Growing up, I have always LOVED plants. I was happiest whenever my friends and I would collect flowers for Mama Mary during the annual Flores de Mayo for our small church where I grew up back in the Philippines. My mom and grandma who both have green thumbs, would plant anything that grew on the ground in our backyard and I would be their little water girl. My brothers and I would climb the trees like little monkeys during harvest season and would eat whatever fruit or vegetable that grew from the backyard. Fast forward many decades later, I found myself missing all the fun of gardening and harvesting all the fruits and vegetables. There is only one big concern - I live in a big city now with neither a huge backyard nor a big open space to plant. I also live in a condo with limited space.
Growing your own food with limited space
Despite living in a condo, I am still lucky to have two balconies big enough to make a little garden. For many years now, I made the limited space work. If there is one
thing I learned from my mom and grandma, if you really want to plant, you can grow anything in a container inside or outside the house. So I bought a few pots and threw everything in them - berries, carrots, potatoes, pepper seeds, lemons etc. Viola! Weeks after, I can see little leaves sprouting. Remember that the fruits and vegetables we eat everyday can turn into a new plant that can produce. Simple, but imagine how amazing that is! So if you live in a space like mine, don’t despair. You can still have your herb garden even if it’s just in a tiny pot on a little corner of your tiny studio or apartment.
Why grow your own food?
There are many reasons why planting your own vegetable and herbs are beneficial.
Getting Started / Gardening Tools
I have turned my balcony into a little garden/orchard and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Yes, I am saying orchard because I have at least 50 avocado plants. I even have one 8 ft tall avocado tree now! Lol! Planting is easy but maintaining and taking care of your plants is the challenge. First off, you need the proper tools. However, there so many gardening tools out there but for starters, you only need the essentials:
* Gardening Gloves
* Pre Mixed Organic Soil
* Pocket Snips/ Pruners
* Organic fertilizer
* Rain Boots/Sneakers/ gardening clogs
You can get all of these in your local store in the gardening or tools section. Most of my basic gardening tools I got from Home Depot and online. Gardening should not be complicated. If you know what you want to plant, purchase seeds and just follow the instructions on the packet. If you don’t want to start from scratch, get the ready potted small plants like basil, thyme, rosemary, cilantro or cherry tomatoes. These are easy to maintain and grow. They are also great as kitchen and as house decors.
Caring for Your Plants
Watering - Lack of water can quickly kill your plants. Check for moisture daily especially during hot days. Put 3 to 4 pieces of ice cubes on the base of the soil for your indoor plants and it will stay moistened for a few days. This is a great tip if you plan to be out of the house for couple of days. There are also watering glass vessels (which are readily available in your local stores or online) that you can use so you don’t need to keep watering your plants.
Fertilizing - If you are buying pre-mix potted soil, then you’re good to go since they already contain fertilizers. Just make sure they are organic! It defeats your purpose of having organic produce if your potted soil is not. You can find “good for all types of plants” organic fertilizers and you can also find “for specific plants” organic fertilizers. You can save money if you buy the “good for all types of plants” kind. If you don’t want to buy fertilizer, there are also a few ways to make your plants healthy. Those egg shells you throw after making your breakfast? They are great natural fertilizers! I use all the egg shells I can find and throw them in my pots. Epsom salt dissolved in warm water also does wonders with bell peppers and tomatoes. You can spray this on your pots every 2 months. You can also bury all your potato peels, carrot peels or even little overripe/rotten fruits under the soil.
Containers & Pots – There is no limit to what you can use! Your only limit is your imagination. As long as it can hold soil with a water drainer, it will work. Almost anything from flower pots, food containers, water bottles, wooden boxes, plastic bags, window planters, buckets can contain your plant. Put all those big old water containers to use! Not only you save money but also recycling them can lessen landfills. This is another great way to help save Mother Earth.
Air - Place your pots in a room where there is enough ventilation because just like you, plants need air to breath too.
Sun - Some plants don’t require too much sun. Herbs like basil, mint, rosemary, thyme and cilantro require just a little sunlight. Sunlight from your window is enough. Tomatoes, peppers and lemons need to be under the sun all the time.
I am grateful for my green thumb, all thanks to my mom and grandma. For those of you who feel like you do not have a green thumb, don’t despair! Plants will live as long as they have water, air, sunlight and room to grow. Just like us, they also need tender loving care to thrive and grow. Don’t be afraid to try. Begin with one or two small herbs. It’s normal if they don’t last long. Remember, all these plants are seasonal too. It’s still cheaper to buy a pot of basil or mint than buying a bunch at the grocery store, use some and the rest get thrown out when they start to wilt. When they are in a pot, you can just pick a couple of leaves and leave the rest to flourish. You have an unlimited supply as long as it lives.
There are so many resources online regarding gardening. You can also visit your local orchard for specific plant care and maintenance. Who knows, next month you might be enjoying a bowl of pasta topped with cherry tomatoes and fresh parsley paired with a glass of refreshing mojito with fresh mint leaves of course.
You are what you eat! / Mother Nature is the best provider! / Let us conserve and preserve
Have a great green day!