It seems that growing vertically is now all the rage. The growing walls were featured on Gardeners World at the NEC and probably will be at Hampton Court Flower show next week as they're a great way to grow a lot of produce in a small space.
In my last post I shared the picture from Vertical Veg showing a wooden pallet turned into a small growing wall, so I thought I'd have a go myself. I put some shelves in on a couple of levels, for support and drilled drainage holes in the wood. Then I lined everything with plastic and filled the troughs with fleece and grow bag compost, the fleece is for water retention. The top layers are watered and the water filters down through to the bottom. This took me the best part of Thursday!
Today I tidied the area and put down gravel to hopefully deter slugs and snails. The tiers are planted with pea and broad beans at the top for sprouting salads, and the middle section is for small, quick growing leeks. Lower down are mixed salad leaves and pak choi, the middle level has tumbling toms and at the bottom basil, coriander and chives.
In the tubs I've planted long, early carrots and also some small round carrots. Basically, all the lovely ingredients that you would find in a bag of supermarket salad, but at a fraction of the cost, no packaging and picked fresh when you want it.
The strawberries are fabulous and soooo sweet. I don't know about you, but I get tired of all the bulky tubs that fruit is sold in these days. I've tried re-using them for growing seeds, but really, the simplest solution is to produce your own food, then you don't have to deal with excess packaging or worry about it all ending up in landfill.
Tonight I picked over 1lb (500g) of strawberries from plants that cost me roughly £5.00 last year. The strawberries set runners last year and doubled my number of plants at no extra cost! I'll let them set again this year and plant the new strawberries out in planters. The parent plants only last 3 or 4 years, so when the old ones die off I'll already have replacements. Then I'll give the strawberry bed a rest and grow something else there.
I'm going to see how much food I can produce from a relatively small space as my garden needs to meet the needs of the whole family. I could dig up the lawn and that would give me at least 6 large vegetable beds, but I don't want to do this as it's not just somewhere to grow food but a place in which we all relax and somewhere for the children and animals to play. My Greenhouse and growing area take up roughly 12 feet square, then I have two raised beds, each of about 5 foot square and the small bed which is roughly 3 or 4 foot square. There are 6 or 7 large pots and a couple of small troughs.
When I look back at the food I produced from the field allotment, I realise that although 2009 was my best harvest, I did lose an awful lot of food to the rabbits, deer and slugs. In a garden, these problems are less likely, plus I have running water here, which the field doesn't have, so labour is less. The disadvantage is that I can't grow the bulk crops like onions and potatoes, but I'll just get them in bulk in the Autumn and focus on growing the things that soon add up to a lot at the supermarket.
My goals are:
Good quality, low priced food.
Almost no packaging, other than seed packets. Reduce carbon footprint.
Encourage my children to learn about Permaculture and sustainable living while experimenting with new foods and tastes.
Enjoy my garden.
Produce my own herbs for culinary and health benefits.