We live on the 3rd floor of a condo complex. Our one bedroom unit is only about 700 square feet with a balcony facing north (and maybe slightly west).
So, how in the heck do I plan to garden at all in such a small space? Especially without a garden or yard?
A couple of weeks ago I took a short Sustainable Vegetable Gardening class sponsored by Cascade Water Alliance and the Saving Water Partnership. The presenter, Ladd Smith, provided a lot of really good information for gardening specific to the area we live in, the Pacific Northwest, just 20 minutes north of Seattle. Ladd co-runs In Harmony Sustainable Landscapes with business partner Mark Gile.
Here’s a short list of the main topics Ladd covered:
- Basic Vegetable Gardening
- Choose the right spot
- Build raised beds
- Always care for the soil
- Plant Northwest varieties
- Buying Vegetable Seeds vs. Buying Vegetable Starts
- Smart Watering Practices
- Basics of Pest Control
- Companion Planting
- Intensive Gardening
- Fruits and Berries
- A Few More Thoughts
- Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
- Plant a row for the hungry
Among the reasons for growing your own food, Ladd’s class outline provided a few great reasons: “wanting to be more sustainable; knowing where our food is coming from; local food reduces our carbon footprint; fresher food; more nutritious; and save money.” On top of that, I was super excited to finally learn how to garden. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, especially since my mom used to plant and garden when I was a kid.
My plan is to use salvaged items, such as the three cabinet drawers pictured below, to use as raised plant beds. I was able to grab those three drawers from someone in my local Buy Nothing group that was gifting kitchen cabinet parts. Read this post to learn more about the Buy Nothing Project! I haven’t measured how deep the drawers are, but they may end up being a little too short for planting fruits and veggies. Ladd mentioned that raised plant beds should be at least 18″ above ground. We shall see!
Our balcony is also covered, so we don’t get a lot of direct sun. I plan on lining up my plant beds right up to the front railing and perhaps on top of a table.
Ladd also provided a few handouts. One of these was a short informational guide titled Growing Food in the City, an online version can be found on gardenhotline.org. Growing Food in the City covers most of the topics Ladd went over, so get a hold of it if you’d like to try your hand at home gardening. Another handout provides a useful chart for planting “companion” crops, which are simply types of fruits or veggies that help each other, and flowers you can plant that “attract beneficial insects.” Because there are pests that can destroy all your hard work, it’s a good idea to learn how to keep them away in a way that is safe for us as well as the environment.
Everything I learned in this introductory class was so useful and interesting and will help me plan and grow fruits/veggies. Hopefully, I’ll be able to document everything well enough and share with you my successes as well as my failures. I hope more people will try home gardening. It’s a great way to help the earth, ourselves, and others if we’re able to share our bounty!
Happy gardening, learning, and growing!