Author: Zachariah Kiburi Ndura
You do not need to have a backyard to succeed in organic vegetable farming. Organic vegetable farming in terraces and balconies calls for creativity with the space you have. You can use the small space available for vertical farming at home. Picking the right inputs for the small space will determine what you produce.
Let’s look at the small spaces where you can grow food.
1. Window Sills
Window sills are perfect small spaces where you can grow organic food. If you are renting an apartment in the city and don’t have a backyard, it is time to start a window sill garden. Plants will need sunshine, and a window sill has the perfect access to sunshine.
Plants that do not require much space to grow can easily be planted on window sills like mint, dill, oregano, basil or thyme. You can also try your hand at growing chillies or cherry tomatoes. Window sill gardens are easy to maintain. All you will need is enough water and 4-5 hours of sunlight to enjoy your window sill garden. However, you will need to be aware of your pets once your plants start growing. Pets are curious and may dig out or chew on your plants.
2. Window Boxes
Window boxes can be placed on a window sill or fixed on the wall below a window. Window boxes provided the much need space for urban farming. They are also a fantastic feature that will add a unique touch to your urban farming.
Another benefit of window boxes is that you can hang them anywhere to save space. You can also use window boxes for organic farming in terraces and balconies. Small plants like spinach, lettuce, chives, carrots, radishes and herbs like oregano, thyme, marjoram, dill, parsley can be grown in these boxes. The boxes will give you easy access to your plants and are easy to maintain.
3. Plant Hangers
Plant hangers are also a big way of growing food if you do not have much garden space. Plant hangers allow you to enjoy growing plants that you may not be able to due to lack of space. They are the best for vertical farming at home.
Plant hangers offer little planting area, and this means very little maintenance. You also don’t have to be worried about pests such as bugs, snails, and slugs that lurk at ground level. These pests will not be able to leap up to the suspended plant hangers.
Plant hangers do not need a lot of soil and are easy to access. They offer the best convenience in that they are also mobile and you can easily move them. However, you will need to choose a sturdy plant hanger that is self-watering or has a removable water reservoir to catch drips and avoid leaving behind a mess.
Plant hangers are suitable for leafy greens and herbs. Chilly, Haldi Patta, Anne Soppu, and Gotu Kola can easily be grown on plant hangers on the balcony or fence.
4. Shelf Farming
Shelf farming enables vertical farming at home and is a great way of utilizing the precious space available for urban farming. Shelf farming makes it easy to grow and produce food where you live. You can maximize the use of the small space available by stacking several shelves one each other. You can then grow crops on each shelf.
Shelf farming is reliable and will enable you to achieve greater production from a small space. You will also have minimal water usage with shelf farming.
5. Hanging Baskets
Hanging baskets are another method of growing crops in small spaces. Hanging baskets are also a kind of vertical farming technique since you can arrange several baskets in rows on each other.
All you need is a basket with good drainage and a basket liner to protect the soil and plant roots. It is also recommended to use the potting mix because it is lighter than garden soil.
Best organic foods to grow in small spaces.
When you only have a small space to grow plants on, it is advisable to choose what plants you will grow carefully. One key is to choose plants that take up less space yet are productive and provide plenty of harvests. Let’s look into what food crops you can grow in small spaces.
Basil offers more than 80 varieties and is perfect for small space gardens. Basil is easy to grow and is readily available from most seed catalogs. Sweet basil is ideal for plant hangers, window sill, or window boxes.
With tiny aromatic leaves, basil does not need much space to grow. It is commonly used to add flavor to pesto, salads, and more.
Haldi Patta or turmeric, is commonly used for cooking and making herbal concoctions. The concoction is used to prevent fever, respiratory allergies, and the common cold.
Turmeric leaves are also used to make Patoli, a rice dish.
Eggplants are compact and therefore a good choice for small containers and pots. Eggplant also has a range of varieties to choose from. Ping Tung Long eggplant is among the best varieties because it is compact. The plant is small but will produce a lot of eggplants.
It is advisable to sow seeds indoors and transplant them to pots when the weather is warm.
Chilies are not only edible but also ornamental. They are perfect for window boxes because they are colorful. Their purple flowers are attractive, and the fruit will turn from green to black and finally red.
It is also advisable to sow chilly seeds indoors and transplant them in warm weather.
Cherry tomatoes are fast-growing and prolific. Growers have introduced tomatoes that are compact enough for smaller spaces. Cherry Cascade is a variety of tomatoes that is perfect for hanging baskets. This variety is compact and produces hundreds of tomatoes.
Anne Soppu, also known as water spinach, has great protein and nutrients. It is an extremely good culinary ingredient. A combination of the crunchy hollow stem and arrow-shaped leaves have a mild and distinctive taste.
Gotu Kola, an herb, is a versatile medicinal plant. The plant is rich in dietary fiber and iron. Gotu Kola is used to heal wounds, treat varicose veins, enhance memory power, and ease anxiety.
A step by step guide to growing in a small space
1. Assess the sunlight
Sunlight is the most important ingredient for plants. Plants convert sunlight into nutrition through their leaves. Ensure that you study the sunlight in your space to ensure that your plants will get the required sunlight.
2. Choose your containers
The spot you choose to grow your plants will determine the containers you use. Edible plants can be grown in almost any container. A variety of containers are available, from small pots, window boxes, plant hangers, and hanging baskets.
3. Carefully choose the plant to grow.
As you decide on what to grow, you must remember that you have limited space. This will therefore call for plants that are compact but productive. Many plants will give you a quick turnaround and will not require much space.
4. Get the right soil.
Once you have decided on the containers and plants to grow, you will have to find the right soil. Always remember that garden soil is heavy, and you might have to use organic potting soil. This will be determined by the container and plant you choose.
5. Get the seeds and plant.
Once space, containers, and soil are ready, it’s time to get the seeds and plant. You can get seeds from your local store or order them online. Once your seeds are planted, then it is time to watch them grow and learn.
Do not be afraid of using the small space available to start organic vegetable farming. The modern economy calls for modern methods of farming and utilizing the small spaces available.
Modern Urban Farming techniques will enable you to maximize the use of small spaces available. Choosing the right space, container, soil, and plants is the key to being a successful urban farmer.