Trying to eat better or use food as medicine, but live in an urban environment? Is it just too expensive to buy all the fresh, organic things you want? Have just a small yard or balcony? Maybe you have a window box and nothing else. Or just a window. Welcome to container gardens! You can still grow lots of foods, and even medicine! Try growing these five powerful foods in your small space.
Blueberries are already well-suited to container gardening, and some varieties have been bred specifically for that purpose. Better yet, blueberries can be grown in most US climates, as they may be brought indoors during the winter. Look for a container blueberry that suits your needs, and reap the benefits all season long!
In the 84 calories you’ll consume from an entire cup of blueberries, you’ll get healthy doses of vitamin C, manganese, vitamin K, and fiber. Blueberries contain a high percentage of antioxidants for your heart and brain. While they taste sweet, they have a low glycemic index due to their anthocyanin content – this means they’re a great fruit choice for diabetics and those on sugar-avoiding diets. They’ve earned the label “superfood”, and with their uses from sweet desserts to savory sauces for a roast, they’ve earned a spot in your healing container garden! Learn how to grow blueberries in pots here.
You spend how much each month on turmeric capsules? Are you even sure you’re getting what you pay for? Grow you own turmeric, and create delicious meals or dehydrate your own and put it in capsules. You’ll get the benefit of the whole herb, not just the curcumin, and you’ll know for sure you’re getting pure, unadulterated turmeric. Just be sure to add black pepper to any turmeric recipe, so you get the full benefits of the herb.
In addition to being perfect for indoor and container gardening, turmeric has a lot of health benefits. I say this in case you’re new to the “natural” stuff, or have been living under a rock. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory that does better than Tylenol and even some narcotic drugs in human tests. That’s right, you can grow pain reliever. It’s also used to settle upset tummies, has been shown to boost the cardiovascular system, and may help delay onset of diabetes. Pretty much, you should be looking into turmeric if you aren’t already. Then stick a root in a container and grow away!
Feeling a cold coming on? Chop a clove of garlic and swallow it with a glass of (non-skim) milk. Garlic is one of the first defenses against all manner of woes, from heart disease and high cholesterol to fighting viruses and bacteria. Plus, you’ll save money at the grocery store. Garlic stores well for long periods, so with some good instructions you can have home-grown garlic all year long!
Garlic doesn’t need a special pot or expensive container, you can grow it right in plastic tub from the MegaMart if that’s what you have. You’ll get benefits as you thin the plants and harvest green garlic, as well as from the mature bulbs. Learn how to plant garlic in pots at Tangled Basket Farm.
Balm. Calm. In this case, they’re more than just rhyming words. Lemon balm is used to bring calm or to brighten your mood. It can be dried and used in tea, added to sauces and marinades, and included in herbal tea baths. With its distinct citrus aroma and tendency to takeover outdoor spaces, this member of the mint family is perfect for indoor growth in a well-lit space. Feeling down? Grab a good book and go sit next to your lemon balm. Or touch the leaves and inhale the essential oils left on your palm. Don’t forget to add a sprig to your iced tea or lemonade for a touch of flavor and pizazz!
Lemon balm is easy to grow in a container. Drill holes in the bottom, or add some rocks or sand to allow for good drainage. Place seeds about 1/2 inch below the top of the soil. Keep the soil moist, but do allow it to get dry to the touch between watering. Thin the seedlings (you can eat these) so that plants are at least 6″ apart, and let it go. When the leaves grow to about 2″ in length, you can start harvesting. Take from the top of the stems, cutting as much as you need, but making the cut just below a set of leaves. If you harvest regularly, lemon balm will keep growing to give you a steady supply. Just ensure you never harvest more than half of your plants at one time – give them time to grow between harvests!
Almost anything you eat can be eaten tiny! Forget the two or three varieties of sprouts you might find in an average grocery store, you can mix and match to create flavor sensations you truly enjoy. Go fancy with a sprouting kit, or use a glass jar to sprout broccoli, radish, greens and grains. From mild to spicy, these crunchy darlings of 80’s hippie-types are worth a modern look. Plus, they’re best grown indoors, (learn how here) so you don’t even have an excuse if you’re in a basement apartment with grow-lights. The same goes for…
Microgreens. These are just greens that you pick when they’re young. They can be plants you are thinning from a larger garden, like the lemon balm above, or you can plant lots of seeds close together and harvest them tiny on purpose! You could use an egg carton, glass jars, or any old sturdy container that will hold dirt and water. Follow the directions for the seeds you’ve chosen, and harvest tiny herbs and salad greens all year.
Both sprouts and microgreens contain nutrients needed to grow the plant. They’re concentrated, since they’re working to spread those nutrients into the leaves as they grow. The nutrients inside will depend on what you grow, but you’ll find a world of health benefits in the vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients they contain!
What About You?
Do you container garden for food or health? What do you grow? Are you in an urban environment, rural but without space, or do you just prefer the convenience of growing in containers? Let me know in the comments!