grow it yourself

It’s easy to buy tomatoes at the store. I bet you can grow one that tastes better.

Over the years of my Waste Reduction Journey, I have found that there is little else that feels me with joy than the taste of homegrown vegetables. For the past four years, I have tested different vegetables and different methods: some that worked, some that didn’t. Here are some tips and tricks based on my experience to get you started on a little vegetable garden.

  • Space. You don’t need much space. Just stay reasonable with the amount you can grow in the space you have. A thirty-liter pot will accommodate a tomato plant fine while an elongated 100-liter pot will host one or two cucumber plants with a basil plant or a nasturtium plant.
  • No monoculture. Combining plants is usually a good idea as in nature, things a mixed together. Beware of the non-beneficial combinations. I found that tomato goes well with basil if the pot is large enough, and a nasturtium plant attracts ALL the bugs leaving your other plants basically bug-free.
  • Watering. It’s important that you can keep some regularity in watering your plants. I have a morning ritual that includes watering and checking on my plants, doing some quick maintenance, and identifying the need for a more in-depth intervention. If you can’t commit to regular watering, maybe investigate automatic drop-by-drop watering system or test out a PET or terracotta slow watering system.
  • Pressure. Take the pressure off your shoulder: you didn’t manage to grow your sprouts this year? Just find a market that sells them. I went to Zollinger last year and got high-quality, organic plants. The year before that, I had bought a tomato plant on the Sprouts Market in Bern that happens once a year in front of the Federal Palace of Switzerland. There are plenty of options around, you just have to look for them.
  • Soil. Find out what kind of soil your crops need. I do a mix of 45% garden soil, 45% compost and 10% sand for most of my plants but I add much more sand to the soil I use for thyme and lavender because they need good drainage.
  • It’s easy. It is actually really easy to grow your own veggies if you are not an over-achiever. You’ll get something out of those pots, and it will feel really rewarding, that’s a promise. There is no better way to eat food while producing less waste then growing your own and preserving the soil during the winter to reuse it from one year to the other.
  • Fertilizer. I don’t fertilize that much, and my plants still grow. You can add compost liquid from some home composting systems. You can buy compost from your local green waste treatment facility -for example Ecorecyclage in Lavigny sells high-quality compost to local private individuals that ask for it.
  • Hibernation. If you just leave the soil as-is, you’ll find it hard to get the garden going again the following year because the soil will have eroded during winter. At the end of a season, cut your plants and compost them, remove must of the root system and plant with a shovel while trying to keep as much soil as possible in your pots, and cover with wood chips or winter cover crops. I personally tried reed chips this winter and it worked really nicely despite it regularly flying all over my balcony.

Let me know how it goes and happy planting.

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