Many UNM students who live in the city live in apartments, townhouses, or small homes that do not offer a lot of yard space for gardening. But even for those lucky enough to live in a place with a large enough yard to garden in, obstacles may come up that are usually associated with poor soil quality. For those wanting to do some urban gardening in the Albuquerque Metro area, I offer some advice.
But why garden in the first place? The most prominent reason is, of course, safe and healthy food. Average Americans are becoming more cautious of what they consume. Food-borne illnesses and contamination and the additional additives and preservatives in our everyday foods are growing problems in the States. The easy solution is to grow your own food so that you know that your friends and family are eating fresh and safe. During World Wars I and II the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Germany all had campaigns in their home countries encouraging their citizens to grow their own vegetables and fruits in ‘Victory Gardens,’ in order to alleviate the problem of food shortages.
There are many other reasons why one should start a garden. For instance, gardening activities offer both cardio and aerobic exercise. It can add beauty to any space and could also encourage artistic creativity. Finally, gardens can be very therapeutic. As a full time student who works full time as well, I get very little true relaxation time. Gardens provide a necessary retreat and escape from the demands of everyday life. The beauty of thriving plants instantly makes me feel better and everyday maintenance of the garden (such as pulling weeds or even just quietly watering) relieves stress. Eating the beautiful and healthy vegetables you just grew not only helps with your physical health, but also gives you a sense of achievement and success.
Now, how to go about with your garden? First of all, I am a big believer in vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is a term used for worm bin composting. I am a proponent of worm bin composting because:
- You can scale it to any size, whether it be a fully functional urban food forest or a small garden. You may have a few vegetable plants outside planted in poor soil or a few indoor potted plants that just need a little kick. Worm bin composting can be scaled down or up to suit your needs in replenishing or adding nutrients to soil.
- It’s low maintenance. The more common composting methods require a little bit more space and maintenance. A vermicomposting bin can be located in a small area, even in a shelf, in a garage or closet. Not only that, but the primary upkeep involves feeding the worms any vegetable or fruit scraps – they do the rest!
Here is a simple online guide to vermicomposting, but I recommend reading, “Worms Eat My Garbage,” by Mary Applehof, for more in-depth information about worm bin composting.
Secondly, go organic. With small scale gardening, I personally believe that there is absolutely no reason not to go completely organic. This means no chemical fertilizers, synthetic pesticides or herbicides. You’ll have to keep a vigilant eye on your garden though. Also, experimentation is a huge part of organic gardening. Sometimes plants get a greater yield with more or less sun so you might have to move them around. You might want to start companion planting with the Three Sisters, which does well in New Mexico. Embrace experimentation and play around before you resort to a nuclear deterrent such as chemical pesticides.
And finally, grow what you will eat. It is much more motivating and satisfying eating something you’ll enjoy, that you also grew yourself. If you like eating salads, grow greens. If you really enjoy fresh herbs, plant some cilantro or parsley. If you start growing something you won’t even enjoy eating, you just spent a season growing compost material!
Now, how to grow a garden in a small space? Container gardening and vertical gardening is the answer for small space gardening.
-Posted by Billy