Notes to broadcasters
Content: Boxes, baskets, used tires, plastic bags, and bottles are some of the containers you can use to grow crops for food or profit in the city.
Do you think that because you live in a town or a city you cannot grow food for your family or for the market? In almost no space at all, some city families grow crops that improve their diet and earn them money too!
They learned that growing crops in rows in fields is not the only way to produce fresh food. All that plants need to grow is light, water, and something to root in that will give them the food they need. And they can get these things right in the city – right where you live!
You can even grow crops on a wall as long as it gets some sunlight. Some city farmers attach long narrow planters or boxes to their walls. Others hang plastic pots or halves of plastic soft drink bottles. Many plants, like cucumber and melon, are happy to grow up a wall or fence if you support them with sticks or twine.
In Hong Kong, the world’s most crowded city, vegetables are grown in containers that rest on top of the floating cages used for raising fish. And in Old Delhi, in India, you can find silkworms producing their magic yarn in boxes on people’s verandas.
Did you know that some restaurants grow their own mushrooms and bean sprouts indoors, in containers? In Colombia, a women’s cooperative uses stairwells, roof tops, and tiny yards to produce vegetables for a supermarket chain by using a type of gardening called hydroponics, that uses no soil at all!
You will have to make sure that the soil mixture in your containers will give you strong plants. Begin with any earth that you find near your home, and add organic material. You can add grass clippings, rice hulls, vegetable scraps from your kitchen or a market or restaurant, crushed eggshells, shredded newspapers, corn cobs and husks, animal dung, leaves, weeds, sawdust.
You can add these just as they are, but plants make better use of them if you let them rot into compost first. Put them in a basket, or a pile, or even a small hole in the ground. Keep the mixture moist, and stir it every few days to speed up the rotting process. After several weeks you will have a compost mix that will really improve your soil.
Plants must have water. In hot countries you probably will not be able to depend on regular rains to keep your plants moist. Containers of soil dry out quickly in hot weather and when the plants are growing well. Cover the soil in your pots with something that will help to keep it from drying out. Use wood chips, paper, leaves, sawdust, whatever you can find. Check your containers every day and see how often each one needs water. Avoid overwatering as much as underwatering.
One tip successful container gardeners often give is, “Grow short season crops.” A crop that is ready in 60 days is worth much more than one that takes 120 days to mature. Another good tip is, “Do not grow what everyone else is growing because the price for that crop will probably be low.”
Some city farmers who grow vegetables in containers also raise chickens and rabbits. They feed less‑than‑perfect vegetables and scraps to the animals and use the animal urine and dung to fertilize the vegetables.
Container, or “farm in a box” gardening delivers good nutrition and a more stable family income. And the plants themselves recycle waste and clean the air, helping to make the city a better place for everyone. Container farmers even find that their houses are cooler in summer and warmer in winter, because the containers and plants protect their houses from extreme temperatures. Why not improve the life of your family and your neighbourhood by starting a “farm in a box”?
Jac Smit, RCD Consultants, 1711 Lamont Street N.W., Washington D.C., 20010, U.S.A., fax: 202‑986‑6732.
“Container Gardening,” Learning‑by‑doing leaflet No. 13, OUTREACH pack 73. Published by OUTREACH, 200 East Building, New York University, New York, New York, 10003, U.S.A.
Growing food in containers in the tropics. Published by Agricultural Research, Science and Education Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, P.O. Box 53326, New Orleans, Louisianna 70153, U.S.A.
Rooftop or shallow‑bed gardening, by Martin Price. Published by ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization), 1986. 17430 Durrance Road, North Ft. Myers, Florida 33917‑2200, U.S.A.