There’s no fresher diet than a home-grown one. And by growing your own food, you’re not just living a healthy life, you’re doing a lot for the cause of sustainability, too: your diet is automatically regional and seasonal, your food is pesticide-free and does not need to be transported. What is more, you can reduce your ecological footprint by saving CO2 and packaging waste. And finally, you’re supporting the urban climate and biodiversity.
Raised beds are ideal for urban gardeners: since they offer lots of space, plants thrive and nutrients are retained for longer in the relatively large volume of soil. You can place raised beds on a balcony, on a (roof) terrace, in a front garden or in a courtyard. They allow cultivation of just about anything that grows in a garden. Be careful to combine only those plant species that have the same soil and nutrient requirements.
> There are many different types of raised bed – those that are specially designed for wheelchair users, for example, or raised beds on legs. The latter are easier to move and offer storage space underneath for items such as watering cans or plants that need a little more shade.
Pots are another way of introducing a miniature-sized garden to your home: they allow you to grow almost everything on the balcony that would otherwise grow in a fruit or vegetable garden. Again: the bigger the space, the happier your plant will be. Ideally, pots should have a diameter of at least 20 cm and a capacity of 5 to 7 litres. Here you can grow tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and – with climbing aids – cucumbers and runner beans. Raspberries, currants and gooseberries can also be planted in large pots.
Balcony boxes are particularly suitable for fast-growing vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage stems, lettuce or kohlrabi. Herbs, rocket, radishes and strawberries do well in a window box, too. As a general rule, take a careful look at your balcony’s orientation: some plants prefer a shady spot, while others are better suited to more sunshine. Ask your local specialist for advice
> you know that there are now miniature varieties of many vegetables? These include peppers, cucumbers, pumpkins, aubergines and even balcony tomatoes. Your local retailer can advise you on seed varieties that are specially tailored to pot growing.
> Columnar fruit trees and miniature fruit. Want to grow fruit such as pears, cherries, apples or plums on your balcony? This is possible, too – thanks to what is known as columnar fruit trees. These grow 2 to 3 metres in height without developing wide side shoots. Dwarf fruit trees are even smaller and take up even less space. Both varieties grow in containers and pots
If you’re space is limited, go vertical. A so-called step planter is a tiered construction that holds several individual pots or balcony boxes for growing herbs or vegetables, for example. Flower racks and plant ladders are other suitable options here.
In a herb carousel, large pots are filled with soil, fitted with a drainage pipe and stacked on top of each other according to size. The remaining areas can then be used to grow herbs, lettuce, strawberries or vegetables such as beetroot or fennel. They look great and save space.
No outdoor space available? That’s what you think! You're forgetting the wall of the building. Various suppliers sell planting bags for lettuce, herbs and strawberries. You could also make one yourself by filling the compartments of an old shoe organiser with soil. Or why not make a vertical hanging bed out of an old pallet? There are lots of options for turning your bare walls into a kitchen garden!
If a planting bag doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can always become a green-fingered gardener right inside your own home. When it comes to cultivating plants indoors, it’s important for your plants to get the light they need: in this way you can grow columnar fruit trees (see above) or berries in pots inside your home. For herbs, use your window sill, hanging pots or room dividers.
> If you don't have a sunny windowsill for your indoor herb garden, use a plant pot with built-in LED lights (e.g. by Pro Idee). These automatically simulate day and night, allowing you to enjoy fresh herbs regardless of location or season.
Plastic might be light and practical, but if you want to make your urban gardening even more sustainable, use containers made of materials such as certified, regional wood, clay or metal. If you do have to use plastic, recycled plastic is better. More about the plastic problem here.
No peat: sustainable soil
Did you know that soil containing peat is harmful to the environment? There are several reasons for this: peat is extracted from peatlands – a process that destroys entire ecosystems. Also, peat stores CO2 in the soil and releases it again during decomposition. So be sure to use soils that are certified peat-free (unfortunately, the label “organic” is not sufficient here).
Use organic seeds
The world of seeds is huge. Seek advice from an organic nursery to find out more about the seeds or young plants that suit your needs. With young plants or seedlings in particular, make sure they have been cultivated in organic soil using suitable, chemical-free fertilisers.
Car sharing: sustainable transport
Whether you’re going shopping for planters or soil, stopping off at the nearest seed market or taking seedlings home from the organic nursery – you can do a lot for the environment when it comes to transport, too. Mobility allows you to stay sustainable even when transporting heavy objects.