Urban Farming at Home – Part 1: Building our garden

by Stefmanovic


Building the garden

Turning beer cans into planters.

With the economic crisis seeming to go on for another decade and an upcoming global food crisis (thank you Monsanto) we’ve decided to start growing our own food. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of having entire cities covered in greens. I imagined people building gardens on their roofs. Looking at how cities such as Havana have started to produce their own food after the collapse of the Soviet Union, I wondered how cool it would be if a city like for example Rotterdam would start produce its own food on a larger scale. For years I’ve been bugging my friends about how awesome it would be to produce food at home, and do this on a societal scale. I wonder how your supermarket would react to that…

How does one start with this sort of thing?
Looking at the space we’ve got, it’s not that much. We won’t be able to grow enough food to be self-sustaining, a balcony is kind of limited that way, but at least we could grow some stuff. Many people (including some very respectable corporate figures) suggested I should grow marijuana on the balcony. Whilst it is legal to possess several marijuana plants in the Netherlands, our landlord has forbidden us to do so. Also, I haven’t really smoked the stuff since… highschool (must be a Dutch thing), meaning all I could do with it is give it away or sell it, not really worth the time then. Well, drug trade is very lucrative, but once again, the landlord thing kind of prevents that.

Garlic between the other crops

Garlic between the lettuce.

Anthropological flashbacks
So we have a limited sized space, so most logical thing to grow would be herbs and small vegetables/fruits. We places a few planters outside, these have been filled with cucumbers,¬†cauliflowers, bell peppers, lettuce and onions (both yellow and red). Being all paranoid about possible parasites I remembered a wise lesson I’ve learned from a farmer in Peru during my anthropology days; the farmed grew hundreds of different types of crops, basically creating an ecosystem on his own plot of land. On average he had about a hundred different species of fruits and vegetables per acre. He told me that garlic function as a great natural means to protect nearby plants from diseases and parasites. That combined with the fact that I really love garlic meant we had to do this. I grabbed some garlic from the fridge, tore the cloves off and places them between the other crops.

Crops in cans

Beer cans filled with lettuce and rucola.

The planters however weren’t enough, we needed more of them. Instead of buying more of them we came up with another idea. We had a bunch of beer cans left and felt it a waste to throw them away; so we cut them up, stuck them to the balcony railing with iron wire (iron wire is your friend) and filled with up with soil. Now these metal objects, which once were filled with alcoholic beverages, are now home to lettuce and rucola.

Coming soon…
Inside, the window frame functions as the incubator area of our homemade agriculture. Small black boxes house various other crops such as parsley, zucchini and sugar peas. Hopefully we’ll be able to put them on the balcony soon as well.

The onions tend to grow rather quick, same goes for the garlic. Hopefully we’ll be able to harvest them soon and put some other crops in there. We’ve got radishes, sunflowers and dille ready and waiting. Might have to be careful here since soon this sort of activity might become illegal (once again, thank you Monsanto and co.). Does this mean that what we’re doing here is subversive behavior?

EDIT: I’ve added a few more photos on my tumblr, you can check them our here.