growing a sustainable, tiny garden


Springtime in Vermont. One of my favorite seasons. "Spring, Kate? It's mid-June!" you might say. Well... let me explain. The seasons here in the Vermont mountains go something like:

November - April = winter
May + June = spring
July + August = summer
September + October = fall

It's a cool, damp day as I sit here writing. Probably in the low 60's. I'm drinking hot coffee and I am wrapped in a bathrobe. So... stil spring! But there's so much to love about this time of year, and one of my personal favorites is planning and planting the balcony garden. This year I wanted to fill it with as many edibles as possible. We planted lettuce, basil, and some herbs last year, which looked very pretty but had an extremely small yield, and the lettuce was left too long and went bitter. (I was unfamiliar with the variety, which didn't help either.) This year, I want to hone my gardening skills and get as much yield as possible from our little garden.

Growing my own food as much as I am able to is something that has become more and more dear to me as I continue to grow and learn on my sustainability journey. I would say that, at this point, 80% of what we eat is locally sourced from nearby farmers, and hopefully, later in the season, some of that will be sourced directly from our own garden! Growing your own vegetables is a wonderful practice, it lowers waste, helps with the grocery bill, and it's incredibly sustainable. 

How we started the garden... what was sustainable, and what wasn't

We sourced all of our plants from either local organic farmers, or from the nursery just down the road from us (they sell some organic plants & herbs as well). We planted primarily in the garden box that we DIYed ourselves last summer (see the video here) and in Ecoforms containers, which are made out of renewable grain fibers and are biodegradable (they last outside about 5 years before they begin to break down). Their facility is also solar powered. 

Going to the local farmers market and getting to meet the farmers who started our little plants from seed was a wonderful experience. I love getting to put faces and locations to the hands and resources that went into growing the lovely little sprouts now chillin' happily on my balcony. It makes gardening richer and more rewarding in every way. Plus, whenever I can support my local farmers, I'm here for that.

For watering the garden, we've been able to so far scoop water right out of our lake, which has been WONDERFUL. Unfortunately, a 'beautification' committee has been somehow granted permission to dump chemicals that are banned in the EU into the lake almost every year, (I know. Like, in Vermont? What?) making the water unusable for us. :'( So we just installed a rain barrel for backup.

Now...the unsustainable bits. Which I think are so important to not shy away from. Trash auditing is important, and it helps me to become more aware of what's working, what's not, and what I need to change out for something more sustainable.

Though we were able to source organic, nutrient-dense soil from our local nursery it came in a plastic bag, and not all plastics can be recycled in every state or facility. I'm still learning about alternatives - facilities that you can actually send some of these types of materials to for recycling. Next season, I'd love to find a farmer who has some organic soil that we can just drive up with the pickup truck and shovel a bunch into the bed. Some of the pots and starter containers were also plastic, most of which could be recycled, but others seemed unlikely. 

The vegetables, herbs, and aromatics we chose to grow this season:

Beefsteak tomatoes
Orange Cocktail tomatoes
Apple cherry tomatoes
Red grape tomatoes
Red bell peppers
Escamillo peppers
Bush green beans
Market greens
Flat leaf parsley
Purple kale
Patchouli (i had to)
And sweet basil 

One of my favorites to watch so far has been the green beans - they germinated and sprouted SO quickly, I was absolutely amazed! It's such a wonder to watch plants grow, isn't it? It never ceases to amaze me. 

Our balcony really isn't very big at all. It's a little space, but it's been impressive just how much we have been able to grow here, and I couldn't be more excited for the yield. I love the fact that growing something sustainably really isn't that hard, and you really don't need that much space. Start mindfully & with what you have. That's really it.

If you want to take a peak at what the planting process was like, check out the little vlog I made here!

Are you growing anything this year? Flowers, edibles? What are your thoughts on growing your own food? I would love to hear about it below. <3

Some songs I've been gardening/driving to the farmer's market listening to:

growing a sustainable, tiny garden

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