How to grow food at home (even in a small apartment)

More people are looking to the house-Agriculture this year – whether as a hobby, more self-sufficiency and sustainability, or as a craving for fresh fruits and vegetables. Thanks to the growing popularity of smart indoor gardensand hydroponic kits, growing your products doesn’t require as much space as you might think.

But if you want your crops to thrive well, you need to know how different conditions – in a small city apartment, on the balcony of a city house, in the backyard of a house – can affect how and what to plant.

That’s why I asked Tucker Taylor – Master Culinary Gardener at Kendall-Jackson Winery and Gardens and former producer of Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry – to share his concerns for each condition and how he tackles them.

Here is his opinion:

Small city apartment without balcony

When it comes to growing your produce indoors, watch out for irregular watering, poor ventilation, and poor lighting. Leaving a plant to dry out excessively can cause root hairs to die, which feeds on fungal pathogens that can ultimately kill your plant. This isn’t something you can make up for with overwatering later, as that – besides not having fresh (or at least moving) air and the lack of light – could make matters worse!

WHAT YOU CAN DO: There is no hard and fast rule of thumb for regular watering, so you need to “develop a ‘feel’” like you would in the kitchen. For starters, Taylor suggests watering the pots or apartments until they are saturated. Pick them up to feel their weight before and after watering the plant, to get a feel for the weight range when the plant is sufficiently hydrated. (If the ground looks powdery, it’s too dry!)

When it comes to ventilation and lighting, of course, opening your sunny windows for fresh air and natural light works best. But grow lights and rotating fans are also effective. Make sure the plants barely move when using the fan. Set it to low speed or keep it far enough away from produce.

Ultimately, you need fertile, disease-free soil for your plants to to grow. Try organic “professional” (or “non-soil” mixtures). Taylor adds worm droppings (and sometimes compost) “to help inoculate the mixture” and for additional nutrients.

BEST PRODUCT TO TRY: Fast growing herbs and greens – like “sweet herbs” like basil, chives and cilantro; and green vegetables like lettuce mixture, mustard mixture, arugula, spinach and chard. Avoid Mediterranean herbs “like rosemary can be a bit tricky inside as they are more susceptible to root rot from overwatering”.

Urban apartment with balcony

Beyond balcony sun exposure, weather conditions, your building’s rules and regulations and other factors to consider – depending on Spruce, some of Taylor’s main concerns are the weight limit and the size of the balcony. “Whether you have large pots or raised beds, once everything’s been watered it can weigh a lot (a gallon of water weighs a little over eight pounds).”

When it comes to space, many people like variety, so they “tend to cram plants into their pots and raised beds” and end up overcrowding their plants. Keep in mind that some crops can grow quite large quite quickly (like summer squash), so they can “shade other crops if planted too close”.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Make sure you understand the mature sizes to determine space requirements, suggests Taylor.

Choosing the right container is important, especially its material. Plastic pans are lightweight and enameled retain moisture, but if you want something more breathable, the gardening expert recommend terracotta. Due to its porous nature, “you will need to water your plants more frequently, but they will grow better as a result. ”

Taylor prefers raised bed mixes or nutrient-rich organic soil mixes for balcony “gardens”. To improve root growth, he adds volcanic marc to increase soil drainage and aeration. To have shade sails if there is too much sun for crops such as tender lettuce.

BEST PRODUCT TO TRY: Green vegetables and root crops such as beets, carrots, leeks, onions, radishes and turnips. In the spring, opt for sprouting broccoli, green garlic and peas. As for summer, try cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, summer squash and tomatoes.

Suburban house with courtyard

When you live in a suburban house with a full garden, watch out for animals parasites and weeds, which can turn your hard work into chaos. Beware of ground squirrels, especially if you have raised beds, as the rodent likes them for water, food, and protection from most predators, the gardening expert explains.

Aside from pests, weeds can also compromise the condition of your garden. According to Real estate landscaping, when you don’t get rid of weeds, they can fight for space and food supply against your plants. Plus, removing invasive weeds can disrupt the roots of your crops. That’s why not weeding on time is a big no-no in Taylor’s book.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: What you do for pest control depends on the pest involved. If you are dealing with deer and rabbits, the gardening expert recommends fencing the growing area, setting up hoops over the raised beds, and covering them with netting. As a general rule, he suggests using hardware fabric (this is “heavy duty galvanized shielding”). Place it at the bottom of raised beds before filling them with potting soil.

As for getting rid of weeds, remember that it is much easier to do this when they are small or recently sprouted. Do this more often at first, so you don’t have to spend hours on it later. If you don’t want your back to hurt while taking care of your garden, Taylor recommends the Long handle weed burner by Johnny Seeds. “It’s perfect for precision weeding while standing, which is better for your back. “

BEST PRODUCT TO TRY: “Your choices for what you want to grow are practically no limits ”- whether winter squash, melons and corn; or fruit trees and berries like blackberries, blueberries and raspberries.

About Scott Conley

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