Even though it may not look like it, spring is fast approaching and farmers are in full swing preparing their seedlings for a lush summer harvest. For home gardeners and city dwellers – whose invisible gardens dwell on rooftops or nestled in windowsills – that means it’s time to start planting, too. Whether it’s your first ride or you’re a seasoned green thumb, each year brings new surprises and new challenges, especially when the weather is as unsettled as it has been lately. To help allay fears, we enlisted Gwen Schantz, co-founder, COO and head of design and installation at Brooklyn barn, the famous rooftop farm and the green rooftop company. Here, Schantz shares tips for starting your own “micro-farm” or mini-garden at home.
Find space, even indoors.
Having outdoor space in cities is rare, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy fresh vegetables, herbs, and even fruits. “New products like Indoor herb garden tend to be good if you’re short on space and light, but if you’re on a budget, a trip to the hardware store can also do the trick,” advises Schantz. “As long as you get a good quality potting soil (preferably organic), you can grow small edible plants, like herbs, in just about anything, like a tin can or a jar. Even your thrift store local can help spice things up. I like to buy old ceramic vases, bowls and large mugs to grow plants in. Remember to water regularly, keep plants in light for 12 hours per day and harvest the leaves often.
Start with herbs.
Schantz recommends leafy herbs like basil, mint, parsley, and cilantro, which are ideal for growing indoors and outdoors. “They can handle some shade, they don’t need a ton of soil, and they grow quickly, so you can pick and eat them regularly. If you’re looking for something a little more exotic, try nasturtium (beautiful and delicious edible flowers), anise hyssop and mountain mint,” says Schantz.
Have a plan.
A beautiful, bountiful garden does not happen overnight. It takes planning and dedication, so don’t bite off more than you can chew – a few healthy plants are better than none! While professionals and experienced gardeners plan their gardens and buy seeds as early as January, Schantz says April is a good time to start. Here is his recommended timeline: