Growing your own food is such an empowering thing to do. A lot of people love the idea of having land and looking out their window and seeing their own garden and perhaps even a beautiful ocean or mountain view. Some people live the dream to have their own land and grow their own food. The rest of us shop at the grocery store, or farmers market to get what we need. But wouldn't it be nice? With smaller living spaces and city life it seems impossible to grow anything.
What if I told you that you didn't need a big plot of land to grown your own food? What if I also told you it doesn't take that much time and it's fun? What if I also told you that I have been growing food for a few years in a very small space and even on concrete? Does this sound impossible? It isn't. I will show you how in a minute but first, why would anyone bother to grow their own food when there's a store on every corner? What's the point?
Well for starters, everything tastes better when it's fresh. Fresh herbs can't hold a candle to dried ones. Another reason is you can grow it without pesticides- in other words, you may or may not be able to always afford true organic food, but imagine if you could grow your own organic lettuce and greens? Wouldn't that be kinda neat? Let me tell you about what I grow even though I have zero land to grow on.
Last night for dinner I made a salad using wild lettuce and herbs from my own garden. Now when I say garden, and I tell you I don't have any land you might be wondering how the heck do I grow lettuce? I not only grow wild lettuce, but I also grow my own organic romaine lettuce as well. Remember all those recalls for lettuce where people died of Ecoli? Yeah, well that's why I grow my own lettuce! It's so easy and you can grow it too!
I grow my own Italian Basil, Sage, Cuban Oregano, Mint, Medicinal Herbs, and more! You won't believe where I grow it! I grow them in buckets on concrete! Can you believe that? No land, no acreage, no greenhouse, no hydroponics. Just good old dirt soil, sun, water, and a few buckets - and you can too! Just a little bit of knowledge and a whole lot of fun got me going in a direction that fills my heart with joy. I love using my own fresh herbs to make a dish. Do you know why Exotic foods are so good? Bingo! Fresh herbs- and a little know-how.
Since I started growing my own organic herbs and greens, I have learned a little bit more about soil and growing. I used to work next to a guy who was a biologist at markets and he sold flowers. He sold me a few trees and plants over the years and at first, I used to kill everything. I mean I would always joke about having a black thumb instead of a green thumb. I would buy a beautiful fern and kill it a few months later. I asked him what the secret was thinking that it would be some special soil. Do you know what his sarcastic answer always was? Water it! He would tell me to water the darn plants daily! I was like but how long do I have to water them and George (that is his name) would roll his eyes and just say "Water them!" I finally asked him how long to water them for, to which his response was- "Just water it!" I laugh now because it's so simple. I really needed to water them and I would forget all the time.
George heard hundreds of people a day ask the same questions I did and after a while, he just got sick of it. He quit selling flowers and went back to biology. I never forgot what he said though. "Water it!" Just water the dang thing! That's what most of us forget. It's almost too simple. If your plants are outside or out of sight it's easy to forget about them. Once you realize that you actually have to water your plants you start to go from a black thumb like me- to an amateur expert in growing trees, fruit, vegetables, tubers and more like the new me today! If I can do it surely you can too.
There's nothing more amazing to me than planting a seed the size of a few pinheads and watching it grow into something that's beautifully colored, wonderfully shaped, and sustains your life (and can be 10 feet tall like my papaya trees)! What a wonderful gift from above! All we humans need to do it water it! That's amazing to me.
So now that you are hopefully convinced on the benefits of growing at least your own herbs if nothing else, let me show you what I do. Feel free to tweak it to your own liking. This is just enough information to get you started and on your way to enjoying some of your own herbs, greens, and maybe even some actual fruit and veggies!
First, you need a container of some sort. You can make one, buy one, borrow one or get a free one. There are lots of places to get free containers. A good place to look for free ones is the back of stores, you know the place behind the store where the trash is? Grocery stores sometimes have buckets and those are free. You can also just go to the Home Depot Garden Center and buy something. Whatever you decide, it needs holes in the bottom so that when you water say your herbs or whatever you decide to grow- it can drain out properly. You don't want the soil staying overly damp because that causes mold and root rot.
1. I drill small holes in the bottom of my buckets. It's fast and easy.
2. You will need to get some decent dirt, the darker the better. I suggest organic OMRI certified dirt to start with. You can find it at Walmart, Home Depot or some nurseries. If you have a nursery near you you can also use their dirt but it's sometimes more expensive depending on where you live. I like OMRI certified organic dirt because I want to make sure that no pesticides were used in it. But if you can only find regular dirt that is also fine.
3. I just started mixing Pearlite and Vermiculite to my dirt. What I do is open up a nice big black bag of dirt and place it into a bucket about elbows deep. Then I break up the clods. You want to make sure that the dirt you have isn't a bunch of wood chips because you paid for quality black dirt, not sticks, plastic and rocks.
Once I break up the dirt I add a few handfuls of the Pearlite and Vermicculute. Pearlite looks like styrofoam but it isn't. It's a natural mineral. It's white and looks very light much like styrofoam but remember- it isn't so, don't worry.
The vermiculite looks like small eentsy teensy little pieces of barrel-shaped cork wood. It's also very light and fun to hold in your hand. It may come in different shapes- I do not know. I simply mix a handful of that and everything together with the dirt in the bucket and then place that mixture into the various buckets filled with all my growing glory. If you are just making dirt buckets, and not replenishing plants, then when you do get your seeds you only want to cover the seeds about a quarter of an inch of dirt.
4. Water & replenish the soil. Once your plants etc grow. Soil Should only be damp not sopping wet. When a plant doesn't receive the minerals it needs it becomes susceptible to diseases- just like us, humans. If you overwater or underwater- it can kill the plant. Just keep the soil lightly moist and make sure that the water is making it deep into the layers of soil. I use a long screwdriver to poke deep into the dirt if it looks too dry below topsoil however, when you add the vermiculite and pearlite it helps with drainage. You should have a little water coming out after you water your plants. That's why you may need a water catcher/plate dish bowl or plastic thingy under your plants. If you overwater- it comes out of the bottom and you want to cleanups. So just keep an eye on the soil and it will tell you how often you need to water.
5. Watching your babies sprout! This is the most mysteriously wonderful part of growing. I feel like I am bringing a life into the world- and I am! Plantlife, oxygen, and organic food for me and my family! The first sprouts of your plant will amaze you. They grow so quickly and every day and you will see the spurt of growth and that is so much fun. I feel there are a million lessons in growing your own plants, flowers, and herbs. I have a beautiful rose bush, and when I trim off the excess branches, new beautiful pink roses bloom. It reminds me a lot about life. Sometimes we are pruned and it doesn't feel very good, but pruning brings beauty and character (and in my case roses!) that sometimes can't come about any other way.
What will you grow today? Let your inner child come out to play and grow in wonder with me! Until next time, don't throw out those seeds! Plant "em!