (ketchup, canned, tomato paste and the like). Scientifically speaking, there’s no doubt that a tomato is a fruit. So, if a tomato is a fruit, is ketchup a jam?
Tomatoes are suitable for container gardening, too. Plant tomatoes deep in large containers. Make sure you water them regularly. Keep the soil moderately moist, and don’t water the leaves to keep fungi at bay. Place them in full sun, but harden your seedlings first. A minimum of 6 hours of bright light should be okay, but 8 hours of sunlight is best. Amend your soil with organic fertilizers. Use a balanced fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 10-10-10 or a fertilizer rich in potassium. Tomatoes start producing fruits after 40 days from planting.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. However, to make this drink even more refreshing, you should add some mint leaves. Mentha is a genus in the Lamiaceae family – the mint family. Other members are basil, lemon balm, catnip, and lavender.
Herbs are an ace up every chef’s sleeve. The flavors of herbs turn any ordinary dish into an excellent one. If you don’t trust the labeling on the herbs found in supermarkets, it’s time to grow your own. Start with basil, chives, parsley, and continue with oregano, rosemary, and dill. Most of these do not have special requirements, just provide them plenty of sunlight and good soil. A good selection of herbs on the window sill will motivate you to find more about how to set up an organic garden at home.
Benefits of urban gardening
Starting an organic garden at home is the best choice you can make today when companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, and Dupont focus rather on the short term profitability of the food industry than on the long term sustainability. The use of pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and artificial light steal the taste from our vegetables and most of the times we have to add more salt to our food to make it taste better.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the salt intake of 90% of Americans 2 years and older is way too high. Americans consume more than 3.4 grams of salt every day. The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans attempts to decrease the salt intake to less than 2.3 grams per day. But even this level is too high, as the World Health Organization recommends limiting sodium to less than 2,000 milligrams a day. The American Heart Association sets an even lower limit at 1,500 mg per day.
So, by providing tasty fresh vegetables, urban gardening could play a leading role in lowering American’s sodium intake. The benefits of urban gardening may not pop into our minds, but as we look at it from different angles, they become crystal clear. Container gardening will cover more and more of America’s food needs in the following years, especially in urban areas. In fact, almost 30% of those aged between 18 and 34 years old are enthusiastic gardeners, according to data from the 2018 National Gardening Survey. Millennials really understand the benefits of urban gardening and are taking it seriously, even if space is scarce.
ORGANIC GARDENING – how to start an organic garden at home?
“The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies,” once said British horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll. In other words, appetite comes with eating. Start once, and you will never stop! And why would you stop when your crop is pure and unaltered by chemicals unheard of. While container gardening can bring good results, a raised bed or a high tunnel can yield a lot more, although weeds are a constant problem.
What makes your garden organic? The fact that you avoid using any synthetic fertilizers and rely only on products based on natural ingredients. There are many recipes online for natural pesticides made at home as well as a multitude of compost mixtures. Organic fertilizers are made of animal matter, manure, and decomposed vegetable matter. Other harmless soil fertilizers are egg shells, coffee grounds, and fish tank water.
If you’d never wondered how to start an organic garden at home, it’s easier than you think! Have you been blessed with a backyard? If so, then you have quite a few options to choose from:
Turn your backyard into a checkerboard with a raised bed for each of your favorite crops! Place them in the area that gets the best sun exposure. Raised beds work well no matter the quality of the soil underneath them. You can add your own blend of soil that best suits your plants. Each raised bed can have a different composition. However, you should loosen the native soil for better drainage. Raised beds with a depth of 10-12″ should be fine. It’s important to know the growth habit of your plants to place the plants in the right spot. Are they bushy, climbing or trailing? Due to the high density of plants, raised beds are easy to keep weed-free and you’ll be proud to have such a clean and well organized organic garden at home, in your backyard.
These installations are low-cost temporary structures that extend the growing season. In the summer, high tunnels get extremely hot inside, that’s why shade cloth is used to lower the temperature. You can grow a huge variety of vegetables, small fruits, and flowers. The productivity per square foot could also be a lot higher than that of those grown outdoors. If you want to take your organic gardening to the next level, you should install an automatic irrigation system as well. Tomatoes and salad greens are the top 2 vegetables grown in high tunnels, commercially, but you can also try growing cucumbers and eggplants. To prevent weeds from growing, cover the soil with black landscape fabric or weed control fabric.
A house for the plants – that’s how we would best describe a greenhouse. And as you know, most outbuildings that are in good condition, such as a she shed or garage, increase the value of a property. Only an appraiser could give you an estimate.
High tunnels have borrowed the science behind them from greenhouses. These glass houses can be freestanding or attached to the house. An attached greenhouse could also provide more living space so it could turn out more valuable, however, you have to think about the humidity and the heat that it generates. On top of these, there are all the insects that thrive in that environment. According to HomeAdvisor, it costs on average $25/sq.ft. to build a greenhouse. Greenhouse kits carried by big retailers are using polycarbonate instead of glass and are priced between $600 and $25,500.
First greenhouses appeared in Holland in the 19th century. Today, the largest greenhouses in the world are to be found in the Netherlands. And speaking of the Netherlands – the flower shop of the world, why not build a greenhouse to grow all your favorite flowers and plants? Gardening is relaxing. It improves our mental health and it gives us a sense of responsibility. What’s good for the body is also good for the mind. So, build a greenhouse to destress and rip off all the benefits of organic gardening at home!
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes in gardening! It’s human! That’s how we all learn. If you love what you do, you will succeed! And when your harvest will be abundant, overflowing your baskets and horns of plenty, don’t forget about your neighbors in need. Sharing is caring!
Top 5 cities in the US for urban gardening
Home to 1350 community gardens, Detroit is taking urban farming to the next level with the new zoning ordinance. Do you want to move to a city where you can grow your own food? Real estate agents in Detroit can’t wait to show you around.
Portland passed an Urban Food Zoning Code in June of 2012, but has long been a haven for urban agriculture. Portland boasts 26 farmer’s markets and 22 acres of community gardens. Check the listings of these real estate agents from Portland and start your urban gardening adventure today!
Another city with a green vision is Baltimore. With its 2013 urban agriculture plan, Baltimore has 26 farmer’s markets and public markets, as well as dozens of urban farms. If you own a parcel in Baltimore and use it for urban agriculture, then you will get a 90% tax credit on your property tax. Our real estate agents from Baltimore are ready to welcome you!
The Minneapolis City Council amended the zoning code to increase the number of acres used for urban agriculture. The city boasts almost 300 community gardens. Minneapolis has flexible zoning for urban agriculture and farmers can even grow food on the city-owned lots available for lease. Look for a real estate agent from Minneapolis to find a property suitable for your gardening needs.
With over 200 community gardens and 100 school gardens, Boston is a city that embraces sustainability and values freshness at its 28 farmer’s markets. Article 89, adopted into the Zoning Code in December 2013, aims to make urban gardening easy for everybody, whether they plan to build a greenhouse or to raise chickens in the backyard. The three types of urban farms regulated in Boston are ground-level farms, roof level Farms, and freight container farms. Fancy moving to Boston to start one of these? Move without stress with the help of a real estate agent from Boston!
Do you have any advice for the rookie gardeners out there? Feel free to leave a comment!