I don’t know about you all, but I get giddy at the idea of growing stuff. I don’t know if it’s my anti-consumption values, my pro-environment values, or some combination of the two, but I am constantly looking for ways to make things from scratch or be a better steward of the space we have. However, living in an apartment has been a bit challenging on both of these fronts. That being said, I think there are a few things that almost anyone can do, including composting and growing plants with a bonus if they’re edible.
As I’ve written about before, we do worm composting in our apartment. Our main motivation for composting was reducing the amount of waste that we generate. In fact, I didn’t have a plan for the compost when I started the project. I just knew that it would be a viable way to do some good. As apartment dwellers, we don’t qualify for the city to pick up our compost as that’s a service only provided to those who live in single family housing. (Boo!)
That being said, worm composting is super easy. Our worms eat about a half pound (or one yogurt tub) of ground up food scraps each week. In return, we get nutrient rich compost for our plants and our friend’s plants. (We produce WAY too much compost for us to use, but they have a big backyard garden.) As we’re trying to reduce our meat consumption — for a variety of reasons that I’ll discuss later — I imagine that our food scraps might increase, but our overall waste will decrease. It’ll be an interesting experiment. Either way, our worms seem quite happy to munch their way through what we have and I feel better about sending less to the landfill. If you want to learn more about worm composting, the Hippie Haven podcast just had an interesting episode that is super accessible for beginners.
We’re making small strides towards being more sustainable at home by growing some of our own food. We currently have two plants, a jalapeño plant and an avocado plant. It may not seem like much, but these are about all I can handle at the moment. For our indoor garden, I use an aerogarden. I have a bit of a black thumb and have a tendency to kill plants. The aerogarden is great because it automatically turns the grow lights on and off, it tells me when the water is low, and when to add nutrients to the system. In other words, it’s a perfect system for a scatterbrained recovering academic. I’m saving up to buy a farm though. The allure of yearround indoor veggies and herbs is too great.
When we lived in Lansing, I grew tomatoes with it. But, since moving to Colorado, I have been growing jalapeños. Originally, I had a tomato plant growing with the jalapeño plant, but I had to cut my losses when the jalapeño plant started hogging all of the light. Unfortuantely, I think the jalapeño plant is coming close to the end of its life cycle. It’s not producing as much and some of its leaves are turning yellow, despite having enough water. I’m okay with this though. We’ve had an endless supply of jalapeños for my buddy’s poppers, Justin’s crazy hot cooking, and a batch of jalapeño jelly. We even have an entire container of them in the freezer.
My next growing adventure in the AeroGarden will be bell peppers. I asked Justin if he would prefer those or tomatoes and he wholeheartedly voted for the bell peppers. As we buy two to three each week, it won’t take long for us to “be in the money” on the plant. Plus, I can experiment some more with ripening. Did you know that green, yellow, and red bell peppers are all the same fruit that has just had different amount of ripening time? Cool, right?! I’m looking forward to roasting and jarring our own peppers. I love them in hummus and on top of grits with an egg. (Great, now I’m hungry…)
My avocado plant has been a labor of love and an exercise in patience. I started growing our avocado plant from a seed last July and it has been a slow and steady process. The plant is about 18 inches tall now and has five leaves with the beginnings of two new leaves. I’m anxious to see how it does as the temepratures warm up because right now it’s by a window, but I think it would be happier if it was warmer. I did give it a handful of compost a few weeks ago and that seemed to perk him up a bit.
Now for the dreaming. I have been dreaming (and pinteresting) about our new “backyard” space. The townhome that we’re having built will have the world’s smallest backyard. I almost hesitate to call it a backyard as it is really just a small patio. The backyard consists of the 21 foot by 14 foot space between the home itself and the detached garage.
While I’m not sure what the light situation is going to be and I won’t be able to actually plant anything until the 2020 growing season (we’re not moving until August at the earliest), I have envisioned a space with a few raised planters for fruits and veggies. I would love to be able to grow carrots, lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, and snap peas. I’m also thinking about dwarf fruit trees. I’m not under the illusion that we’ll be able to get all of our fruits and veggies from the backyard, but a girl can dream.
How about you? Where do you stand on being more earth friendly?