Everyone Should Do It
By Dane O’Leary
A garden limited to a very small space and intensively cultivated is called a “micro-garden.” Urban dwellers have long been growing their own produce in such spaces. However, contemporary micro-gardening can be done in in any type of space, possibly using lined containers for growing plants, even indoors.
Micro-gardens can be operated almost anywhere with the proper accommodations. They also tend to need very little maintenance. They are fairly inexpensive to get started, and yet they can be sustainable and highly productive sources of fresh, nutritious organic produce.
Some people cannot imagine such a small garden can contribute significantly to a family’s food supply. Nevertheless, studies by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization indicate that just one square meter can provide about 200 tomatoes each year, 36 heads of lettuce every two months, 10 heads of cabbage every three months, or 100 onions every four months.
Micro-gardening is most popular in urban areas where outdoor space is limited. Miniature gardens can be on balconies, patios, rooftops, and tiny yards. Despite being especially popular among low-income families and those living in urban areas, micro-gardening is for everyone. The requirements are very minimal: You need at least a square meter of space for best results. Seeds, compost, containers, and a desire to put in a minimal effort are most of what is needed. Yields are often much more than expected, providing surpluses.
Families can often repurpose materials for the garden from things found around the house. Potatoes can be grown in buckets, and many shallow-rooting plants can grow comfortably in medium-sized Tupperware containers. You should remember that whatever containers you use should be food-safe. If they are biodegradable, they should be lined so they do not decompose. A wooden container, for example will need a liner.
You can either buy a potting mix for soil (organic is best, but not required) or use some type of local “substrate” mixture made from such materials as peanut shells, rice husks, or coconut fiber, or laterite. You can fertilize with your own home-made compost.
Seeds are inexpensive and can be bought at hardware or garden stores, or online. If your micro-garden will be indoors in an area that doesn’t have access to sunlight, you also need to install artificial lights, which can be less expensive than you might think.
Once your micro-garden is set up and seeds are planted, all you usually have to do is remember to water your plants and check regularly to monitor for signs of wilting, which would mean your micro-garden needs something it’s not getting. Generally speaking, micro-garden maintenance is very minimal.
Micro-gardening also has positive environmental implications. We increase our sustainability and shrink our carbon footprints as we decrease our reliance on supermarkets and distant, conventionally operated farms by reducing use of fossil fuels and other petro-chemicals. We can use rainwater for watering, reducing the country’s water needs, and even turn our food waste into compost.
Micro-gardening recalls a time when many of us ate only food we grew ourselves or got by trading our produce with other gardeners. Not only is the food superior, but it is more convenient. We can pull tomatoes off our own vines.
Micro-gardening is inexpensive to start, saves money, is highly productive, and easy to maintain. As the cost of living continues to rise, micro-gardening will be seen more and more as a solution that’s not just efficient in terms of the environment, but also for providing a renewable supply of healthy, high-quality food at almost no cost. It offers a sustainable, renewable food source that can significantly reduce an individual’s carbon footprint.
Dane O’Leary is a full-time freelance writer and design blogger for Modernize.com. He has degrees in psychology and anthropology.