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How To Grow Organic In An Urban Space

Where you have a light source you have possibilities.

And with some planning, you can grow organic food pretty much anywhere.

Urban gardening is becoming more popular every day and Metropolitans are getting pretty creative growing tasty organic herbs or vegetables.

So can you.

Whether you are living in the city with little or no outdoor space, or are getting by with a limited lot size, you can set up small vegetable varieties and grow your own organic food.

No excuses, here is how.

How To Grow Organic Anywhere

It may sound intimidating at first but don’t let limited space to grow organic be discouraging, it is quite easy to set up.

Plus, if you are looking for alternatives to GMOs or genetically modified foods a small organic garden will be a fun project.

Everything good starts with a plan.

If this is new for you, getting started may seem overwhelming. Where do I start?

So we made a list of things to think about, make decisions on, and plan out.

Growing An Organic Food Garden Check List

  • Make a plan for your garden
  • Will it be indoor or outdoors?
  • Will you be using sunlight or grow lights?
  • Pick your organic veggies or non-GMO herbs
  • Decide your method for growing
  • Source the organic or heirloom seeds, organic soil, organic pesticides (1) and organic fertilizer you will want to use.

Make your plan according to the space you have available and your goals. Decide whether you are going to grow your garden indoors or outdoors using sunlight or indoor grow lights. Another thing to be thinking about during the planning period is what you plan to grow.

7 Ways To Grow Organic Food In Small Spaces

We will be digging into the following 7 ways to grow organic food in tight spaces:

  • Container Gardening
  • Vertical Gardening
  • Raised Bed Gardening
  • Hydroponics
  • Aquaponics
  • Aeroponics
  • Community Gardening

Before we discuss methods, there is some studying to do on your part. Not much…unless you like. I am encouraging you, one will benefit learning as much as possible and have a better output by taking some time to learn more about guilds and permaculture.

Why? Certain plants grow best with other plants like tomatoes grow well paired with carrots. So, planning out harmonious vegetable guilds will benefit all the plants involved. (2)

Studying permaculture will help you create a self-sufficient and sustainable home garden. Not all permaculture designs are strictly organic so adapting what processes work for your goals are the best way to marry the two practices. (3)(4)

So let’s dig into the top seven methods to grow organic food in an urban space I listed above.

Container Gardening

There are a variety of containers available around, think of all the recyclable plastic bottles you could reuse. Without any extra work of weeding big beds or planting in a row, you can start growing your fruits, herbs, and vegetables in mobile containers. To hold your plants and their roots together, go for terra-cotta, plastic, or clay containers of an appropriate size.

Add holes for appropriate drainage if needed, dirt and compost, water and start growing. Since plenty water and sunshine are needed by most vegetables, you can easily carry your garden in and out of the sun. You can keep them anywhere – rooftops, balconies, in a portable greenhouse on a patio.

Vertical Gardening

Do you know you can plant vertically if there are no spaces to plant horizontally? Well, you can hang planters over windowsills on deck railings. Some of these planters are specifically designed for that. This is ideal for growing your herbs or tomatoes without any worry of hungry critters.

There are so many different types of vertical gardens to choose from wall gardens, stackable gardens, pocket gardens and tower gardens.

Raised Bed Gardening

A raised bed garden saves you time and produces more results than a traditional row garden. It allows you to create a very rich organic soil throughout from the start. You will need to think about compaction and improving drainage. You will want to plant in a triangle pattern to use more space versus a traditional row method. (9)

And what better place for ideas like keeping slugs and snails at bay by gluing pennies along the top of your bed’s perimeter than Pinterest. (10)

Hydroponics

Hydroponics may sound complicated but if you have a good system in place you don’t have to mess with soil. Hydroponics sometimes is rumored to even date back to the hanging gardens of Babylon. But a true hydroponic system involves no soil.

The roots grow in a nutrient-rich solution made mostly of water. Nasa uses this process to grow vegetation in space and claim it to be “farming of the future”. (11) Astronauts plan to survive on plants grown hydroponically as a “bio-regenerative life support system”. (12)

But how can you do it? Before you get too excited, realize you will need a power source to run a hydroponics system and every now and then power systems can fail.

The Six Different Types of Hydroponics Systems are:

  1. Deepwater Culture (DWC)
  2. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
  3. Aeroponics
  4. Wicking
  5. Ebb and Flow
  6. Drip System

There is definitely a learning curve to this type of grow method but there are plenty of resources online to help you get started. The downside is the need to dispose of hazardous water waste periodically.

Aquaponics

In an aquaponics system, fish waste fertilizes the plant water and then the plants clean the water for the fish. This perfect cycle creates a sustainable garden environment that will effectively use less water and benefit the plants as well as the fish. The fish are in a separate tank connected in a closed-linked system back to the garden.

Luckily, Back To The Roots makes a small version that will fit on a countertop to grow herbs called a water garden, which could be a fun responsibility for kids as well.

Aeroponics

This is my favorite way to grow organic so far! I believe this is the answer to growing organic food in space or on other planets with less than habitable conditions for the organic soil to thrive. An aquaponics system is a great combination, but if you are tight on space and don’t want to mess with fish tanks, aeroponics quite efficient.

There Are Officially 3 Types of Aeroponics Systems:

  • Low-pressure Aeroponic Systems or “soakaponics”
  • High-pressure Aeroponic Systems “true aeroponic”
  • Ultrasonic foggers

This is what NASA has to say about aeroponics,

“Aeroponic growing systems provide clean, efficient, and rapid food production. Crops can be planted and harvested in the system year round without interruption, and without contamination from soil, pesticides, and residue.”

But this isn’t the best part, during this same experiment (12) it was proven that,

“Aeroponics systems can reduce water usage by 98 percent, fertilizer usage by 60 percent, and pesticide usage by 100 percent, all while maximizing crop yields. Plants grown in the aeroponic systems have also been shown to uptake more minerals and vitamins, making the plants healthier and potentially more nutritious.” 

Okay, so I won you over before you even know how it works. Great! The roots dangle free, exposing them to oxygen and a fine mist.

More Oxygen = More Plant Growth.

When successful you may accuse your garden of taking “performance enhancing drugs.” Use Rockwool to germinate your seeds into a plant and then you are ready to rock.

The crown or upper part of the plant grows above the board while the root dangle in a root chamber. This enclosed system serves many purposes, it encases the water/nutrient solution mix to feed the plants, protects the roots from light exposure and recycles the solution throughout the chamber until it is all absorbed.

So, no waste.

What do you need to make this happen? A sump pump, a timer, and a pipe with several nozzles to atomize the solution and then spray the fine mist at regular intervals/durations.

You could buy an aeroponic garden system or DIY it. Although it sounds like a simple method it is a more technical method of growing organic food. Like all things, with some research anything is possible.

Community Gardening

Walk around your neighborhood to know where community garden has already been established. Sharing a garden with a group of concerned neighbors is a worthwhile endeavor to grow a bounty of vegetables. This goes a long way by just providing you with needed space and others knowledge.

Sharing resources help to make a big garden venture more affordable and assure nothing goes to waste. Community gardening fosters friendship around the community. In case it doesn’t exist in your community, why don’t you start one? Or encourage a local school to apply for a learning garden.

Everyone Should Grow Organic

All these options mean you can grow organic anywhere in several different ways. Whether an apartment with patio, no outdoor space, or a townhome with a small yard, growing your vegetables in an urban environment can be tricky, but you can enjoy your urban gardening program by finding some gardening methods that best suit you.

 


 

References:

  1. https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/organic-pesticides/
  2. https://permaculturenews.org/2016/08/22/guilds-small-scale-home-garden/
  3. http://modernfarmer.com/2016/04/permaculture/
  4. https://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/how-to-create-a-permaculture-garden-that-supports-your-local-ecosystem/
  5. http://heavy.com/garden/2015/03/best-urban-container-garden-gardening-farming-supplies-products/
  6. http://www.trueactivist.com/organic-urban-gardening-for-beginners/
  7. https://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/wellbeing/urban-gardening
  8. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/gardeningadvice/10673079/Urban-gardening-how-to-go-green-in-the-city.html
  9. https://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/7-secrets-for-a-high-yield-vegetable-garden-even-when-youre-tight-on-space/
  10. Exploring Raised Bed Ideas On Pinterest
  11. https://www.nasa.gov/missions/science/biofarming.html
  12. https://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/technologies/aeroponic_plants.html
  13. http://www.fullbloomhydroponics.net/hydroponic-systems-101/
  14. http://home.howstuffworks.com/lawn-garden/professional-landscaping/alternative-methods/aeroponics2.htm
  15. http://aeroponicsdiy.com/nasa-review-of-aeroponics/

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