No garden? No problem. These cool tricks can set you up for growing foods at home, even if you don’t have the space or a green thumb. First things first, climate is everything, says Western Cape home gardener Stephanie Lambert.
Lambert advises that you ask yourself, “does my home get extremely hot or cold? Does it have mostly shade or mostly sun? Does your growing space receive mostly morning or afternoon sun?” Once you have the answers to these questions then you can grow ingredients you like to use in your kitchen.
“Now that you have a basic idea of the things you like to eat and the general climate elements of your space, consider where your water will come from and how any spillage will affect the space you have chosen to grow, as indoor growing containers need holes for drainage at the bottom,” she says.
Lambert is also the coordinator of the Cape Town permaculture community organisation SEED. Since 2000, SEED has championed outdoor classrooms on the Cape Flats, growing food in various communities.
Get your seed on
Lambert tells Health For Mzansi that she will always advocate to grow from seeds instead of seedlings. And while there is nothing wrong with using seedlings just make sure that they are not overgrown. “If they are overgrown they will ‘bolt’ once you’ve planted them.” Seeds are always best because your plant will start to acclimate to the kind of soil and conditions surrounding it.
“Some plants are heavy feeders, meaning they require a lot of access to nutrients and minerals in the soil,” says Lambert. For first time growers Lambert recommends leafy greens like lettuce and spinach, and herbs such as coriander, parsley thyme and origanum. She believes growing food in your kitchen could be fun and easy and can provide many of the much-needed nutrients in the human diet.
“My cherry tomatoes didn’t do so well, I didn’t harvest much as the container was too small and I planted more than one plant in my 5-litre container. If I had known better I would have tried one plant per container, perhaps I would have had a bigger harvest,” says Lambert.
‘Gardens are like babies’
Meanwhile, Ludwe Qamata (33), from Site C, Khayelitsha in Cape Town says growing food in the kitchen is easier for him. He compares the process like growing a one to 30 days old baby, indoors.
“You’ll condition your indoor rooms for the child’s health, that’s how it is similar in growing indoor crops,” he says. “Growing cherry tomatoes and strawberries, all they need is that warmth, care and comfort.”
Growing indoors in not just aesthetically pleasing, but it also has other advantages.
“Growing indoors, you are at a low risk of damage or losing your crops (due to) natural forces such as heavy winds, heat and rains. Your crops indoors are protected by your walls, roof, warmth or cool conditions, and they grow faster and bigger in weight, size and nutrition,” Qamata says.
Containers are essential
The next step would be deciding what kind of containers you will be using to grow your plants, says Lambert. “When it comes to growing in small or indoor spaces there are so many options. You can grow vertically, hydro or aquaponically, upcycle old containers or have wooden planter boxes which can all be converted to a wicking bed method,” she says.
Qamatha’s advice to those who want to grow food indoors is to use any containers that are at their disposal.
Qamata adds that potential indoor growers may prepare their own organic soil from kitchen scraps, by decomposing into organic soil.
Tips for growing food indoors
Lambert shares her four quick tips for growing food indoors.
Check on your babies daily: Check plants every day, she advises. “Getting a head start on pests and controlling them will prevent all your plants being eaten by pests.”
Plants increase air quality: Growing plants indoors still means you are growing some of your own food and is such an essential skill to have under your belt, says Lambert. “Just the act of having a plant in your home space increases the air quality and can provide some kind of tranquility or softness to a space.”
Plan, plan, plan: “Knowing your plans are essential for any successful garden.”
Anyone can grow: The art of growing is possible for anyone who is willing to try. “There is something very magical and fulfilling about growing your own food even if it’s the herbs you use to flavour your food,” she says.