I feel like a hypocrite writing this one. When I was young, I never had a single plant. Just five years ago, when I was a single mother living alone in the city with @PanKwake, we garden for the joy and education of it. We did not take it as seriously as I would now. But then again, I did not take my ‘gardening’ as seriously as I should have even at our @HomeCrazzyHome.
Until now! We are self-isolating due to Alan being high-risk. And we cannot get a delivery slot anywhere. I try daily. Yes, we have a couple of friends we can ask to bring us a couple of things here and there, but even I need more than I realized. Some of it, like sour cream, butter, and milk, would only work on a farm. But others like potatoes and lettuce, we should and will have shortly.
I admit I am behind the game this year. Why? Because I was so worried about planning a wedding that happened in less than half an hour with only three guests when the shit hit the fan.
And make no mistake, the shit has most definitely hit the fan.
So, that is how this one is written. Not as I did back then. But as I would do right this moment, if @PanKwake and I were back in that dingy two-bedroom flat in the middle of London. But oh, am I glad that we aren’t.
What would I do?
As I said yesterday, the first place to begin is what your family eats most.
Then what is it possible to grow in our climate and the space I have.
And of course, what is simple and easy to grow.
If you live in a small space or do not have a garden or patio then the space and ease of growing will be your defining limits.
For instance, I am stressing right now over @PanKwake’s taters (potatoes). But in a flat, that would be worse, because potatoes require too much space to easily grow in an apartment.
But there are plenty of things that you can grow quickly and easily in such a limited space, such as:
In fact, some of those will grow better because essentially your home becomes a greenhouse.
So, once you decide what you want to grow, the next step is to figure out WHERE you can grow it and HOW MUCH space you can allocate to it.
Begin by watching the light in each room throughout the day. How much do you get? Where does it fall? How bright is it? How hot? Try to remember, if you can, how it was during the height of summer? Or if this is a new location, then try to guess.
Remembering my London flat, I had three excellent full sun window sills and two partial ones. With a bit of rearranging the furniture, I could have added additional space by moving bookcases and tables close to those. Honestly, in that flat, I could have grown salad fixings for us and our friends.
After you have rearranged your furniture to take full advantage of the light you have, then begin collecting your containers. Now it not the time to be color-coordinated. Any old container will do. You will need various sizes, from the small margarine ones right up to that old dishpan. Heck, if you have floor space, those plastic tubs that you bought to keep toys in are perfect for tomatoes.
If you don’t have enough? Before spending your precious money on containers, go dumpster diving. Yes, I just suggested that you go through the garbage to scavenge useable containers. But be polite. Do NOT leave a mess! Put back the stuff you can’t use.
Only then would I suggest you purchase anything. Even then, you don’t necessarily need to purchase expensive planters. Those dishpans, garbage bins, and clothes baskets can work as easily as the toy organizers. Remember that you will need more small ones than large ones. Speaking of which – 1.5 and 2-liter soda bottle – loads of those.
The other things that you WILL need to purchase are:
Compost – Multi-purpose will do. But if you want to understand all the different types then this article gives a good overview.
Sand – Some plants, especially carrots, need a loser soil in which to thrive. This is achieved by mixing sand with your compost. About sixty-forty seems to be the general consensus but not everyone agrees.
Fertilizer – One thing that I always got wrong about container gardening is this. Because containers limit the ability of roots to seek out nutrients, you absolutely MUST provide the nutrients another way. For those who want, there are organic and natural options including seaweed, comfrey, and manure-based products.
Seeds & Plants – This is crucial.
For lettuce and spinach, go for Cut and Come Again varieties. You should be able to feed your family for close to a month from a couple of packets of these. The key here is sequential planting. In other words, plant one packet in that dishpan or large ice cream tub this week, then in a week to ten days plant out another packet. You should be able to begin picking microgreens, those first shoots that you may need to thin a bit anyway, within a couple of weeks, and within a month you should have loads of lettuce. Keep doing this all season. Until November you are assured pretty good results. After that, then perhaps if you have a really sunny spot or if you live in a milder climate less far north, you may be able to grow it year-round.
Carrots, of course, come in many varieties. Supposedly, you can grow these beautifully in those 1.5 and 2-liter soda bottles. I did not have any luck last year, but I had not mixed sand into my potting soil either, nor was I using fertilizer. I am trying again this year. My suggestion is to stagger your planting as you did with the lettuce. How many carrots does your family eat in a week? Then fill that many bottles with your special soil mixture and plant three carrot seeds per bottle. A week later plant the same amount. And so on.
Peppers, tomatoes, and strawberries are best bought in plant form. Peppers can be grown from seeds of the produce you have bought in the store, but it is not as reliable. Still, if you cannot find a pepper seedling then I’d give it a go.
Tomatoes and strawberries can be ordered as plugs from Amazon and online plant shops. A plug is the roots and a bit of stem. You soak these in water for a couple of hours or overnight, then plant them directly into your compost. Pay attention to whether that type is good for containers.
With tomatoes especially go for the cherry ones, there are some that can do well in hanging baskets.
Strawberries last for three to four years, but for the best results you should pick off the flowers the first year. The plant will then produce more in future years. Of course, in this crisis that may not be possible. You call it.
As for herbs, I would be tempted to go for the potted ones in the store. You will though need to transplant them to a larger container. I would suggest planting several together in that dishpan. The other thing to do is to pinch out the small center leaves as they appear. This encourages the plant to grow bushier to the side. Oh, and garlic is simple. You just pull off those thicker outer sections and plant them even in one of the small margarine tubs. Then use the smaller inner bits for cooking.
If you did not see this video in my earlier post, I highly recommend you watch it before going seed shopping.
One thing I think it is important to remember is that whether you are growing your fruits and vegetables in pots or your garden, they do NOT look like what comes from the shop. The produce that we are accustomed to purchasing at the grocery has been forced, often grown hydroponically under special lights and feed liquid rather than soil. Yes, even organically grown ones. Your carrots will be smaller. Those lettuces will not head. Your celery will not turn into fat stalks. Those onions may or may not grow those nice fat roots. Nonetheless, what you do produce is still edible. And in most cases, it is more flavorful than its store-bought parent.
Another thing to consider is that all of us can make our own bean sprouts for salads and cooking. For full instructions check out this illustrated article. Sprouts can add a bit of substance and protein to your salad or sandwich.
One word on those potatoes. This might be the time to try something called guerilla-gardening. This simply means using public/shared lands to grow your produce. The biggest disadvantage to this is that you cannot guarantee or protect your crops. Someone else might pick them. Or the council might come through and cut it all back.
Nonetheless, if you have some potatoes that have eyed already, it might be worth a try. Find a nice secluded corner of your local park or a communal area. One that gets lots of sun works best, but potatoes are one of those hardy plants that will grow most places. You will just get fewer of them in shaded areas.
These are a bag that I had in the cupboard. While I am planting these out in a secure bed in our garden, the process is the same for guerilla-gardening.
The great thing is you don’t even need to dig deeply. Just push leaves aside, use your fingers to loosen the top half-an-inch to an inch of soil, then place the potato on top with the eyes facing up. Cover back up with those leaves, perhaps add a bit more from the surrounding area. And leave it. Check back in a few weeks. After they bloom and begin to die back, then move those leaves aside and harvest.
Yes, someone might steal all your hard work, but it wasn’t really that hard and you would have thrown those taters away anyway. Besides in an age where all our fruits and veg come in plastic, few people will recognize what a tater plant looks like. Oh, you might also forage for blackberries in the late summer while you are out there.
How much you produce, how much you are able to feed your family will depend on how much of your space, time, and money you invest in it.
Only you can decide that. If it were me, stuck back in that tiny London flat, I would be doing all that…and more.
Of course, most people cannot completely feed their family on what they grow inside their flat but every little bit helps. Especially as the produce that you grow will be fresher and more nutritious than what you could buy…if you can even find it.
Tomorrow we will be scaling this all up for those with a secure patio or balcony. But the thing is, even if you have a balcony, patio, or a huge front and back garden like our @HomeCrazzyHome, if you aren’t utilizing your indoor space, then you are missing out. Our formal and family rooms double as a nursery/greenhouse for all my seedlings right now. And there are more and more of those every day.
Please now is the time to be considering these things. I urge you, even if you are stuck in that horrible little city flat, do what you can to provide some food security to your family now in this time of crisis, but I hope even beyond. Grow your own is more environmentally friendly and sustainable in the long term.
Goddess bless and provide for you and yours,
From our @HomeCrazzyHome to yours