One way to get the most out of your house, condo or apartment and eat better while doing it is to start your own fruit and vegetable garden. Scott Murray has some advice.
Murray is an organic farmer, sustainable development consultant and co-owner of Edge of Urban Farm in San Diego County. His current project is the restoration and development of a 250-acre historic farm owned by the county. On the site, his 15-acre organic farm feeds a neighboring boarding school and supplies local Whole Foods Markets with fruits and vegetables.
Murray says, “Eating is really the only solution” to much of what ails us these days. Eating right, that is. No fad diets with unbalanced or flat-out bad nutrition. Fresh fruits and vegetables are essential. So, aspiring urban farmers should keep in mind the following things:
*An urban garden can be started anywhere in your home that gets at least some sunlight. Raised planter boxes in your front or back yard are ideal, obviously, but small patios and balconies, even window sills can work.
*“All you need is enough space to hold a magazine on the counter of your kitchen because you can have four-quart jars of sprouts,” Murray says. “If you start sprouts every four to seven days, you can even have a continuous supply depending upon the variety of sprout. If you just have space on a window sill, you might be able to have three or four 6-inch pots, each with a different herb in it, like a chive plant, a thyme plant, a parsley plant. These you can harvest and use directly in your food very quickly, and they’re wonderful. If you have a little more space for maybe 1-gallon to 5-gallon pots on that little tiny balcony or something, then you can grow many different plants in those pots.”
*Planting sprouting seeds over regular seeds can be more nutritious and give a budding gardener a bit more momentum. Murray suggests “a quarter a cup of garbanzo beans in a cup of water, soak them overnight, drain that water off the next day, and start rinsing the seeds and keeping them moist in the jar. The jar can be open with a ventilated cap or a piece of cheesecloth. Twice a day, we rinse those seeds to get them moist and carry away the waste products, and they’ll sprout.”
*Don’t go to the store and buy just any old bag of dirt. Murray says we must think of soil as “a whole ecology that is growing our food.” Organic soil specifically designed to grow vegetable or fruit trees – depending on what you want to grow – is where you start, but expect to add things to it later like worms and composted material to enhance and “build the life of the soil.”
*Create a compost pile (the saving of various organic materials to use the nutrients naturally created from decomposition) in your yard or even in a can on a balcony. Pre-made composters are also available.
*And lastly, be patient. “There’s going to be a cycle,” Murray says. “That soil still needs to develop its own bio life. The first crop will be a little more [challenging] because all the different pieces are coming together, but each successive crop will get better and better and stronger and stronger.”