Self-sufficiency on a balcony

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    • Self-sufficiency on a balcony

      This is a great article with heaps of good ideas:

      Self-sufficiency on a balcony

      April 24, 2007

      It's not just the planet you'll be saving when you grow your own fruit and vegetables, it's your soul, writes Jackie French.

      The salad you ate for lunch yesterday may have used more fossil fuel than you used all week. Your snow peas were probably flown from Zimbabwe; your vacuum-packed greens were probably brought from China, which was where the garlic came from, too. Your salad's "energy miles" also included the fuel needed to grow it, as well as to make and transport the fertilisers, fungicides, herbicides and pesticides. That salad probably used more water than you did, as well. (Only about 3 per cent of water use is domestic.) What's the use of turning off lights and cutting back on travel kilometres if your cherries come from California?

      So how do you minimise your "tucker footprint"? By buying local, and organic. But the greenest solution - in every sense - is growing your own.
      Aha, I hear you chorus, impossible! I've only got a balcony and 10 spare minutes a week …

      Impossible? Of course not.

      Step 1. Buy six large pots (small ones heat up and dry out too quickly).

      Step 2. Plant:

      ■One Eureka lemon (three to four lemons a week all year round).

      ■One grapevine (one month of fruit; the tiny leaves are good in salads, the large ones for stuffed vine leaves).

      ■One passionfruit vine (four months of fruit).

      ■One choko (four months of fruit).

      ■One tamarillo (five months of fruit).

      For the sixth pot, choose from: the dwarf Stella cherry, dwarf apples, a dwarf mulberry, dwarf peaches or nectarines, a dwarf pomegranate, an "All-in-One" dwarf almond, Tahitian limes, a cumquat or a calamondin, blueberries, gooseberries or raspberries (try the giant native Atherton raspberry on hot patios or the new jostaberry, a gooseberry-currant cross).

      Step 3. Around each tree plant parsley or silver beet, or let thornless blackberries, strawberries or Cape gooseberries trail down the pot.

      Step 4. Buy 10 giant hanging baskets. Hang them from the eaves, but stagger them - some high, some low - but all within reach for watering.

      Step 5. Now plant:

      ■One basket of Wandin Winter year-round rhubarb.

      ■One basket of "cut-and-come-again" lettuce, such as red cos or Webb's Wonderful.

      ■One basket of rainbow chard. One basket of Warrigal spinach.

      ■One basket of perennial basil, thyme and oregano.

      ■One basket of Chinese celery, garlic chives, mizuna and mitsuba.

      ■One basket of cherry tomatoes and spring onions (eat the tops).

      For the other baskets, choose from: golden nugget pumpkins, zucchini (they trail out of the basket), purple or lemon basil, lemon grass, snow peas (plant around the edge of the basket and they'll trail, too), tiny wild strawberries, more parsley and land cress.

      The result? Assuming you water and feed with a slow-release plant food, you'll get:

      ■Enough parsley to chop into lunch and dinner every day.

      ■Enough salad greens for sandwiches and a green salad each day.

      ■Enough silver beet and Warrigal spinach to eat green soup every lunchtime and stir-fries every night, plus enough spinach for spinach and fetta triangles to feed a small horde.

      ■Four serves of pesto, plus other herbal delights and additions.
      You could also plant a couple of baskets of other veges such as choko or zucchini.

      If you have a whole backyard (but still only 10 minutes a week) you can be more ambitious and plant:

      ■A hedge of five varieties of avocados along the fence.

      ■A hedge of early and very late apples, such as Sturmer Pippin and Lady Williams.

      ■Two Eureka lemon trees.

      ■Two low-maintenance fruit trees. Choose from: tamarillos, Tahitian limes, pomegranates, quince, bananas, macadamias, the Japanese raisin tree, jaboticaba, the ice-cream bean tree, lilly pillies, loquat, medlar, mulberries, olives, pawpaw, pear, pecan, persimmon, pistachio, plum, pomelo, sloes, pine nut pines, Acacia victoriae (an edible seeded wattle), plumcotts, sapote, the Brazilian cherry, capulin cherry, native finger limes or desert limes, carob, chestnuts or figs.

      Put passionfruit, kiwifruit, banana passionfruit, grapes or thornless blackberries along the fences (a nude fence is a sign of a barren garden).

      You'll need to put in some work, including a yearly mulch and feed, picking, and watering young trees with half a bucket of water a week for the first two summers. But the result will be a ridiculous amount of fresh fruit all year round.

      By this stage you may need some chooks to eat the surplus, especially if you add a low-work vegie garden.

      Vegie gardens don't have to be watered every afternoon, either. Just forget about the iceberg lettuce and go for perennial plantings that survive droughts, too.

      The ideal perennial vegie patch should have:

      ■A choko vine up a tree. It will take up no extra room in the garden, bear masses of fruit, and won't need to be watered or fed. Just picked. Or fed to the chooks. Or ignored. If you hate chokos, try them when they are no bigger than your little fingernail and can be eaten whole, peel and all.

      ■A hedge of silver-leafed artichokes.

      ■Six amaranth plants. Amaranth is possibly the most drought-, cold- and heat-hardy vegetable ever. Grow some varieties for their leaves, others for their seeds. All grow tall and have gorgeous red flowers which the birds adore to munch in winter.

      ■One patch of asparagus. Mulch madly and it will survive with minimal water.

      ■One bush of perennial chillies and one bush of mild perennial bell peppers.

      ■Twenty spring or bunching onions.

      ■Fifty climbing perennial scarlet runner beans. Pick the beans when they are no more than finger-size.

      ■Three bronze fennel.

      ■Six lovage plants. Lovage looks like a small, wild, perennial celery. It gives a meaty, celery flavour to soups and stews, and young leaves and stems can be stir fried or tossed into salads.

      ■Twelve Italian red ribbed chicory, instead of lettuce.

      ■Twenty Jerusalem artichokes.

      ■Twenty perennial leeks. They stay tiny if you let them grow into clumps, but as large as normal leeks if transplanted every year.

      ■One patch of Warrigal or New Zealand spinach. One patch can grow to three square metres. The leaves are high in oxalic acid, so blanch them in boiling water for one minute then throw out that water and cook again in fresh water. They can be used for an excellent spinach quiche or fetta and spinach pastries, and reasonable soup.

      ■Three yacon. This perennial plant produces tubers like crunchy sweet potatoes, plus sunflower-like flowers.

      As a result there will always be enough in the garden to make a salad, vegetable quiche, or nine-tenths of an interesting stir-fry, plus the inspiration to come up with another thousand vegie dishes. (When you have backyard abundance you are more inclined to work out some way of using it.)

      Growing your own is friendly, too. Six cases of plums mean you either need to give plums away, or make jam - which also tends to be shared around. Which means that you get other people's surplus in exchange.

      I haven't made marmalade in 15 years - friends who take home baskets of our citrus give us jam in return. Not to mention last fortnight's haul of 12 apple muffins, two cakes of calendula and goat's milk soap, two bottles of tomato relish and jar of tamarillo chutney so savage it could out-snarl a pit bull terrier - all in informal exchange for our surplus avocados, limes, chokos, eggs and tamarillos.

      Growing stuff is good for you, offering exercise and the therapeutic relaxation of surveying your bounty and picking it. Green leaves and swelling fruit really do lower the blood pressure. Not to mention the joy from the birds they bring, the butterflies, the scents of growing things.
      Humans once lived closely with the world around them. These days our gardens are the only contact most of us have with the natural world. You need only look at children's faces when they pick their first apple to realise how deep in the human psyche is the need to grow things.

      A packet of asparagus, frilled lettuce, artichoke or snow pea seeds costs less than a packet of frozen chips, but gives a lot more luxury for your money. You can buy the seeds for a decade of flowers for the same price that you rent a video.

      This article was typed using a solar-powered computer; refreshments included two cups of home-grown green tea (made with tank water), one bowl of rooster, leek and sweet corn soup and a plate of wattle seed Anzacs.

      Jackie French is the author of Backyard Self-Sufficiency, The Wilderness Garden, The Chook Book and The Best of Jackie French, among other titles.
      [B]Utilise all those nooks and crannies, too[/B]

      Using waste areas

      ■ Grow a rosemary hedge around the clothes line.

      ■ Grow strawberries or asparagus down the driveway.

      ■ Espalier fruit trees against your warm house walls or let grape vines clamber up them.

      ■ Plant out your nature strip with loquats, lilly pillies, quandongs, pistachio nuts, Himalayan pears, crab-apples or kei apples.

      ■ Fill shade with tamarillos, native ginger, arrowroot, avocados or macadamias. Or grow a hedge of tea camellias for home-grown cuppas.

      ■ Let banana passionfruit and other climbers ramble over your fences and up your trees.

      ■ Stick to edible beauty: bright orange pomegranate flowers or their swelling red-cheeked fruit, a froth of parsley instead of ferns. Edge the garden with garlic chives with their long-lived mauve flowers.

      ■ Forget about lawns. Take kids to the park for cricket instead. They'll have more fun up the mulberry tree, picking loquats or making cubbies under the avocados anyway.

      Two-week compostCompost is the best possible food and mulch for your garden.

      Shred together vegetable matter and garden waste with a shredder, mower or garden shears. Pile it about a metre high and wide. Moisten the pile with liquid fertiliser. Turn the compost every day. It should be ready for use in a fortnight.

      Vertical gardens

      Vertical gardens (think trellises and walls) save space.Two metres of vertical space should give you the same crop as two metres of garden - but as the roots take up little room there's less watering and weeding.

      If you search you will find many climbing varieties - beans, peas, passionfruit, chokos, berries, and tomatoes for starters. Train broccoli, eggplant, capsicum or ordinary tomatoes up a trellis - cut off the lower shoots to encourage more top ones. Let cucumbers, melons and small pumpkins grow up a trellis rather than sprawl over the ground.

      Fruit tree hedges

      Dwarf fruit trees make great hedges. We have a dwarf apple hedge behind our bathroom. Try a dwarf peach hedge around your vegetable garden. And because dwarf trees are small they are easily netted to keep out birds or pests. Dwarf trees put out less growth, so they need less pruning.
      Full-size evergreen trees make good "privacy walls" and most respond well to trimming. Think avocados, oranges, prickly citronelles, close-planted mandarins, feijoas or olives.

      The water dilemma

      Australian gardens don't lack water. They have too much evaporation - that is, not enough shade. Cut down on the evaporation with more plants, leaves and mulch, and your garden can flourish with little water.
      Most gardens have waste patches, but here is how to make every bit count:

      Sydney Morning Herald
      Low Carb in a Nutshell ~ Carb Counts ~ Research ~ Measurements/Conversions ~ Glossary

      Let me know if you think of anything else handy from the site to put here.
    • Re: Self-sufficiency on a balcony

      :( I feel so guilty now....there is still time b4 summer to get started...I might use the front yard as the dog creature is ummm unmanagable...I was going to put sunflowers along the fence line but I think I'll do passionfruit and maybe beans....all sorts of trees can be trained along a fence I think...raspberries would be nice but I think WA is far too hot...

      fantastic article~!
      You don't need eyes to see you need vision... Maxy Jazz....Faithless

      [Blocked Image:] 155kilos 7/2009...I started this time 19/9/2010
    • Re: Self-sufficiency on a balcony

      Sherrie, what a lovely article. Thanks for posting it. :)

      I live in a similar climate zone, and plant some of those, but have some non-perennials, too.

      Lavender to repel rodents and attract bees, and for cutting to put in vases in the house. Rosemary to repel rodents and for greens to put with cut flowers. Mint to repel rodents and for food and tea.

      Lemon balm (repels mosquitoes), Greek oregano, stevia, chives, comfrey, for cooking, salads, and gifts. All perennial. Plus, leeks. They do very well. I quite like how early in the spring the chives grow and bloom, and how well they do into late autumn.

      Non-perennial veggies: okra and tomatoes in the warm season. This year's cold season veg: Brussel sprouts. I give the tomatoes as presents. (I don't grow peppers and chilis, as I don't eat nightshades.)

      I chose plants with health considerations in mind, as well as ease of growing.

      It was nice choosing from the list of perennial herbs and vegetables that grow well in this gardening zone, and comparing it with the lists on my food plan.

      I quite enjoy container gardening, though do have some things in the ground, as well.

      It's always enjoyable to read what others plant. Thanks again for the article.
      WOE: Dr. Richard Bernstein's VLC and no sweet fruits, and the 12 Steps of Archevore, per Dr. Kurt Harris' site.

      Keep A Clean Food Plan through June 30th Challenge

      Over 55.
      Eleven years of maintenance.

      The post was edited 4 times, last by Silver: added something ().

    • Re: Self-sufficiency on a balcony

      awesome stuff. i have a few fruit trees.. stole some cuttings of a mulberry tree wwhich look like they are striking yah.. i have.

      bananas (naughty naughty)

      and few herbs in pots. oh yeah and a tomato plant that came up from no where. lol..

      i want to do so much more. but all cost money and you cant really plant much in nth qld. in this heat. so you have to wait for winter. cant wait. and get the roatary hoe out. yee ha..

      What other things do other people grow.
    • Re: Self-sufficiency on a balcony

      Hi, Sinders. It's winter here, and I am trying to grow brussel sprouts. In the spring, the herbs will come back. I will plant another perennial herb or two, and am still pondering which vegetables I would like to plant. I grow a few things in containers each year.

      Is there a plant swap in your area?

      There is one near me in the spring. I plan to take a couple of ferns and trade for some edibles.
      WOE: Dr. Richard Bernstein's VLC and no sweet fruits, and the 12 Steps of Archevore, per Dr. Kurt Harris' site.

      Keep A Clean Food Plan through June 30th Challenge

      Over 55.
      Eleven years of maintenance.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Silver: typing error ().

    • Re: Self-sufficiency on a balcony

      That's and idea Sinders, there's a Mulberry tree just up the end of my street by Maya's old kindy!

      Silver, I grow my veggies in containers though having problems with current real estate agent, not allowed pots!!! bleh
      Low Carb in a Nutshell ~ Carb Counts ~ Research ~ Measurements/Conversions ~ Glossary

      Let me know if you think of anything else handy from the site to put here.
    • I have a few greens in pots this winter, and some perennial herbs and green onions. We had a couple of nights of hard freeze, so will see what pulls through.

      Will start some seeds in a few weeks, for spring planting, probably lettuces, and more greens.

      Anyone else a "pot" gardener now?
      LCHF Maintenance, Goal: Health First.
      Daily averages of 50-60P: 110-130F: 30-35C

      UTC -5 hours
    • We bought our first home a few years ago so I no longer have to stick to pots, whilst I have found much better crops in the ground it's hard on your back!

      I still have some things in pots, I now have fruit trees, such as 3 figs, Meyer lemon and a nectarine. My chilli plant from years ago is still going strong and I have a bay tree, rhubarbs, beans, coriander, parsley, oregano and asparagus (which are looking neglected).
      Low Carb in a Nutshell ~ Carb Counts ~ Research ~ Measurements/Conversions ~ Glossary

      Let me know if you think of anything else handy from the site to put here.
    • I am growing in pots atm, own my place but we are semi arid here.
      Hoping to put in a water tank by the end of the year.
      In pots I have:
      Blue berries
      Mango (yeah that was unexpected, didn't think it would sprout)
      Cape Gooseberry
      Black Sapote (also known as a Chocolate Pudding Fruit)
      My Almonds didn't sprout, a friend sent me nuts from her trees :(

      Orchard side of the house has Lemon, Oranges and Mandarins, Nectarine, Loquat and I think the other tree near the septic tank is a peach.

      Summer here is too hot to grow much, so I have it all under my verandah in the Kitty enclosure. My Maine Coon princess thinks it's ok to dig up my Blueberry and Raspberrys..often, grr.
      I am Diggers member, every catalogue is super exciting for me and I sit and plan for hours what to buy hehe
      From Autumn I will be starting the process of turning my 1/4 block into a Food Forest...will take a few years, gotta get some shade/mulch trees in first :)
    • Sherrie, I'm glad you live where you can plant in the ground now. Oh yes, it's hard on the back and the knees. I just have a maple tree, narrow-leaf Yucca, azaleas, rosemary, lilac, Greek oregano, and a tiny native flower garden in the ground. Are asparagus and rhubarb perennial or bienniel or does that depend on the climate zone?

      Pips, you have serious gardening. How nice to do so much. Do you have some help?
      LCHF Maintenance, Goal: Health First.
      Daily averages of 50-60P: 110-130F: 30-35C

      UTC -5 hours
    • Asparagus will live for a couple of decades or so! I am not sure how old our rhubarb is here as it was already here in a wine barrel in the vegetable patch, we've been here for 3.5 years now. I have seeds to grow my own but haven't used them because there was some already here but perhaps once we have finished making our raised beds I will pick a permenant place to plant more. I meant to transplant the asparagus to a permenant bed but the beds weren't finished in time, hopefully I can do it this autumn.
      Low Carb in a Nutshell ~ Carb Counts ~ Research ~ Measurements/Conversions ~ Glossary

      Let me know if you think of anything else handy from the site to put here.
    • My 17 yo son helps me out a lot in the garden, otherwise I wouldn't be able to have one.
      I can't lift anything too heavy, I am suppose to be on a 5kg limit for life...on a good day I can pick up my cat Garfield who is 10 kg :)
      Other days I make the boofa jump up and sit next to me to give him some love.
      Yes asparagus grows for 20-30 years once established, which takes at least 2 years. Mine is in it's first year, so I cut it back and just let it grow about 6 fronds. That way the root system has a chance to develop nicely.
    • I have good news for the hobby gardeners who do not like digging and weeding.

      You set seedlings up in water with nutrients and come back weeks later and harvest it. There is nothing to do in between.

      It is "A Simple Hydroponic Growing Kit for Short-Term Vegetables
      . A. Kratky, Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences

      No pumps or aerators just set and forget then harvest.

      You can use those cheap plastic file boxes with push on lids, you cut some holes in the top to take the seedling pots and the roots dangle down into the water and grow. Plants have air roots and as the plants grow the airgap increases for the longer air roots to breathe.

      There are other good recepticles for it.