We all know that the healthiest food is sustainably grown, fresh and organic. Of course, there is no fresher food than that which you grow yourself. But what if you live in a condominium or small duplex in a subdivision without any gardening space? Even if you have a small yard, you might be wondering if it is possible to grow a significant amount of food. The truth is, as long as you have access to sunlight, you can grow food. In this article, I will make some suggestions of how to grow food in even the smallest of spaces.
Bare Minimum- One Sunny Windowsill
If your living situation only provides you with a single source of natural light, you may be loath to cover it up with plants. If so, you can still grow things in pots on the sill. A 6” diameter pot with good, organic soil in it can support about 3-4 Pechay plants. It takes about 30 days to harvest for Pechay so if you have 3-4 pots, you can plant seeds 1 week apart in each pot. That way, you can have 3-4 heads of Pechay every week. Another possibility is Alugbati. The vine can be given a trellis up to the top of the window, or allowed to drape downards along the side of the building. This will also allow you to have some fresh greens weekly.
If you have gotten the hang of Pechay, try growing a climbing legume in the same pot.
Container Garden- Small Balcony or Rooftop
If you have a small balcony or access to a rooftop you will be able to grow a decent amount of food. Every square meter is full of potential. Some things to remember is that you can grow at different levels. Beans and vines like Alugbati, Amaplaya and Cucumber grow upwards, allowing you to grow greens like Kangkong, Pechay and others at ground level. As we mentioned above, stagger your planting, sowing seeds once a week. This ensures continuous harvest. After harvest enrich the soil in your pots.
Some ideas would include:
12 eight inch deep pots (approx 1sqm) with a Sitao plant and 2 Pechay plants sharing. The leguminous Sitaw will help keep the soil fertile for the Pechay plants. You can even plant 2 harvests of Pechay before the Sitao fruits. After 60 days, leave the Sitao to grow alone, as it will be entering reproductive stage. Enrich soil after harvesting Sitao.
You can reverse this and plant Bush Sitao at ground level, and planting Alugbati as the climbing plant. This combination still allows you to reap the benegits of the legume, while providing you with Greens.
8 twelve inch deep pots (approx 1sqm) with an Okra plant and Bush Sitao. Plant a single okra plant in the center of the pot and 3 bush sitao seeds on the edges. The Bush Sitao will enrich the soil and provide pods after about 2 months. The Okra should be left alone afterwards, and some fertilization will help it to produce a good harvest.
10 plant boxes (6inches x 4 feet x 12 inches deep). These plant boxes can be a diverse mix of greens (Kulitis, Kamote Tops, Lupo, Kangkong) and Tomatoes and Eggplants at the ground level. Leguminous vines like Sitao and Sigarilyas can be planted and made to climb upwards.
Larger plants like Malunggay and Papaya trees can be planted in 3ft deep pots. about 1sqm per plant.
Homemade Organic Fertilizers
You will need to enrich the soil in your pots from time to time. Some easily made amendments are:
Vermicast- A vermicompost bin can be as small as a 10 gallon bucket and can quickly turn your food scraps into nutritious plant food.
Fermented Plant / Fruit Juice- These liquid fertilizers, made by adding plant or fruit matter to molasses and allowing to ferment can be made at home easily in a 1 liter bottle.
Indigenous Microorganisms- This is easily made by wrapping cooked rice, sprinkled with sugar in a banana leaf and leaving it for a few days. If you have very left your rice in a pot for a few days and found a white cotton like film when you open it, that’s what you’re going for.
How does this make one resilient to COVID?
As we have come to see over the past year and a half this outbreak has brought us many challenges to deal with. There is the virus of course, which, while relatively mild is still a real pathogen that we can protect ourselves from. However what has become an even greater challenge are the restrictions and protocols that have been put in place.
By growing food at home, you can ensure that some or most of your diet is highly nutritious, and this supports your immune system in many ways. Read more about how organic food boosts your immune system against COVID here.
The more significant challenge is that presented by lockdown, and most recently vaccine discrimination. Issues of food transportation, and instances of non-vaccinated being refused access to essential goods brings the issue of lack of food security to everyone’s life. The single simplest way to ensure food security in such an environment is to grow your own.