Wherever you find yourself living, I truly believe that one of the most important things that you can do to enhance your life and preserve your health is to grow some of your own food. The spring after we sold our farm we moved into a third floor apartment. To say that I missed the dirt was something of an understatement, so I came up with the idea of turning our balcony into a mini urban farm. I was shocked at how much food I was able to grow in containers on that very small balcony and when I say small, I mean small. It was literally 7 feet long and four feet deep! It was gorgeous and the management office used to drive prospective renters by to point it out. That first year I grew a bumper crop of tomatoes and fresh herbs, lettuces , carrots, strawberries and even sunflowers. I used the railings and the walls and I hung baskets from hooks that I drilled into the ceiling. As a result I had plenty of herbs for cooking, tincturing, turning into healing vinegars and fresh tisanes and I was able to have a green salad anytime I wanted.
I replanted the lettuce in the fall, enjoyed it for a month or so and then added kale to the pots. I learned to make fresh goat cheese and I promise you that there is nothing like enjoying a fresh salad laced with strawberries and goat cheese and dressed with an herbal vinegar that you've grown and made with your own two hands. I even had sweet woodruff for my beloved May wine.
Come late fall I let everything go to seed and as a result I had the most glorious birds all winter long. I was even more delighted to wake up one day to find a pair of Mourning Doves making a nest in one of my pots. We had the joy of watching their eggs hatch and the babies learn to to fly. It was an incredible experience of blooming where you're planted. My husband thought I was crazy until he began to taste it all. Our son loved it and still likes to help me in the garden now that we've moved to a house with plenty of good growing space.
I continued to utilize my balcony for containers of all shapes and sizes for many years and as a result of that experiment, I have always been inspired to help others learn to grow a bit of their food, as much as they can. In fact, I'm still continuing the experiment today, 18 stories up in sunny southern California!
Even if you don't have any more room for a simple pot of tomatoes, I promise you that that because you've grown them that they will be the best you've ever tasted. When you take responsibility for growing some of your own food, you begin to nurture yourself (and those lucky enough to get to eat it!) in the most important way possible. Plant heirloom seeds and you've taken your food choices away from big agriculture , Monsanto and Dow Chemical and you're helping preserve our dangerously dwindling honeybee population. Save your seeds and you're doing your part to preserve food choices for everyone!
Plant a pot of arugula and you've got a salad. It's that easy and you can start today!