Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Small Space Sustenance: 5 Foods for Your Apartment Garden

Small Space Sustenance: 5 Foods for Your Apartment Garden

This guest post was written by Shawn Jenson who is also a staff writer for radiologytechnician.com and is an advocate of taking free online courses

Ah, to have a garden. A space all your own to use your green thumb to its full advantage, providing fresh, organic sustenance right from your own backyard. Well, for many urbanites, a backyard is nonexistent as more and more city dwellers become accustomed to compartmentalized living. Apartments are great: You can live smack dab in a thriving metropolis with a great view and only the space you need for yourself, but that doesn't leave very much room for growing your own food.

Thankfully, you don't need very much room to start an apartment garden. Don't expect to be able to live off the land (or in your case, soil in pots), but do expect to see some great accoutrements for main dishes sprouting on your balcony. Here are five great foods you can and should grow for your apartment garden.

  1. Tomatoes: Every apartment garden should grow tomatoes when the weather turns just a bit warmer. Tomatoes really don't need a whole lot of space or soil to grow. A standard terra cotta pot will do, or if you want to be creative, an old boot or similar-shaped vessel will work great and look funky. Tomato plants are pretty hardy and don't need a ton of sunlight, just make sure they're well watered. Save yourself some trouble and buy a starter plant from a nursery, plant it in some good soil, and give it a trellis cage to grow up. You'll be enjoying juicy tomatoes in your sandwiches, salads, or pastas in no time.
  2. Herbs: For the gardening enthusiast with no space to spare, herbs should absolutely be grown. Enjoy fresh parsley, oregano, rosemary, or other herbs for all your cooking needs. For a makeshift greenhouse, use half-gallon plastic bottles of milk and punch wholes in the bottom for drainage. Keep the caps on to create a nice mini-greenhouse for sprouts, then cut it off as they mature. They won't need much more sunlight than a kitchen window sill can afford either, so these herbs can be grown in the most minimal spaces available.
  3. Strawberries: There's nothing like a fresh, sweet strawberry in the summertime -- on its own, served with ice cream, or as part of a delicious smoothie. Strawberries need very little space to grow and are pretty low-maintenance plants; especially for a fruit. Strawberries are not invasive either, so you won't have to worry about it trying to take over your deck (which why I wouldn't recommend most other berries). Get a specific strawberry pot at most gardening stores with little balcony openings going up the sides to maximize your strawberry-growing potential.
  4. Lettuce: Buy or make yourself a small garden box, and grow lettuce. The plant doesn't root much further than the surface, so the box doesn't have to be deep at all. Sunlight and decent weather are important though, so if your deck doesn't receive direct sun, lettuce may not work. Otherwise, with a little bit of fertilizer and some water it'll take off. This is one of my favorite plants to grow, because there is seriously nothing like crisp, crunchy, fresh lettuce straight out of the ground for the perfect salad or sandwich.
  5. Beans: As a vine plant, beans are great for when you don't have a whole lot of square footage but do have some vertical space available. Get a standard-size pot, some good soil and fertilizer, and firmly plant a long stake or bean pole toward one of the edges. Plant seeds directly in front of the pole, toward the middle of the pot. The plant will quickly grow up the vine and give your great picking for the months to come. Beans are one of the most adaptable and hardy plants around and can survive most conditions -- even a balcony garden.

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