Sustainable Gardening For Small Spaces & City Dwellers Alike
Tiny spaces are all the rage these days - and for good reason. Not only do they encourage us to consume less and minimize our possessions, but they are helping to reduce our carbon footprint. However, by choosing to live in smaller spaces, we must often sacrifice simple luxuries - for example, a large yard for gardening.
Cities have helped with this by utilizing public spaces for urban, community gardens, as well as organizing farmers markets for local produce year-round. Nevertheless, we sometimes want the satisfaction of growing and eating our own greens - preferably at home.
For all the apartment dwellers, tiny house owners, and small space enthusiasts, try these simple tips and tricks for growing organic food and plants at home.
1. Examine your space
Begin your indoor garden by analyzing your space. Where does your home receive the best direct and natural sunlight? Do you have a small balcony for troughs or railing planters? Are your window sills wide enough for pots or trays? Planning will help you to decide what you can successfully grow at home, as well as what supplies you will need.
If you are working in a small apartment without any outdoor space or wide window sills, consider installing a vertical garden or indoor trellis. Another option is to create an upside down hanging garden; tomatoes, peppers, beans, miniature eggplants, and cucumbers can all be grown this way.
After narrowing in on the perfect space for your garden, research the produce that will best thrive in your specific environment. Online articles, library books, and the staff at your local nursery are all excellent resources to help you choose.
2. Source recycled pots & planters
Once you have chosen what to grow and where to grow it, begin sourcing materials for your garden. Thrift stores and garage sales are wonderful spots to find pots and planters; you can also build your own with recycled materials.
Old wooden crates, pallets, mason jars, and burlap coffee bags can also be an excellent, sustainable option for beginning your indoor or balcony garden. Coffee mugs and ceramic bowls work well too. Search for them at consignment stores or support your local potter.
If you would rather shop for new pots and planters, a few of our favorite eco-friendly suppliers include:
- Viva Terra: We love the Clay Pot Hanger Herb Planter, Wine Crate Vertical Wall Garden, and the Etched Metal Pots. They also sell and ship miniature USA-grown citrus trees planted in colorful rice hull pots.
- Ecoforms: A family-founded business selling resilient, yet compostable, pots made from renewable grain fibers. Moreover, the Northern California facility is solar powered, and the wholesale organic grower uses local delivery trucks that run on 100% bio-diesel. We love the Carry Trays and Quadra Trio for small space gardening.
- Root Pouch: A family-run business turning discarded plastic bottles into degradable pot and grow bags. We love the Vertical Living Wall Pouches for indoor herb gardens or vegetable patches.
3. Invest in organic, peat-free soil
Begin your indoor garden by purchasing or preparing the soil. If purchasing online or from a local nursery, search for organic, earth-friendly, and peat-free brands (we love Organic Mechanics). Additionally, ensure you choose the soil that best fits your garden plan. If you are planting seeds, you will need a Seed-Starting Blend; if you are transplanting starter plants, use a compost blend.
Alternatively, preparing your own soil can be fun and allows you to control the ingredients. With various recipes online and in print, we recommend talking with the staff at your local nursery or signing up for a soil-making workshop.
4. Plant & propagate food scraps
Once your space and soil are prepared, it’s time to begin planting! Carrots, microgreens, lettuce, tomatoes, and herbs can all grow indoors with the right amount of sunlight and water. Dwarf avocado, lemon, and orange trees also work well, although they can take a few years to begin producing fruit.
For an even simpler option, begin with scallions or ginger - both can grow directly from the bunches you buy at the grocery store. For scallions, simply place the bulbs in water and change out every day. Once the roots have doubled and new shoots appear, plant in shallow soil. For ginger, plant an inch of organic ginger in a pot of soil, set in indirect sunlight, water daily, and watch grow!
Whether you begin your plants from seeds or starter plants, commit to learning the water, sunlight, and food needs of each plant.
Now that your garden is ready to grow, start composting to help reduce household waste. If you want to use food scraps for your own soil, you will need to create a worm composting bin. The soil benefits include improving moisture retention, reducing pests, and feeding the soil helpful organisms. Composting can also save you money on soil conditioners and plant food.
To begin, we recommend checking out The Green Lid, the first compostable and disposable composting bin made of recycled cardboard in Canada. It is leak-free and masks smell, making it perfect for small space living.
Many cities also have compost yards if you would rather donate your food scraps to your local urban garden.
6. Share & enjoy
With enough patience and commitment, you will soon have luscious plants and fresh produce growing in your home. When this happens, consider sharing the harvest with friends and neighbors! Encourage others in your community to grow their own small space garden by exchanging tips, seeds, clippings, and soil. You can also check with your city for urban gardening clubs or local MeetUp groups for continued support. And, of course, enjoy the harvest of your small space garden!