From the author of the internationally successful How to Grow Microgreens, this companion volume is all about growing edible plants when you only have limited space. Fionna grows a huge range of crops throughout the year on her apartment balcony and, as with her previous book, she writes candidly about the successes (and failures), those plants that crop well or not, and she introduces some more unusual varieties such as water chestnut, ginger and tatsoi.
With over 45 edible plants described, there is something for all tastes and seasons. Fionna again includes delicious recipes with suggestions on how to use the produce you grow so that you can enjoy salads and cooked vegetables from your garden all year round. There is a chapter on encouraging children to grow their own favourite container edibles (children enjoy vegetables so much more when they have grown them themselves), troubleshooting any issues with your container plants and easy instructions on watering and plant nutrition.
I have always been dubious about growing food crops in pots. On the one hand, plants thrive when they have free access to all the water and nutrients they require by digging deep into, or spreading wide in the upper layers of, the soil to harvest them... or they get root-bound by being constrained to a smaller volume of soil and require constant feeding to maintain a healthy supply of raw materials to fuel their growth until they outgrow the containers and either wither or require transplanting into a larger container.
Both options appear to be mutually exclusive, and yet, reading through this book, it appears that a balance can be struck. So... I figured it was worth a try. Investing a few hundred dollars in pots, some nutrients, petrol to drive around town and collect free resources such as used coffee grounds and composted sawdust from untreated wood at a local sawmill... and it was time to get dirty hands.
Potting up such staples as chillis and capsicums, a couple of feijoa saplings, an array of herbs and harvest-on-demand crops like celery, spring onions, perpetual spinach, and a few plots of onions and garlic... and it was time to start hoping.
In the meantime, construction of a basic worm farm and converting a couple of rubbish bins into composters was achieved, and provided an ongoing source of nutritional supplements for the plants as well. Following the guidelines in this book about what plants work well indoors and outdoors, which plants will co-operate and which will adversely affect each other (commonly knowns as 'companion planting') and which non-food crops should be considered as part of a natural pest control and pollenator-attraction system, led to a fairly productive potted garden that rapidly expanded from a a dozen or so pots on the front porch, into a thriving potted ecosystem that almost fully encircled the building, and ended up including zucchinis, pumpkins, a couple of cucumber varieties, tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines, an almost triffid-like array of strawberries, and even kumara.
I found the variety covered in this book to be, frankly, incredible. Everything I could imagine wanting to grow was covered in here, along with many that I personally wouldn't consider, but can easily see others wanting to. Some of the herbs were, I thought, impossible to grow successfully in NZ but with the proper care it seems they can be nurtured into providing a good crop. I was also very pleased to see a section on getting the kids involved, complete with photos to prove it can be done.
The last section - recipes - was by far the best for me... but then I take a lot of pleasure from creating in the kitchen, and though I haven't made any of the dishes as-stated yet, I have used them as the basis for experiments of my own and found them to be great starters.
Overall, despite a few reservations about the sheer cost of doing this over buying bulk-produced crops, I can easily see why people would want to do it; you know exactly what has gone into your food in terms of artificial additives - None, ideally. There's also the sense of satisfaction you get when you harvest your first, and subsequent, crops and know that you grew this. If civilisation as we know it were to fall over and crash tomorrow, you know you can at least feed yourself to some level of standard above that of "whatever you can find in the bottom of the rubbish bin that no-one else found first." I'm a fan, and want to get more titles like this!
Random listing from 'Gardening and Landscaping'...
Dave's ultra-concentrated compost contains slow-release humate, humic and fulvic acids, which are renowned for their capacity for nutrient release and improving soil structure while helping to maximise the benefits of applied fertilisers.
Dave's ultra-concentrated compost is recognised as the most effective of all soil conditioners and can play a direct role in determining the production potential of a soil. In soils devoid ... more...
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Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)