Ever wondered whether it’s worth the time and effort (not to mention money) to grow your own food when it’s so easy and convenient to just buy what you need at the grocery store? Especially if you live in a challenging climate, don’t have a lot of space, or work a full-time job on top of family obligations?
My home is a penthouse apartment on the fourth storey of a modern apartment block in a northern suburb of Sydney, about 30 kms from the city. While most other apartment balconies in my heavily built suburb have a potted ornamental or two such as a palm or annual blooms, my balcony sprouts herbs of many varieties tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, lemons, kale, spinach, apples, figs, beetroot, lettuces, peaches, nectarines, carrots, Asian greens, radishes, strawberries, and much more. I produce in excess of 80 kgs of fruit, vegetables and herbs in a good year. There's generally enough vegetables for the two adults here all year-round and a little to share. My apartment is part of a growing global movement of people involved in urban farming.
1. Learn a new skill
People today have forgotten where their food comes from. We don’t know what it takes to grow healthy, nutritious food. Urban gardening helps you get educated about growing food. That’s a unique skill to have in today’s world.
2. Grow food in a limited space
Urban gardening teaches you that you don’t need a lot of space to grow your own food. There are techniques like vertical gardening, container gardening, rooftop gardening, and hydroponic gardening that utilise space well.
Selecting the edible plants that give you more bang for your buck is the way to save money and get longevity out of single plants! Some people invest heavily in their garden and it's debatable whether any saving is achieved, but your potential retuirn and long term success depends on what you grow.
"One and done" plants such as root veg are grow once, harvest once plants and unless you have alot of space, aren't the most economical veg to plants, whereas tomatoes, beans, peas and leafy greens have repeat yields.
3. Grow healthy food
There’s a lack of healthy food in today’s generation of fast foods and instant meals. These faster options may be convenient but they also put a serious affects on our health. Today’s generation faces widespread issues as a result, such as diabetes, blood pressure, and obesity due to unhealthy food.
Growing your own food means you grow healthy, nutritious food like fruits, vegetables, and herbs. These are low in cholesterol, high in fibre and have beneficial vitamins and nutrients. Knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown, free of pesticides and herbicides makes for a better eating experience. Urban gardening is one of the best ways to get healthy, nutritious food for your family. Really fresh food has not been transported thousands of miles or modified to last longer during transportation and cold storage.
4. Reduce food insecurity
Around the world, urban areas face the constant issue of food deserts, or areas where healthy food is either not available or not affordable to the area’s residents. Urban gardening can help alleviate food deserts by providing people the opportunity to grow and harvest their own fresh and nutritious food at a fraction of what the same produce would otherwise cost in a grocery store.
5. Grow high-quality food
The problem with mass-produced food is that it is often loaded with chemicals and pesticides to increase production and shelf-life. With urban gardening, you don’t have to worry about this. You can grow organic food without such chemicals. You have control over the growing conditions and the water, soil, and compost you want to use.
You can choose to grow the unique heirloom varieties of food that are high-quality and delicious but may be susceptible to disease if mass-produced. You can pluck the fresh fruits and vegetables whenever they are ready for harvest, so you don’t need to worry about the shelf-life.
6. Grow food year-round
Urban gardening now has many options to help you grow food wherever you have space, such as with container gardening, hydroponic gardening, and rooftop gardening. This means you can control the location where you grow the food, and worry less about environmental conditions like drought or cold weather.
You can choose what you want to grow, how you want to grow it, and where you want to grow. This helps you get the food that you want, when you want, without always depending on the seasons. It's important to know the conditions in your Grow Zone before you embark on your growing journey. You can find out more about this in my blog Know Your Balcony Garden Growing Zone
7. Grow sustainable food
Growing mass-produced food with traditional farming methods takes a lot out of the planet. Beyond the many resources that are used on the farm, the food then has to be transported from where it is grown to a store near you. That requires burning a lot of fuel. Commenrically produced food is now transported thousands of kilometres to reach the consumer.
Urban gardening helps reduce the carbon footprint of the food system by reducing such fossil fuel consumption. It also makes far more efficient use of water. Hydroponic gardening uses around 90% less water than conventional farming.
8. Grow safe food
You know exactly where your food comes from and what went in and on to it! We know that mass-produced food has to be transported a long way to reach you. This increases the chances of contamination from bacteria and viruses such as salmonella.
With urban gardening, you grow food locally. You grow it with good soil, water, fertilizer. And you grow the food with care. This all helps improve the quality and safety of your food. Of course, it is also important to test your soil (if using) and other inputs before growing to ensure that your fresh food will be safe and delicious, and to practice basic food safety guidelines.
9. Build community
People who stay in urban areas have forgotten what it means to be part of a community. We tend to be isolated and independent which causes issues like depression, mistrust, and lack of happiness.
Urban gardening can help bring men, women, children, friends, families, and neighbors together for a common purpose. The purpose of growing sustainable food together. This also helps to reduce the disconnect we experience to where our food comes from. It also helps teach our children valuable lessons about nature, our food system, and sustainability.
10. Save money
It can be costly to live in the city. A large part of this cost is the expensive food that you need to buy. Healthy fruits and vegetables cost a lot more than junk food that is so readily available.
When you grow your own food, you can avoid this problem. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get the healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables that you need. If you’re able to grow a lot of food, you can even sell it to other people. This can help you set up a small business and make money. It can also create jobs for other people in your neighborhood.
Growing your own food doesn’t have to be hard, even if you live in the city. Urban gardening can help you grow your own fruits and vegetables in a sustainable way.
Take a stroll with me on my extensive Balcony and see how easy it can be to grow your own food on Instagram . There are also a number of products I use which has revolutionised the way I farm in my small space. Do take a look at these on the website www.upontherooftop.com.au
Some simple words of truth about maximising your space in a small space garden situation. Sharing the love of small space growing with the clients of APIA Australia recently talking about how to build a thriving garden on your balcony. The most common gardening myth is that you need space to build a garden - let's bust that myth!