Gardening, it seems, is evolving. What used to be defined by retirees in the countryside, floppy hats, and clogs, is now rolling with a hipper, sleeker look than ever, and amazingly, gardens are popping up in our cityscapes. Of course, within the urban setting, acreage — hell, square footage — comes at a premium, so it’s not always in the ground that the veggies are growing.
New cultivators are expanding their (and our) horizons by realizing that food can be grown in many more places than the ground, and in many more settings than the country. And, in fact, what many of the growers are coming to terms with is that cities don’t just have the potential to produce a lot of their own food, but they have good cause to: it helps the planet.
But, where exactly is all this food growing? Well, that’s an easy answer.
1. The Roof
Rooftop gardens are becoming a common thing. They are happening in New York. They are happening in Montreal. In Paris, they’ve even become law: new rooftops must be used for solar panels or growing food. And, it makes perfect sense. It’s the sunny place in town, and they are often left mostly void of anything useful. Raised garden beds can be installed with lightweight soil, a bit of mulch, and voila.
It does take some effort to get the ball rolling on these things — checking rental regulations, investigating the building’s structural capabilities, and acquiring the material necessary — but for those inclined, it could equate to a huge swath of growing space in the city. Or, maybe it’s just a couple simple raised beds for a few fresh vegetables. That’s still something.
2. The Balcony or Patio
If the rooftop isn’t a viable option, or even if it is, an apartment balcony or house patio can produce a splendid variety of edibles, and for many of us it would change the balcony from being a seldom visited part of the apartment (that is most certainly included in the rent) into a bustling money-saver. A spot full of greenery and vegetables is much more appealing than one with two plastic chairs separated by a grubby table.
All that’s necessary here are some containers to grow in, maybe even shelves or a trellis for those who want to take advantage of the vertical space, and some lightweight potting mix. Plants pots can be hung from the railing. Vines can dangle from the balcony ceiling (or above the patio). It’s a great spot for some salad veggies, fresh peas, and green beans, or even some tomatoes and eggplants, a grape or kiwi vine perhaps.
3. The Windowsill
With the exception of some extraordinarily unfortunate abodes (I have lived in a basement, too), most apartments have windows somewhere, and where there are windows, there will likely be windowsills upon which small objects can be placed. One of the great things about most windows, and even some relatively horrible ones, is that they do provide access to natural light, even indoors.
Most plants just so happen to love the sun, and thus, put in a container upon a windowsill, they might thrive. This technique works especially well for kitchen windows, which are often near the sink, a place from which we have easy access to water, something else plants love. Windowsills are great places for growing fresh herbs but can also work for other small veggies like radishes or greens.
4. The House (Tables, Corners, Shelves, etc.)
At some point in history, people decided it was perfectly acceptable to grow plants indoors, but at the same time, it seemed completely abnormal for said plants to be edible. When it comes to houseplants, we like to think of flowers, little bushes, even slender trees, but the practical among us recognize that edible plants can provide the same beauty and a little something to nibble on.
When we think about it, gardening indoors actually makes a lot of sense. The plants that we are most likely to use inside — veggies, herbs, even fruit — are the foods we ought to think about growing inside. We are more likely to snip a bit of basil if it’s a couple steps away than if it’s in a garden outside or in an allotment. Plus, there are so many empty corners (great for lemon trees) and shelves (maybe a variety of lettuces) and tabletops (something that smells nice, say basil or mint).
5. The Dark
Though not technically a vegetable, mushrooms are beloved by many and growing them allows us to make those dark, dank places in our homes into productive growing space. Most of us have the potential to be growing mushrooms, whether it’s under the bed, in the closet, or tucked into dim spot in the corner of a room. Most of the time, they prefer the dark, so if those areas aren’t crammed with forgotten keepsakes…
The easiest way to go about this to buy the ready-to-roll kits available online, but it is possible to undertake (and it’s quite the undertaking) the process of using bits of mushrooms to create mycelia to impregnate something (a piece of wood or coffee grounds) to eventually get mushrooms. It’s possible. It’s doable. But, it’s perhaps something to try while the kit is doing its thing, too. There’s only so long one can wait for mushrooms.
Really, in an odd way, when we stop thinking about how small or crammed our urban settings are, utilize our select outdoor spaces and move beyond the idea of gardening requiring a huge piece of earth, then the world begins to open up a bit. Plants have the potential to be all over the place.
Lead image source: Eva Blue/Flickr