Many progressive cities and universities have been experimenting with bringing the fertile valleys of agriculture back home through urban farming projects, and believe it or not, the trend is catching like wildfire among urbanists looking towards a future of sustainability and efficiency. For a long time, many people have had personal gardens to grow a few vegetables or even a fruit tree in the yard, but the sheer scale for which most urban farmers are proposing people to start growing their own food is tremendous.
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If you’re one of those people playing with the idea of growing your own fresh organic fruits and vegetables at home, here are some things to consider when organizing your very own urban farm at home:
What are you growing? - Depending on what you are trying to grow, some plants can be put in the same greenhouse or growing structure. A tropical fruit will demand a different level of moisture, humidity, and temperature than beans, so be sure to organize your seeds according to their growing needs so that you can be efficient in your planting space. Consider organizing them perhaps in separate greenhouses depending on their soil temperature needs.
When are you growing? - As a general rule, most fruits, vegetables, and herbs are planted at the tail end of winter and harvested weeks before the frost comes back. The temperature and weather can determine just how fertile the dirt will be in addition to whether or not the ground will be too hard and frozen to grow anything.
Where are you growing? - Professional farmers divide the United States into 10 different growing zones that has its own set of guidelines for growing food. Depending on your zipcode, your area will reside in one of these zones with varying weather, moisture, average temperatures, and humidity; any combination of these factors will give you a good idea of the breadth of time you have to grow and harvest your crops. Refer to one of the planning sites below to see what your stipulations for your zone is.
For a bit of advice on what you coujld mix together in your greenhouse(s), refer to this guide from almanac.com:
Besides the crops, you must evaluate the actual space on your property that you would like to dedicate to your greenhouse(s) in addition to the structures themselves. You can have a small, cost-effective garden no bigger than the size of a tool shed or you can build a professional structure the size of a pool; it depends on your budget and how much of your grocery list you wish to grow yourself. Greenhouse building experts from Clear Choice Glass Construction state that homeowners looking to build a greenhouse should ask themselves the following questions:
What size do you want? - This can be a difficult question to answer until you know with certainty what flora you want to grow. Basic vegetables don’t require a lot of height, but a higher ceiling would be necessary for larger fruit trees; however, horizontally you may need a larger structure if you want to grow multiple crops in one place. Your budget may also act as a determining factor if you have a hard time deciding what plants or structure size you desire.
How do you want the structure equipped? - You can have a basic set up that depends on only sunlight with extra vents for when it gets too hot in the summer months, or have an extra heating/cooling unit that gives you greater control over the temperature inside the greenhouse. The classic greenhouse is a house-like structure with a pitched roof and made from glass panels while simpler designs are rounder with plastic tarp coverings to retain the heat. Choosing how to construct and equip your greenhouse can affect its functionality as much as its size.
What kind of foundation should there be? - If you are building a structured greenhouse, it’s important that your foundation is level and perfectly square to keep the structure from buckling or undue stress. Floor boards should not sit on the bare ground because they will most likely get damaged by rot in time, so seat them on a flat bed of gravel over a landscaping fabric to prevent weeds from growing up through the floor. If you have the money and room, you can also pour a concrete foundation for added stability, but just be sure to set up a proper drain for any runoff water.
Where on my property should I place the greenhouse? - The most important consideration when placing your structure is sunlight, so putting the greenhouse in a spot where it will receive several hours of direct unobstructed sunlight on all sides is the best place. You may find it helpful to run the ridge (or spine) of the greenhouse in a latitude configuration running east to west; the benefit of this configuration is that at least one of the longer walls will be facing south where the majority of sunlight comes from. Try to keep the structure far enough away from your home or large trees so they don’t cast constant shadows during the day, but make sure they get some shade during the summer months as this will keep the more sensitive plants from drying up.
Once you have your greenhouse set up, all that is needed is for you to start planting the seeds. Remember to plant vegetables and fruits together that demand the same soil temperature at the same time of year, so check the guides linked above for the best combinations. Happy growing and best of luck in your steps toward sustainability and autonomy!
About the Author: Based in Los Angeles, Jonathan Dean has been writing professionally since 2009. He writes for JustRentToOwn.com and his professional interests include housing trends, personal finance, and new urban development.