Indoor Gardening

If you’re reading this I will go out on a limb and assume you may also be a rather voracious consumer of produce like myself, namely vegetables and non-sweet fruits. I mean, if I am going to write this I am going to be technical here. Zucchini is a fruit. So are tomatoes. I have been an avid home cook, professional chef and food writer for over a decade. The lack of safe food to eat is very troubling to me personally and professionally. This was the impetus for wanting to grow what I can myself and when my thoughts turned from fancy pants city slicker to farmer. Don’t worry I didn’t abandon my fine dining table manners and polished shoes.  

There simply is not enough space for each and every adult to have a farm sized piece of land. If you are a city lover like I am then you know property is scarce and quite frankly while I would enjoy a yard I could farm I don’t want the downsides of having a house. Like property taxes, expensive repairs when something breaks, disgruntled neighbors and wildlife nibbling on the fruits of my labor, literally. The other benefit of indoor container gardening is that it allows you to control disease, pests, moisture and other conditions more easily than planting in the ground. While container gardening isn’t an option for all fruits and vegetables, it’s perfectly good for some.

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Let’s examine a few foodstuffs you can grow in that cracker box of a living space you and I call home.  Downsized living doesn’t have to just have the perks of less stuff to stress about and the joy of lower utility bills but you won’t be robbed of the thrill of something living and growing inside your space besides you and maybe your cat.

Note: if you have pets you will have to take extra caution with some of these.  They like to nibble green things too.

 

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Tomatoes

These red gems are so easy to grow I am quite frankly surprised that I don’t see them sprouting up in the driveway cracks of homes in real housewife suburbia. Maybe they do and the uber guy just ran over them.  To safeguard your tomatoes from the rogue driver-for-hire grow them inside the privacy of your pied-à-terre. There are some great tips for indoor tomato growing here. Take note you will need a large container so they can take root.

Potatoes, those fancy designer ones

Just two garden boxes 12” deep will yield you an apartment sized crop of these little gems.  To be perfectly honest I am going to say one of the most horrifying thing to many diet conscious eaters. I eat potatoes almost every day.  They are satisfying, tasty, and nutritious, perfectly fuel my runs and are budget friendly. They became a 4 letter world in the diet world but they are my constant companion and my waistline does not suffer.  I often cannot find the size and quantity I want without going to multiple stores so growing my own is the perfect solution.  See how to here.

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Mushrooms

If you’re not growing your own mushrooms you are really missing out. Sure you can buy them at the market but a real mushroom lover will appreciate the deeper flavor that comes from using a better way to grow that commercial grower’s use.  You can grow your fungi in coffee grounds, sawdust or the more flavorful (and less messy) way, which is an inoculated log which you can buy and start growing just a few days. If you treat your log right, oyster mushrooms will grow quickly after the log is safely inside your door. Keep them in a shady place and to maintain moisture level a tent of plastic is advised. Some varieties do better with a balcony climate variation. Once they start fruiting like wildfire just know this: shiitake bacon is a possibility.

 

Salad greens

Let’s be real, I mean who wants to bring home a bag of outrageously priced baby greens only to find them morphed into to slime 2 days later when you decide you feel like eating them? You do? Ok you do that but I don’t.  I would love to be able to go snip a fresh bowlful, toss in a fresh homemade vinaigrette, kick my feet up and show a bunny rabbit how chewing is REALLY done.  I spent all that money on matching salad bowls from you know where. I may as well deck them out in salad worthy of the glossy catalog pages they first caught my eye with.  Check out how to grow those sexy salad greens here.

 

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Radishes

Many root vegetables need much deeper soil but not petite radishes. Instant gratification enthusiasts will get a reward in about a month. They will grow from seeds. You want to keep the swells covered with soil while they grow (that’s right radish, no peeking). The smaller the spicier so pull them to suit your taste. A milder radish is a larger size.  I once left a radish bunch soaking in water for a few days and they doubled in size and lost nearly all their flavor.  Loss of flavor was a gain in texture. They had a great crunch much like a water chestnut. I’m giving you options here. You can get the kids in on this.

 

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And now for something completely different

I don’t know how to say this.  Are you sitting down?  Good because this idea is a game changer for condo and apartment dwellers. May I introduce you to an edible wall known as vertical gardening? In these planters you can artfully grow produce without taking up a single inch of your floor space. You can vertically grow edibles like herbs, bell peppers, endive, sorrel, blueberries, strawberries, lettuces and cherry tomatoes.

 

I realize you may feel motivated to start a full-on garden in your petite living room/windowsill/second bedroom now but if you’re a home of one or two think practically. Come up with a game plan and set yourself up for success. Start with one item on the list. The one you most favor. See how much of your time it’s taking, how much room it’s taking and how much the plant is producing. Herbs and tomatoes can be almost a burden when they are begging to be harvested faster than you can consume them. Keep in mind, aside from the greens all the items can either be dried, frozen, pickled, etc. all without nasty chemical preservatives.

High five for us indoor farmers!

A timely topic revisited




You remember Morgan Spurlock. The man that supersized himself. He's lost all his Mcfat. Now hosts a documentary style show on FX-30 days days. I am thrilled he is bringing the rather provacative series back this week. One episode in particular got me to thinking. I did write on this two years ago but it is more timely than ever now. If you go to the homepage (unless they don't have season one still online) and look at the episodes you'll see one titled OFF THE GRID. Two New Yorkers are sent to live in an eco-friendly community.


It really gave a wake up call to how much energy we use, each of us, here in the US. I live in a city of gas hogs. People that don't mind driving an hour to work. Driving a car that gets horrible gas mileage to boot. What's with driving a vehicle that get less than 25 MPG? Then to drive in excess of 200 miles a week just furthers my irritation but alas I can only worry about myself and my impact on the environment. I made a conscious choice back in 1998 to not work anywhere more than 15 miles from home. I hear people whine,"well it must be nice to do that". Anyone can do that. There really is opportunity everywhere. Open your eyes. Or move! At least take public transportation if it's available.


Then it was pointed out how much being a meat eater costs our resources. Land to raise grain to feed the animals. Planes to crop dust pesticides. Hormones to pump into the animals. Land to raise the animals. Slaughter space. Fuel to truck the meat to markets. I don't think about all this when I am eating a steak. Or I should say I didn't - but I do now. Also buying locally grown food helps aid in the reduction of fuel costs.

All this has me thinking about what I have and what I can live without. I do make a conscious effort to somewhat modestly and responsibly. I don't drive more than necessary. I recycle religiously. I could do more but then again couldn't we all?