Due to the convenience of supermarket shopping, growing your own food had become a hobby just for the enthusiastic gardener. As the world begins to wake up to the benefits of organic and local food, the interest to grow your own fruit and vegetables has increased.
Modern life can be hectic and hopeless. The responsibility to water and grow your own plants can become a calming vital part of your day. You can feel better, get some fresh air and exercise, help the planet, and even get some of your favourite foods for free.
Unfortunately, we’re not all blessed with lavish gardens, and space in the city is a precious resource.
Food is also a precious resource, and with a few space-saving ideas, you can grow your own food and veg in whatever area is available. With a few simple tips, you can discover some easy ways to grow your own food in a small space, from a patio to a windowsill.
Plants freshen up your air and add an important dash of nature to your day. They are good for the environment, and they produce things for free. If you do it right, setting up your kitchen garden can also be environmentally and financially low impact. You also save storage room by cutting out big, bulky gardening gear.
Reuse Empty Containers and Materials for Plant Pots
Britain uses nearly five million tonnes of plastic every year. Battle the scourge on two fronts, reduce waste by growing your own food in left-over packaging, so you buy less food wrapped in plastic.
Yoghurt pots make great starters for seedlings. Poke a hole in a plastic punnet, sprinkle with rocks, and cover with soil, and you have an instant crop-nursery. Saturate it with water, and you can grow cress. These plastic pots sit on the windowsill until sprouts emerge, then graduate to bigger pots as they grow. Trays and plastic pots allow you to grow herbs and vegetables at different levels, and their small stature lets them fit into whatever space they need.
Kitchen windowsill herbs like mint or rosemary taste better fresh, and their ease of access lets you spontaneously upgrade your cuisine. Watching windowsill plants thrive and create food in food packaging gives daily chores an order and a structure, creating a small green companion who earns their keep by chipping in with meals.
Later in this list, we get into more adventurous and creative planting solutions using waste materials like wooden planks and pallets for building frames and vertical gardening solutions.
Reclaim Seeds from Your Food
Luckily, the purpose of fruit and veg is to spread plant seeds around as much as possible. This means that the potential for life lies hidden in your food. Extract seeds from things like tomatoes or chillies which you wouldn’t eat anyway, place them on a wet paper towel, and watch them grow! The same goes for uncooked beans or pulses, or even larger vegetables like onions or potatoes. Suspend waste food in a jar with some water, and grow your own food for free!
Create Natural Fertiliser from Waste Food and Plants
Potash and compost are some of the best fertilisers in the game. They give plants all the nutrients they need to survive and can turn barren, inhospitable soil into a productive kitchen garden. Recreate the potash effect by adding ash from the fireplace of a bonfire pile to your soil. This increases potassium salts, helping plants to flourish.
Similarly, composting turns waste foods into plant food. On top of that, non-compostable kitchen waste like blood, bones or fish makes great slow-release fertiliser, saving waste space and eliminating pricey shop-bought fertiliser from your budget.
Grow What you Like
If your space is limited, prioritise your favourite natural foods. If you love tomatoes or strawberries, focus on making areas where these will grow well.
Or if you like to idea of a herb garden, grow plants that you know you will enjoy using in your cooking.
Grow Small Foods
This, by far, is the most adorable of the ten easy ways to grow your own food in a small space. Hunger and space are two issues that have plagued humanity for generations. Over those generations, gardeners have combatted these issues by breeding mini versions of your favourite foods. Delicious, space-efficient, and very, very Instagrammable.
Bean lovers might enjoy dwarf French Beans ‘amethyst’. There are two types of mini aubergine, so space-strapped gardeners can choose between ‘Ophelia’ or ‘pot black f1’. Mini courgette ‘eight ball’ and mini tomatoes ‘orange fizz’ both require a lot of fertiliser, but not a lot of space.
While potatoes are easier to come by, they use up far more room, making cute little mini-veg an efficient alternative
Combine Food and Beauty in One Space With Edible Flowers
You might only have sunlight enough for one pot in the garden so go for edible aesthetics with a pot of gourmet flowers. You don’t need to go to a Michelin star restaurant for an edible flower topping when you can just reach out the window and pluck a bloom from your own garden (or windowsill).
Options include sunset-orange marigold calendulas or cucumber-flavoured blue borage. Peppery pink nasturtiums bring a bite to your salads, and violet heartsease pansies look just as pretty in a pot or on a plate.
Grow Your Own Hardy and Productive Plants to Save Space
You don’t need huge fields for your kitchen garden if you chose plants that grow quickly and grow often. If you want a rapid, regular supply of garden goodies, avoid one-and-done root veg like radishes or carrots, and choose hardy leaves and fruits.
‘Salad bowl’ lettuce is so-called for a reason: it creates cut-and-come-again leaves with freshness and regularity. Spruce up your salad with some fresh ‘aveola’ peas. These resilient climbers grow quickly, and the excess peas freeze remarkably well. For a slightly more adventurous grow to round the salad off, choose ‘picolino’ cucumbers. Picolinos create fruit from every flower, springing forth dainty cucumbers perfect for crunching on in a sandwich or in a G and T, or even pickling to preserve.
Plants don’t need all the sun, all the time. In fact, too much sun is a bad thing. Cut time lost watering wilting plants and maximise your space by keeping some herbs or shoots indoor and swapping them with an outdoor plant every day. This helps to freshen up salad herbs and doubles up your picking options. When one fruit starts to flower, sow another row in planters, in time to take the limelight when the first lot is done.
Smaller shoots may well prefer to start off indoors, away from the wind. You can even insulate them and create a mini-greenhouse with waste plastic packaging or cling film. Protect your plants, have a readily replenishing food supply and put your small space to best use with simple crop rotation.
Level Up: Grow Food on Different Levels Across a Small Space
If you have a small garden, a balcony outside or just a windowsill, you can still grow your own tasty plants in all three dimensions.
Hooks and shelves don’t have to be indoor options. Make the most of the light by growing plants in hanging baskets suspended from hooks at different heights. An even simpler option might be just screwing a lightweight metal or plastic pot into the wall itself. You can make cheap DIY shelves from reclaimed wood and simple metal brackets. They add a rustic feel, especially when populated with pots in assorted sizes growing edible fruit and leaves.
More adventurous DIY gardeners (or those with more time on their hands) might opt for a stacked or tiered gardening tower. These involve tall pipes or stacked planters in a tower of pyramid formation, making the most of height to maximise their vegetable output. One end of the spectrum has pots stacked on top of each other with a rod through them, and the other has complicated angular frames with homemade water reservoirs. Either option provides a great talking point, and better yet, free fresh food!
Think Vertically With a Herbaceous Living Wall
You’ve probably seen these on the side of a trendy bar in London, but they can be recreated easily at home. Simply start with a fence, and secure soil into it with chicken wire. Sow your herbs and seeds, and when they sprout, carefully turn them vertical! The roots themselves should help retain the structure, and the plants sprout and spread out to maximise your space. This works well with edible flowers interspersed in, as well as creepers and vines like peas and strawberries.
Living walls add texture and natural vibrance to your garden or patio, as well as using space with the utmost efficiency. If you don’t have much room on the ground for growing edible plants, create a living wall for a taste of the high life.
Get Ready to Grow Your Own
Space isn’t the be-all and end-all of your kitchen gardening possibilities. With some lateral, vertical, and outside-the-box thinking, you can make the most of your garden and grow plenty of your own food from home. Mixing and matching these different tactics should germinate a few shoots to help with your cooking, if not keep you fed and healthy. Good luck, and happy gardening!