When we think of growing vegetables or fruits, our minds immediately go to an outdoor garden and a “vegetable patch.” However, there are a range of strategies and methods for growing food that include both the outdoors and an indoor garden. Your living circumstances and your lifestyle will help determine which of the options outlined in this article will work best for you.
Factors to keep in mind are whether you have a garden, patio, balcony or outdoor space, and also how much sunlight any outdoor areas receive. Some fruits, vegetables and herbs need very little sunlight while others need quite a lot.
Another consideration is that growing food outdoors will attract more bugs than indoors. Bugs and pests can be controlled with chemical pesticides and you’ll have less need for these indoors. Of course, a safer, healthier option would be to use organic soils and natural pesticides wherever you grow your food.
1. In-Ground Garden
A traditional in-ground garden is the obvious choice if you have the outside space. You can be creative and plant for an aesthetic look, or you can plant in rows to make most use of the space and for easier maintenance. However, depending on your age, gardening in this traditional way can be hard on the body, especially the back, so that’s something to keep in mind when making this decision.
2. Raised Bed Garden
You might want to consider a raised bed garden for a number of reasons. If the soil is wet in your area, you can control that more easily; or if it’s hard for you to bend, a raised bed could help minimize the stress on your body; you might be a beginner gardener and want to keep it simple to minimize the maintenance; or maybe you just want the organized look of raised beds in the your outdoor space. Keep in mind that, in a dry season, a raised bed will need watering more often than in an in-ground garden.
For all the reasons above, a raised bed is a more manageable and efficient way to garden. But you do need a physical structure. Rather than making your own, you can buy a raised bed garden kit. They are easy to assemble and will save you a lot of time and frustration.
3. Vertical Garden
Vertical gardening, growing plants up rather than all on the ground, is becoming more and more popular. There are now a range of products you can buy for an indoor or outdoor vertical garden: hanging baskets, planter boxes, shelves and trellises to name a few.
Your choice of plants will probably determine which of these you use. For example, some plants such as tomatoes and cucumbers love to grow up walls on trellises outdoors. So, if you’re short on space, a vertical garden could be the best choice for you.
4. Container Garden
Most vegetables and herbs can be grown in containers and you can buy seeds that have been bred specifically for this purpose. There are also dwarf fruit trees that can be grown in containers. The containers can be indoors or outdoors depending on your space. Of course, the amount that can be grown in containers is limited, but you can easily grow peppers, tomatoes, radishes, baby carrots, herbs and salad greens.
The containers can be placed on a patio, balcony, rooftop or windowsill and can be moved around easily. Be careful though, as larger containers can be heavy if the soil is wet. If you add alongside them a few containers with flowers, an added benefit is that they may attract birds and butterflies to your doorstep. This is also a way to control pests, called companion planting, but you need to check first which plants work together in this way.
5. Indoor Garden
Indoor gardening has come into the 21st century! You can buy Indoor garden kits which have features such as LED grow lights and sensors that tell you when to water and even when to feed the plants. This means you can grow herbs and vegetables all year round. Most indoor garden kits come with seed starter kits for micro greens and herbs.
Using indoor garden kits is an ideal solution if you live in a home or apartment with no outdoor space and with little light and no windowsill inside.
However, if you want a setup for more or larger plants, you can buy LED grow lights separately and place them over your plants in pots anywhere in your home.
Hydroponics is a method of growing herbs and small vegetables, often indoors, without using soil but with water that’s enriched with nutrients. There are several ways to do this; one method is to have plants floating in a container of water and an air pump alongside to introduce oxygen into the water. Other simpler methods use an indoor garden kit with a small water receptacle and the plants grow on top.
Some benefits of hydroponics are that you don’t have to lug heavy soil indoors and there is less waste of water than other growing methods. You can also grow plants year round with this method. If you set it up yourself, it may not be particularly attractive to look at, but you can build or buy a little enclosure to encase it.
Aquaponics is similar to hydroponics, but with a few differences. It’s a combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics and it can be set up indoors or outdoors. Fish of your choice, depending on the size of the tank of course, live in the water. Waste from the fish is used to feed the plants thus mimicking a natural ecosystem. Unlike hydroponics, the water rarely needs to be replaced (just topped up). This method produces faster-growing plants and produces more food than hydroponics.
For an indoor system, aquaponic kits are available at reasonable prices. If you want to try this method for growing your own food, it might be best to grow leafy greens or herbs at first with just one or two small fish.
8. Plant Fruit Trees
You will most likely need an outdoor space for this growing option, although as mentioned earlier, you can grow dwarf fruit trees indoors such as the Meyer lemon tree. The fruit can be eaten fresh or made into pies, chutneys, sauces, smoothies and desserts.
The tree you choose for outdoors will depend on your climate and, if you only want one tree, choose one that is self-pollinating. You’ll need to pay attention to fertilizing, watering, pruning and protecting them from bugs to get good quality fruit. But the effort will be well worth it!
In summary, there are many reasons to grow your own food and many different ways to achieve that. Growing your own food can be a fun and satisfying hobby or a serious undertaking. It’s a great way to save money, add to a healthier diet and possibly to a healthier you!
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