Grow your own Fruits and Vegetables Sustainably and Tasty

Grow your own Fruits and Vegetables Sustainably and Tasty

What motivates us to grow our own fruits and vegetables? The effort as such of course. The prospect of a harvest, no matter how modest. A green and at the same time colorful garden. Foods without poison. Improvement of the environment.

The fact that the exercise it takes to grow your own fruits and vegetables, in combination with the outdoor work, keeps you fit. Of course, the examples of others also motivate particularly well, because there is no motivation without inspiration.

In this article, I present some of the examples we know of. The aim is to inspire you to also grow your own fruits and vegetables. 

No motivation without inspiration

Sustainable Kitchen Garden
Bullas, kitchengarden

The green touch of our environment helps a lot. We live next to a nature park. Moreover, there are a lot of huertos (orchards) and campos de hortalizas (vegetable fields) here.

Botanical, community, and urban agricultural gardens are also inspiring sources. A friend runs an organic fruits and vegetable shop in a village nearby and cultivates a lot of his produce on his own lands.

Recently we visited a group of young people that revive a huge tract of disused agricultural land. 

Green touch

City nurseries, like city parks and graveyards and the trees on the sidewalks, are all maintained by local governments. They add the oh so necessary green touch to the modern cities that are dominated by stinky cans on wheels and horrendous concrete buildings. The challenge for us is to add to this green touch, and profit at the same time ourselves, by growing our own fruits and vegetables.

Urban community gardens

In my article ‘Food, from menace to savior’ I suggest to grow your own fruits and vegetables with your neighbors. One example of this is here in Puerto de Mazarrón.

In 2008 the entire city of Todmorden in the UK turned into an agricultural garden with the Incredible Edible Todmorden project.

Grow your own fruits and vegetables together with your neighbors
Puerta de Mazarrón, Urban community garden

Urban community gardens create:

  • Better physical and social quality in the neighborhood;
  • Opportunities for unskilled workers, alternative care, nursery and recreation;
  • Jobs for unskilled workers;
  • And provide more production options for farmers.

Another example of an urban community garden is the Prinzessinnengärten in Berlin, Germany. There they integrate welfare, urban planning, and environmental politics.

When you’re blessed with a house with a garden, like us, you sometimes forget that people also live in apartment buildings (such as the apartments surrounding the Prinzessinnengärten). Although some people are very creative, there is hardly any room for a green touch. For people who live in apartment blocks, urban community gardens are a marvelous green opportunity. 

Inspiring Spanish village gardens

On a regular basis we travel through the beautiful Spanish countryside. Once out of the tourist routes we find the most beautiful, small, characteristic and idyllic villages. 

Most villages have a church, a plaza mayor with a bar or a restaurant, a convent of some sort and a small village garden.

These gardens are always well kept and the fruits and vegetables are always abundant and look great. With the exception of the siësta hours, we often see an old man hoeing between the plants. 

Someday soon, when our Spanish is adequate enough, we will try to tap into their undoubtedly vast agricultural knowledge. 

Botanical gardens

Planting a fig tree
Planting a fig tree with our grandsons

Other inspiring examples are botanical gardens. When we travel we make an effort to visit as many botanical gardens as we can during holidays. This is a feat that I think is inspired by our frequent visits to Insel Hombroich in Germany. Although our first visit to the big California nature parks in 1991 might also have contributed substantially.

There are beautiful botanical gardens in Holland, such as the big glass Hortus in the middle of Amsterdam and the open-air Hortus in Leiden. In the village where we used to live there was also a small and very well kept Hortus

Here in Spain, the most beautiful botanical garden we visited is the one in Valencia. Although the botanical gardens in Cordoba and Malaga are also impressive. In general, many major cities with a university have botanical gardens.

But there are also more secluded ones. In the Comunidad Autónoma de Andalucia, there are 12 secluded botanical gardens. One of them is the Jardín Botánico Umbría de la Virgen near the small Village which is accordingly called Maria on the A317.

This botanical garden is one of Spain’s most important ones because it harbors a vast collection of the Quercus Ilex (evergreen oak, holly oak, or holm oak). 

Most botanical gardens here in Spain are equipped with an agricultural garden. However, they probably are not meant to be seen by the visitors because there are never signs explaining the plants. With the exception of the botanical garden in Cordoba. 

2 different kinds of mint
Two kinds of Mint. Tip: don’t put mint directly into your garden, give it its own pot. Otherwise, it will overgrow your other plants.

We grow our own fruits and vegetables

Our efforts to grow our own fruits and vegetables are modest. At the moment we have a few square meters for strawberries, tomatoes, and zucchini. We also have 3 lemon trees, an olive tree, and both a green and a black fig tree that all have difficulty growing up.

In several pots, we grow mint (two different types) for tea. You just clip a twig of some 10 centimeters, put the twig in a teacup, and pour some hot water on it. Delicious.

Grow your own fruits and vegetables: a global movement

I was very surprised to learn that the urban community gardens movement in the USA met with such heavy opposition by conservative politicians. In the mid-’90s, in New York, former mayor Rudy Giuliani planned to bulldoze dozens of urban agricultural gardens.

Fortunately, this had a counterproductive effect. The citizen’s consciousness was raised and turned urban gardening into a movement. Urban community gardens prove to fulfill an economic function because they provide cheap, fresh food that many people can’t afford. These gardens are also places of gathering, cooperation, and act as reciprocal education centers for people of different ages and cultures.

Join the Global Urban Gardening Movement 

No matter how modest our efforts, we’re very proud that so far we succeeded in rearing at least some fruits and vegetables. We are dedicated to participate with so many other people in the Global Urban Gardening Movement.

Related: Healthy Lifestyle: What are the Lifetime Benefits of Organic Food

If you’re also proud of your kitchen garden or if you participate in an urban agricultural garden project, or you know any urban community initiatives or botanical gardens you like, please send us your pictures and stories, and, if available, a cross-reference on the Internet. We’ll be very grateful and will share the results.

Do you have a kitchen garden? Let us know in the comment box below.

6 thoughts on “Grow your own Fruits and Vegetables Sustainably and Tasty”

    • Wow!! Do they taste good?
      It’s such a marvelous feeling, isn’t it, when you can harvest edibles from your own garden. We are lucky enough to be able to have several planting seasons over here. And although we have to get used to a different kind of soil than we had in the Netherlands and way different temperatures, it is still very gratifying to grow stuff.

      Reply
  1. Wow, I didn’t know that urban community gardens even exist. That’s a great way of connecting people and somehow forcing them to grow plants and eat healthier. I lived in a house with a big garden, but now I live in an apartment.

    We don’t have a garden, the only place where I could grow some plants is on my balcony. What do you think, what are the best plants I could grow there? I was thinking of some smaller plants, so I still have enough space to sit on the balcony, drink coffee in the morning, and sometimes make a BBQ.

    Reply
    • Hi Petar,

      Thanks for your comment. On your balcony growing plants largely depends on the amount of sun the balcony takes on an average day. The more sun, the more chances of success.

      The plants that take up the least space, usually are herbs. Such as rosemary, basil, coriander, tarragon, chives, thyme. Although thyme is a more difficult plant because it needs less water and a more specific type of soil, so it’s best grown in a different plant pot.

      Here in Spain, we buy our seeds from two voluntary associations that are specialized in organic seeds. And we only use organic soil.

      When you grow plants on your balcony it is also important to grow plants that get flowers, such as lavender. This attracts bees that will pollinate your plants. This is necessary when you grow for instance paprikas or tomatoes. By the way, paprika and tomato plants don’t take up much space either.

      Good luck with your balcony garden.

      For now, stay safe, stay healthy.

      Regards,
      Tom

      Reply
  2. Great article Tom.
    Some communities here in Canada have community gardens where families can grow some vegetables.
    Our oldest granddaughters high school grows a vegetable garden. The students plant and grow the plants and when harvested the school cafeteria uses that produce in lunches for the students.
    I love this program as it teaches the kids where their food comes from.
    We are fortunate to live in a rural community and have the room to grow plenty of fruits and vegetables. I can and freeze plenty of vegetables for use in the winter.
    Our youngest son successfully grows lettuce and tomatoes on the balcony of his apartment. While he doesn’t have the space to grow all of his food, he can certainly grow some which is so satisfying.
    Thanks for this great article.

    Reply
    • Hi Deb,

      Community and school gardens are a blessing. Although the history behind their revival is not a happy story.

      During wartime governments always urge the citizens to grow their own food, because of distribution problems. In rural areas, this is hardly sound advice. In cities with many apartment buildings, there is not enough space. So, city parks changed into community gardens.

      With the crisis, starting in 2008, many citizens lost their job and got into serious financial problems. This prompted them to start growing food in abandoned building areas or at the outskirts of cities. Fortunately, the gardens didn’t disappear. In the current pandemic crisis, they still come in handy.

      Here in Spain, there are hardly any community gardens. Most families share a bit of land somewhere. Just as they often share a second or third house or apartment. Because the land is usually not close by enough to grow fruits and vegetables that take a lot of attention, most of these small patches of land have olive, lemon, orange, or mandarin trees.

      During the lockdown, many of the fruits could not be harvested. A sad sight, all the fruits rotting away on the land. Nevertheless, this is also a kind of community type of garden.

      Thank you for your comment and compliments.

      For now, stay safe, stay healthy.

      Regards,
      Tom

      Reply

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