Growing your own food can be a wonderful way to go greener, save money, and become more self-reliant. But what if you do not have a garden? Even if you do not have any outside space at all, it is still possible to grow a surprising amount of food. You might be amazed by how much it is possible to do inside your home. In this article, we will talk about creating a food garden without a garden – giving some helpful hints and tips to help you to get started with making the most of the space you have available and growing your own.
Finding Locations for a Food Garden
A food garden can be started in a wide range of spaces – you do not need to have access to a large outside space. Not all of us are lucky enough to live in homes that have their own gardens. But that does not mean that we do not have access to spaces where we can grow some food.
For example, you might be able to grow food:
- In a courtyard or in marginal spaces such as a small patio or driveway.
- Beside a front doorstep, or in an entrance porch.
- On a communal stairwell or in another shared space.
- On a balcony.
- On the roof of your building.
- On the side of your building. (As a vertical garden, or in external window boxes and hanging baskets, for example).
- On sunny windowsills or other sunny surfaces inside your home.
- On or against a sunny wall inside your home.
- Hanging from the ceiling inside your home.
If you use your imagination, and make best use of the space you have available, you can grow a surprisingly large amount of food even in the most unpromising of situations.
Deciding What to Grow
You can grow an amazing range of things in small spaces and inside your home. Of course leafy salad greens, spring onions, radishes and other smaller plants are ideal, as are a wide range of herbs. However, you can also branch out to grow almost anything that you could grow in a regular garden bed – even fruit trees – just on a smaller scale. When deciding what to grow where, think about:
- How much sunlight the plants need (and how much they will get in a certain location).
- How much water they will need. (Particularly thirsty plants can sometimes be a challenge to grow in containers indoors.)
- What temperatures the plants you are considering can tolerate. (And how warm your home will be).
- The plants’ space requirements, depth of roots and final size.
Deciding How to Grow
Container growing is obviously the easiest and most common solution for home growers without a garden. But the containers you choose can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Before you get started, one of the first things to decide will be what you will grow your edible plants in. Of course you could just buy some containers. But you could also consider:
- Upcycling old items of furniture or appliances. (an old drawer, filing cabinet or washing machine drum, for example, might come in handy). A range of handy items could be sourced at a recycling centre or reclamation yard.
- Reusing old food-grade barrels to grow larger plants (potatoes for example)
- Using household rubbish as small pots and containers, and making your own biodegradable pots to start your seeds.
Even when there is not much space on windowsills, work surfaces or on the floor for containers, you may still have room for a vertical garden on a bright wall. Vertical gardens are a fantastic solution for those with limited space for indoors growing. You might, for example, consider:
By Daniel Penfield, Wikimedia Commons
- Simple shelving across a sunny window to increase growing space, or up a sunny wall.
- Cup hooks with dangling planters.
- A fabric pocket vertical garden.
- Growing towers made from plastic bottles or other rubbish.
- Hanging Baskets stacked vertically up a wall.
These are just some of the many vertical gardening ideas you could consider.
Growing Without Soil or Compost
Something else considering if you have no outside garden space is that you do not necessarily need soil or compost to grow plants. You might also be able to consider a hydroponic system, using water to grow your plants. Depending on how much space you have in your home, you might even be able to consider an aquaponics system, which grows fish and plants in symbiotic process. These systems can range from very simple to extremely complex – and there are options to suit many situations. Allowing gardeners to grow a lot more in small spaces – hydroponics and aquaponics could be worthwhile considering.
Creating Compost for Your Food Garden
You might not think that you can compost if you have no outside space. But you can! Kitchen waste can easily be cold composted in a small bin in an under-counter cupboard or closet space. One great solution for small space gardening is vermiculture. This involves keeping small worms that can help break down the food scraps and other waste into a valuable pot-filler and fertiliser.
Foraging For & Feeding Your Food Garden
Not having an outside garden can make it a little more difficult to find the resources you need to grow food organically. But even if you do not have your own outside space, it is still possible to get your hands on the materials that will help you to garden sustainably.
In addition to making your own compost with kitchen waste, you can also find natural resources all around you – even when you live in the middle of a city. For example, you might source:
- Glass clipping to use as mulch in containers, or to make a liquid feed, which will give a nitrogen boost to leafy plants. When added in small quantities to your compost bin, it could also speed up the process of composting kitchen waste.
Grass is often a common feature in cities and towns – on verges, in parks or on public land. Often, the glass is cut on a regular basis and the grass clippings are simply thrown away. A lot of the time, it is possible for home growers to get their hands on these clippings, or on grass from neighbour’s lawns. When collecting it, just make sure that the grass in question has not been sprayed with any harmful herbicides or pesticides and is free of contaminants.
- Autumn Leaves can also be used for composting or mulch. They are great sources for nutrients that will help keep container plants happy and healthy. Mulching with autumn leaves will also help keep in moisture in your pots.
Leaves are another resource that can be found in cities as well as in more rural areas. When leaves fall in autumn, these are often just left lying around on roads and pavements. Usually, no one will mind if you gather a few to take home and use in your growing efforts.
- Common weeds you forage close to home can be additional food sources for you. But they can also be a good food for your plants. Collect up a range of common weeds such as nettles, dandelions etc. and you can use these to make a liquid plant feed for your food garden.
Simply place them in a bucket of water (with a tightly fitting lid to avoid nasty smells polluting your space) and leave them to decompose. Strain the resulting liquid and, diluted to the colour of weak tea, it can be a good feed for leafy plants.
- Sticks and twigs are another biomass resource that you may be able to source in a city almost as easily as in the countryside. Even if you do not have a tree of your own, you can forage beneath trees in streets or parks and find fallen twigs and sticks that you could use. These can be handy to use as smaller supports for your plants – for peas, for example.
Watering Your Food Garden
Of course, your plants will not only need food but also water. It is far better,if at all possible, to water with rainwater rather than with water from your tap. Tap water can contain high levels of chlorine and other impurities, and in any case, it is more sustainable and ethical to use the renewable source of water wherever possible.
Harvesting rainwater is easy if you own your own house – you can simply attach a barrel or butt to your guttering in order to collect the rain that falls on your roof. If you live in a flat, however, you may think that harvesting rainwater is not something that you can do. On the contrary – harvesting rainwater in a flat is often easier than you may imagine. You could consider the possibility of:
- Collaborating with your neighbours to collect water from the guttering system for communal roof.
- Placing containers on your open balcony, or rigging a system to collect drips from a covered balcony.
- Place containers in window boxes fixed outside your windows to catch the rain. Failing that, you may still be able to simply place small containers outside your window whenever it rains, either placed on the outside sill, or suspended on a support attached to an inside sill.
- Obtaining permission to place small buckets or other containers in communal outside spaces, on the roof, or in a neighbour’s outside space, for example.
If you cannot source enough rainwater for your indoors food garden, you should ideally leave tap water sitting overnight before you use it, and could also consider getting a filtration system to purify the water that you use.