There are countless reasons for why it make sense to have your own vegetable and herb garden, even if you are an apartment dweller with limited space. Below are my top five reasons:
- They grow so quickly– One of the great joys of houseplant ownership is watching your plants grow, but realistically, even a monstera optimistically only grows one new leaf every month, with cuttings taking a couple of months to grow their first leaf. When it comes to herbs and vegetables, that growth is so much faster. Planting a cucumber seed can have you with a 4 inch plant within a month straight from the seed. And, if you really wanted speed, placing the bottom of a head of lettuce or a sprint onion in water can get you growth within two days. I personally have spring onions always growing in water, and I chop some off of the top when I need it. They regrow several times so long as you don’t cut too far down. While you can’t be a self sufficient farmer with a window sill of an apartment, you can easily shave a couple dollars off of your grocery bill with very little work and no money. (Just check out my time lapse video of my cilantro growth for proof of growth speed!)
- Better for the environment– It is now common knowledge that big agriculture (and it’s closely related factory farming cousin) are major causes of environmental damage, climate change and the increased lack of biodiversity. There are simply too many people on the earth for farmers to be able to keep up with feeding without destroying forests and wooded areas for monofarmed land. While growing a few cucumbers a season is not going to solve climate change, if urban apartment dwellers all had a few herb and vegetable plants, the plants themselves would have a very positive impact on both cleaning the air and also making a small dent in the agricultural and supply chain needs of cities that is leading to substantial environmental destruction and fuel costs.
- Better for your health– Everyday that a plant is removed from its root system, it is losing its nutritional value. For fresh food, this means that by the time it has reached the grocery store, vegetables can hav lost 30% of its nutritional value, and that is before it spends additional time in the fridge. Freezing vegetables is actually a great solution to a lot of that vitamin and mineral loss, but most vegetables are actually required to be boiled prior to being frozen for health reasons, meaning that by the time you cook your vegetables at home, the plant has already been boiled, frozen and then cooked, decimating all of the nutrients that it has to offer (Fruit, on the other hand, does not face this same issue or treatment). While the improved taste of fresh vegetables is universally known, the massive nutritional benefits of eating a vegetable right off of the vine is far less discussed, despite being very important.
- Save money– I have personally invested thousands of dollars into my houseplant collection and know many people that have done the same. While reselling propagations and cuttings is a way of generating some of that revenue back, it’s pretty well known that houseplants are more like pets- they cost money and serve no greater perhaps beyond making you happy. Vegetables and herbs are different. While the upfront cost hovers around a dollar (seriously- use an old jar of tomato sauce instead of buying a pot and take the seeds/ cuttings from vegetables you already have), you’re signing up to get free groceries in a couple of months. Herbs, in particular, are real cost savers if you normally buy them fresh as a small sprig of basil can run a few dollars, while a plant can easily grow ten times that size in a few months.
- It’s actually easier than growing houseplants– This is obviously subjective, but I have never been concerned about the humidity, over watering or soil type of my herb and vegetable gardens. Since there is such a focus on the harvesting of the vegetable, things like monitoring the yellowing of leaves and wondering if there is root rot is just not as applicable, as the entire life of most of my vegetable plants hovers around a few months (though you can obviously keep them longer) before I rotate to a different vegetable. My houseplants are monitored and I make sure that leaves are growing at the correct rate and that there are no signs of curling or yellowing, while my vegetables are all on a sill with their mini trellis being watered a couple of times a week. When I really feel like spoiling them, I’ll toss some coffee grinds into the mix and that is really the full extent of their needs.
My recommended urban garden vegetables and herbs
The best test of whether you are going to love growing vegetables at home is to simply go to the vegetables section of a grocery store and buy a spring onion, cut the top and put it water. Spring onion has been the most durable, fastest growing vegetable for an urban garden. Beyond this trick I’d recommend the following:
- Herbs (literally any herb besides mint which I have found to be finnicky)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Snap peas
- Hot Peppers