Six Green Solutions for Your Urban Farm
Urban farming and green solutions are not new. As anyone who has farmed or gardened will appreciate, there can be a cyclical nature to many things. What we think of today as cutting-edge green solutions was simply the normal way of going about things just a few generations back.
The rise of the big modern supermarket as the one-stop shop we know today, stocked with produce and commodities from far and wide began in America about 100 years ago. Before that, food production had a local focus to support and sustain a family, community, town, city, or region.
These days, more attention is paid to local food production as a way to increase focus on environmental responsibility, feed growing populations, and reduce fossil fuel use.
In and around many towns and cities worldwide, urban sprawl has consumed what was once farmland, so people are finding ingenious and creative ways to bring food cultivation into urban environments. Commercial companies are utilizing urban spaces for food production and employment opportunities. Individuals and local community gardens are “growing their own” and rediscovering the difference in taste, texture, and freshness of food that has not been packaged and freighted in from another area or country.
One of the advantages of producing food in urban environments is reduced time to transport products. Therefore, there is less need for chemicals designed to preserve products for the market. More sustainable options are available to irrigate, fertilize, and protect plant growth. It is relatively easy and sensible to adopt green solutions and sustainable and organic principles to produce food in an urban environment. Covered here are six green suggestions for creating and cultivating a small-scale urban farm in a home environment.
- Make the Most of Existing Space
Although a traditional vegetable garden may be square, in the case of small-scale urban farming, it pays to think outside of the typical plot of land. A large yard is not a prerequisite. Fruit and vegetable cultivation can spread into all manner of nooks and crannies in outside and inside spaces to make use of otherwise underutilized areas. Transform rooftops, balconies, windowsills, and unneeded strips down driveways and walkways into productive places.
- Recycle Containers
Recycle and repurpose containers, furniture, and equipment, and use them as vessels for growing fruit and vegetables. Wooden pallets make excellent vertical planters. Potatoes and tomatoes grow particularly well in buckets and paint pails with drainage holes added.
Many types of citrus trees grow well in pots. An old bathtub or a chest of drawers can become a character feature!
- Use Water Wisely
Good clean water is vital to sustain all forms of life, and plants are no exception. Collect rainwater as an additional watering source in open barrels, tubs, or diverted from down spouts. Wash your harvested fruit and vegetables in a bucket or bowl of water, and then put that water back into the soil. Relatively clean Greywater, such as the water from the last rinse cycle of a washing machine can be used for watering trees and bushes.
- Grow a Good Egg
Keen poultry farmers should always first check with officials at their local municipalities on any regulations for raising chickens in their urban environment. Some cities ban urban poultry; others have restrictions around the number of chickens in a flock or proximity to neighbors. Permits and regular inspections are often required, particularly in the management of poultry waste. Manage waste with a product such as EnviroSEB Poultry that contains naturally occurring bacteria and enzymes for the effective treatment of poultry waste.
- Companion Plant
Companion planting — getting to know which plants “like” and “dislike” being near each other — has two benefits. Firstly, some plants just seem to thrive in the company of others, but put them close to others, and growth is inhibited. Secondly, the addition of crops can bring beneficial insects and bees to a garden, or keep those that may damage or eat plants away. Never mind a scarecrow, a row of sunflowers planted along the edge of a garden will attract birds to the sunflower seeds and away from tender crops – bees love them too.
- Make Your Compost
Compost improves soil structure, nutrient content, and protects plants from disease and pests. Compostable items include leftover food, fruit and vegetable offcuts and waste, coffee grounds, tea bags, dead leaves, branch offcuts, grass clippings, newspaper, cardboard, sawdust, cotton and wool material, and paper napkins.
Recycled plastic drums convert into compost bins and are ideal to compost organic garden and food waste. Waste is recycled directly into compost bins. Therefore, there is less transporting of waste to landfills and emissions of methane gas from mass volumes of decomposing waste.
For inner city and apartment dwellers without the space for full compost bins, there are other ways to recycle waste back into small crops. For example, lemon trees love banana peel tea, made from steeping the skins of bananas.
Along with the social and environmental considerations of producing local crops, growing your own fruit and vegetables is a satisfying experience. Tasting something you have tended and nurtured to ripeness is a true delight.
The farm-to-fork time can happen in a matter of minutes, instead of days or weeks of transportation. In the case of freshly picked summer strawberries and raspberries, it can take just seconds for that juicy morsel to reach your palate, never mind the plate!
This is a guest post by Stacey Gavin.