The 5W1H of Urban Farming at Home
Urban farming is gaining popularity and there are many good reasons to do it. Here are some that caused me to get started.
WHO can grow their own edible greens at home?
Anyone can do this! It's a great lifestyle activity that's suitable for busy urban warriors, homemakers, families to do together, homeschoolers, retirees, etc.
WHERE can this be done?
Don't let space be an issue! You can start your own urban home farm whether you live in a tiny apartment or a plot with a large garden area. I live in an apartment in Singapore and grow my greens by the window and in a small balcony.
WHEN should you start?
Although this might vary depending on your climate, you can start as long as you have light and water! I live in a tropical Singapore, so I can sow, grow and harvest all year round. If you're in a similar situation, then the best time to start is NOW!
WHAT to grow and WHAT do you need?
Start with grow edible greens that are fast and easy to grow. Some plants include Sweet Potatoes, Spring Onions, various types of Basil, lettuce, spinach or Okra (Ladies' Fingers). Check out the individual posts for each plant type.
All you need to start are:
- Plants - You can start with either seeds or seedlings/shoots for transplanting. I try to use organic or Non-GMO seeds as much as possible. You can buy packs of seeds or just remove the seeds from tomatoes, bittergourd, etc. that you buy. Another easy method is to buy organic vegetables from the supermarket with the roots still intact and plant those! I've tried this with Celery, Romain Lettuce, Fennel and Spring Onions from Fairprice and Cold Storage.
- Something to grow in - I'm using pots and recycled items such as honey jars, drink bottles/cartons, paper cups, take-out (takeaway/"tabao") containers, etc.
- Soil - in Singapore, you can get potting soil from the many local plant nurseries. I personally use organic soil because I want to grow my produce organically. If in the USA, it's real easy to order organic potting soil online:
44 LB Bag
16 Quart Bag
WHY grow your own fruits and vegetables?
Why bother to grow your own food?
To be honest, as a techie city dweller, I never had much interest in gardening and McDonald's was my convenient staple diet!
But in recent years, I've met more and more people with various health issues, done more research, and come to the conclusion that the commercial agricultural (and skincare) industry is feeding us unhealthy grains, fruits and vegetables, that are genetically modified (GMO) and doused with unsavoury pesticides, weedkillers, chemical fertilizers, etc. These edible greens are not only lacking in nutrition, they also fill our bodies with harmful toxins. In fact, I know of one professor in the National University of Singapore who is researching this area and personally advises against eating commercially produced vegetables as he believes they are a cause of cancer.
This leaves us with 2 options:
- Buy organic or non-GMO greens, which is really expensive! Or
- Grow your own food! Which is not that difficult and can be a really enriching experience.
2. Personal Satisfaction and Well-being
Rather than spending all our free time staring at a screen, spend a few minutes gardening - sowing, planting, watering, pruning, harvesting. It's a much healthier activity and can be pretty therapeutic. It's also very satisfying to see your hard work bear fruit and to taste the fruits of your labour from your very own farm to table!
3. Family Bonding - Learning and Growing Together!
If you have a family, it's also an opportunity to do something meaningful and educational together. Both my wife and teenager (yes!) have taken an interest our home garden.
My wife and I now travel to visit at nurseries together, talk about what we want to plant to eat, and even shift/get rid of furniture to make more space for growing!
My teenager took a bit of coaxing, but she shows increasing interest due to efforts of bringing some of the plants to her room, seeing for herself how some of the seeds have sprouted and are now growing, conversations about capillary action and then practically applying it in our various D.I.Y. and store-bought self-watering pots, all of which bring her Secondary 2 Science lessons to life! Besides, she likes eating Ladies' Fingers (Okra) and we have 4 of those growing in 2 pots!
4. Community Interaction
Urban farming has been gaining momentum and there are now lots of communities doing it. There are now over 1000 community gardens in Singapore such as this plot for 280 families in Bukit Panjang!
There are also lots of Facebook groups and Pinterest boards. In fact, I've reconnected with old friends after sharing our common interest in growing our own food online.
It also provides an opportunity to have fun and hang out together. Last weekend, 5 of us drove up to Zenxin Organic Park in Kluang, Johor, Malaysia. The Zenxin Organic Park is the visitor portion of the Zenxin Organic Farm that supplies organic fruits and vegetables to the Dairy Farm Group in Singapore, which includes Giant, Cold Storage and Marketplace stores.
I saw a Dragon Fruit plant for the first time - it's a huge cactus originally from Mexico! Also came home with 9 Chye Sim seedlings, 4 packs of seeds, 3 mint and 3 Dill plants, and a bagful of organic produce for family and friends.