Growing Food – Options For the City Dweller

There has been much publicized attention on the increasingly popular option of growing your own food; as it is only through making ourselves more self sufficient are we able to strive for increased resilience within our communities; becoming more independent whilst minimizing our Carbon Footprint.

However, achieving this self-sufficiency through production of your own food is for many impractical and time consuming; consequently if we are as a society to achieve reduced reliance on governing constraints such as 'Just in Time' production strategies, action needs to be taken.

There are a number of options, which you as an individual and homeowner can do; as the personal choices we make now, such as choosing organic to locally sourced food dictate our relationship with food, influencing supply, and thus shaping environmental conditions for future generations to come.

Acquiring our food at locally produced sources will greatly reduce the carbon emissions, as the product has a much lower embodied energy, whereby the total energy which has gone into its production and subsequent transport. Foreign imports, now dominating our supermarket shelves are in effect very high carbon foods, due to substantial miles travelled, predominately by air to get there.

Options for the City dweller

For many, the choices we make about food are greatly dictated by our built environment, in terms of where and how we live. As for many, living in an urban location, the option to grow your own may seem unfeasible, uneconomical and impractical; however although you may not be able to meet all your needs, it is possible to supplement your existing weekly shopping trip with some home grown fruit and vegetables.

If you are living in an urban location; a number of options are available depending on your current circumstances, e.g. type of property, amount of space, availability of private or communal garden.

  • Use of indoor pot plants - through 'Hydroponic gardening' which is simply a pot filled with water, inert material and a combination of differing nutrients essential for growth - these may be bought at most conventional plant stores such as Home base.
  • Hanging Baskets - provide an attractive feature outside your home, require minimal maintenance and are great for growing spices and herbs.
  • Green Roofs - For many with limited floorspace, or whom have recently built a new flat roofed extension or have a garage, there is an option for homeowners to grow food on their roof. This is only applicable to those whom have ownership of their roof fabric; due to significant structural implications/ cost constraints. Those in apartments may need to obtain communal consent to carrying out such a scheme. A number of plants can be grown, which can supplement food bill, may be grown, depending on whether you opt for extensive or intensive roof systems. More information found at Green Roofs.
  • Balconies - Those in apartments may benefit from a balcony, which depending on your orientation, as you ideally need 6-7 hours of daylight for growing edible plants.
  • Garden plants - Many plants are suitable and capable of growing in small plots in soils of poor fertility, including even contaminated soils, or those suffering from high levels of leaching.
  • Greenhouses - provide shelter during winter and maximizes daylight through a magnifying effect, allows a range of plants to be grown, although more costly and requires sufficient land.

As the UK is increasingly becoming a warmer, more Mediterranean climate, the options for growing your own food become much more diverse and varied, allowing a wide array of different and often traditionally associated as tropical crops/ foods to be grown.

To attain complete self sufficiency, we need to combine home grown food with localized electricity production if we are to continue our high energy consumer lifestyle. There are a number of elements which can be implemented into the home to supplement your fuel bills whilst reducing your carbon footprint, including wind turbines to the use of solar panels.