There are many benefits to urban farming including relaxation/stress relief, the production of organic healthy food, and the convenience of growing food that you like to eat. One of the other benefits of urban farming is the ability to grow produce in a very economical way including the ability to grow quality produce much cheaper than it would be to buy it at a market.
I was very fortunate to learn about gardening as a child because my grandfather had a plot at a local community garden. Growing up, I remember helping my grandfather with his garden every year and learning an incredible amount of knowledge from him. This led to me having a green thumb and a passion for growing organic produce. This year that passion has motivated me to build my own garden and do so inexpensively.
1. Reclaim/repurpose materials and supplies
My girlfriend and I had some unused space on the side of our house that is gradually sloped, gets a decent amount of sun, and was the perfect spot. We recently finished a deck project and had a few deck boards left over that were 8 foot-long 2×6’s. I repurposed the deck boards and built 3 raised bed planter boxes that were 8’ long, 1’5” wide, and 1’ tall. I had to buy three extra 8 foot-long 2×6’s boards to complete the lower 3rd tier since I didn’t have enough boards. Each planter box had a 6” drop from the upper box, which created a very nice tiered/terrace look. I also repurposed my reflective truck windshield sun visor (I never used it) and stapled it to the house siding to throw more light into the garden.
2. Use free soil, compost, mulch, and fertilizer
I went to a nearby community garden that has huge piles of free compost and mulch and loaded my truck with the material that I need to fill my boxes and condition/fertilize the beds. I purchased a couple bags of garden soil to mix with the free compost in order to get the right soil makeup that I wanted. You can also make your own compost or use free manure (chicken, horse, or cow).
3. Start by seed
I decided to save money by growing from seed rather than purchasing young plants from a nursery so I purchased a variety of seeds to add to the various seeds I had saved from previous years. I started germinating the seeds in-doors using moist paper towels in a Zip-lock bag for the hardier seeds (then transplanting to small starter containers) and sowing directly in the beds for the smaller more dainty seeds. I also planted garlic and shallots that I got from my kitchen that were going to go bad soon if they weren’t used or planted. I plan to dry and save seeds again this year to use next year.
The total cost of the project was <$75 for seeds, soil/compost, boards, screws, etc. I purchased plenty of seeds to last the next few years and even gave some away to friends and family. Going forward my garden should be very cheap to maintain.
Below is a list of everything that I am growing:
Heirloom tomatoes (green, orange, and red), cherry tomatoes (red and yellow), poblano peppers, jalapeño peppers, garlic, scallions, bunching onions, leeks, strawberries, kale, zucchini (green and yellow), cucumber, heirloom carrots, mint, basil, and cilantro.