Spring is upon us! It’s time to start thinking about planting your culinary oasis of sensory pleasures. Urban homies, despair not. Living in a condo or apartment doesn’t mean that you can’t grow shit for shit. If you have some sun exposure and a little bit of space on a balcony, you can grow an alarming amount of veggies, fruits and herbs.
There are a few things to keep in mind, however, when growing in a small space. Don’t get over involved in “novelty crops” or plants that need tonnes of space and render low yields. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? Maybe, but I know from experience that it’s all too easy to get carried away with the idea of growing quinoa and corn. You're all "I'm gonna feed the masses. Lookit me go! HERO!" You're totally noble AF for wanting to save us but some crops are only really worth the time and effort if you possess an adequately large amount of space in which to grow them. Taking up half your garden for 6 ears of corn or a mouthful of amaranth is dejecting and makes for sad hero.
That’s not to say that you can’t grow great things. The best way to look at it is to inventory what you buy most frequently and spend the most money on at the grocery store. Make a list and then research what crops from your list you can grow in your geographical zone. Then factor in how much light you get on your space. I bloody love avocados, and lord knows they ain't cheap, but I can’t grow them in my area code without a giant greenhouse so they are in the treat category in shopping trips. Tropical fruits aside, if you get a few hours of sun per day, you likely can grow a few of the most wallet draining foods you love so much. I know for me the greatest supermarket necessary evils are lettuce, salad mixes and smoothie/juicing greens.
Salad greens are ludicrously easy to grow and can be a stupefyingly bountiful crop. They are only so pricey to purchase because they have a such a short shelf life after harvesting, cleaning, processing, packaging and transporting to your local supermarket. They are delicate little leaves that should be consumed toute suite! However, greens harvested from your balcony can last more than a week and will still be in beautiful shape to bring to a potluck. Fresh is always best.
When choosing what greens to grow, try a mix of lettuces, mustard greens, chard, spinach and kale. Grow your collard greens, Swiss chard, spinach and kale in a separate box from your mustards and lettuce mix. This way you can easily harvest for a smoothie or green juice from your collard box without accidentally mixing lettuces. I don’t know about you but I’m not a huge fan of mustard in my smoothies. But whatever floats your gross boat, I guess.
GREENS IN THE SUN
The key to growing greens is to have abundant sun in the spring and little direct afternoon sunlight in the summer. Too much scorching heat will cause your greens to wilt or bolt into flower from stress. Lucky for you, even is you only get a bit of sunlight, you can still grow greens as they don't require a metric shit tonne of sun, heat and fertilizer.
SUCCESSFUL SUCCESSION (SUFFERIN' SUCCOTASH)
Seed your arugula and mustard greens successively so you always have a steady supply ready at hand. Otherwise you'll end up savagely eating salad for 2 weeks and then have to drag your ass to the supermarket to buy inferior $9 clamshells of stupid organic bullshit with goober bits in it.
Picking the outside leaves of lettuces is a more effective way to ensure regrowth than cutting. However, if you prefer to cut, maybe you’re in a rush, leave about 1-1.5 inches of plant to encourage a comeback. And don’t be shy little pansy about it. The more you harvest, the more they grow! It’s amazing! You want to continuously harvest your greens. If you leave them too long, they can get tough, bitter and go to flower.
Also, if you're planning on growing peas, beans and squash, get vertical with it. Build yourself an innovative trellising system (or buy something at Home Depot) either way, maximize your growing space and at the same time create a planty shangri-la for sipping summer rosé. Cheque please!
Now go do it, Stop thinking about it and start today, mutherfucker!
** also, if you google "grow food on..." the first hit is Mars. We're a fukt up species, man. Except for Matt Damon.