Esther O'Loughlin 21 Jun 2018 02:35pm

Six ways to grow your own food in the city

Just because you’re surrounded by grey buildings rather than beautiful pastures, doesn’t mean you can’t save some money and help the environment by growing your own fruit and veg. Here are some top tips for city dwellers who want a hands-on approach to their diet
Caption: Some top tips for city dwellers who want a hands-on approach to their diet

Windowsill boxes/ hanging planters

For those of you without gardens, balconies and windowsills are great places to add a touch of greenery without taking up too much room. Herb boxes can be used for anything from potatoes to lettuce. They come in all shapes and sizes and there are several available that can fit snuggly onto a windowsill. Meanwhile, hanging planters can aptly grow strawberries, cherry tomatoes, peas and even some types of peppers. Just make sure they are attached to something stable.

Transform a flowerbed

A garden does not have to be purely decorative. Any leafy vegetable will contribute to a flourishing flowerbed and you can plant seasonally so that the space is never empty. If this is too much hassle then some larger plants such as a basil tree will last year-round. Even the smallest patch of dirt can be transformed into a beautiful and functional edible garden. Chard, rhubarb, fennel and red cabbage are all eye-grabbers while globe artichoke and leeks produce stunning seasonal flowers. Additionally, some decorative blooms can still prove useful – marigolds planted around your veg will act as a natural deterrent to bugs.

Rent a local patch

Okay, so there is a waiting-list for most allotments (in London at least), but it is certainly an investment worth making. Not only will you have more space to plant than the average city apartment allows, but it is a great way to connect with your local community. The spaces can be used by anyone, from young families to pensioners, and advice from experienced green-thumbs is never far away. Some also offer access to items you may not have at home, such as tools, compost bins and hose pipes. The designated outdoor space also attracts more bird-life to the city, benefiting the wider community.

Rooftop garden

The roof is often overlooked when it comes to garden space. However many apartment or office buildings have flat, sunny, accessible roofs – perfect for vegetables requiring a little extra light. Some people have taken advantage of this by setting up a glasshouse there, allowing them grow tomatoes, aubergines and chillies. If this is not an option for you then pots, barrels and raised or self-built planting boxes can just as effectively transform the sparse concrete space into a relaxing rooftop garden for everyone to enjoy. Plus, you will have the added benefit of gardening with a view.

There’s levels to it

Naomi Schillinger’s book “Grow All You Can Eat in Three Square Feet” breaks down the myth that you need plenty of room to yield a crop. Try recycling an old set of shelves, or building your own, in order to utilise space and double your harvest. This is great if you don’t have many bright spots for pots around your home, as veg requiring less sun – such as radishes, Bok Choy, arugula or celery – will quite happily thrive on the lower shelves. Similarly, tiered pots or planters allow for a range of herbs and vegetables to be grown in one place. Use the deeper sections for bulb or root veg like carrots, sweet potato and garlic and shallower ones for herbs, berries or micro-greens.

Grow up

Vertical gardens are growing in popularity around the world, and are much easier to construct than you may think. Hooking small plastic pots onto chicken wire or screwing them onto a board are some of the simpler DIY methods. Just ensure the fence or board being used is strong enough to take the weight. These gardens also save on water as those underneath catch any spillage. Meanwhile, climbing plants such as passionfruit, melons, cucumbers, pole beans and kiwifruit can be trained to utilise similar spaces. Some apartment buildings already offer vertical garden allotments so it’s worth asking your neighbours or landlord about what’s on offer.