What is a Micro Garden?
A micro garden is a high yield garden built to take advantage of a small space. Although they can be used to create beautiful small flower gardens, the term is usually used to refer to growing greens and vegetables for consumption in the home.
Why Micro Garden?
The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization has promoted micro gardening as a way to improve food and nutrition security and optimize yield over traditional gardening techniques, particularly helpful for those in urban environments.
In the United States, a growing local food movement is aiming to reduce the energy used to transport food, improve the resilience of regional food networks, and support sustainable farming practices that protect the biodiversity of our fruits and vegetables.
There is nothing more local than your own patio, deck or backyard. You do not have to grow all of your own food to have an impact either. By growing what you can, and expanding your garden as you learn basic techniques, you will offset the food you buy at the grocery store, lessening your carbon footprint with each bite.
Here are some tips to get you started with your own micro garden:
Stay on the Up and Up
One of the reasons micro gardens are so efficient is that they usually make use of vertical space, rather than spreading out horizontally. For folks living in apartments or condos, this means that a patio can convert into quite a bit of growing space, despite having a relatively small footprint.
Because most micro gardens make use of shelving and containers, it is an excellent opportunity to up-cycle old junk and revitalize it as a home for plants that will nourish the body and spirit. Make sure that containers were not used for toxic chemicals before you use them to grow food.
Spice it Up
Fresh herbs are a great place to start if you are new to micro gardening. Annual herbs such as parsley, dill and basil grow easily from seed. At the end of the season, let them go to seed for next year. Perennial herbs such as rosemary, sage and tarragon can be brought indoors to add flavor to your dishes throughout the winter months.
One of the benefits of micro gardens is that they force you to make some decisions about what you will grow, and how much. Take advantage of your small space to grow a diversity of veggies instead of mono-cropping. Each season, environmental factors can make for better conditions for different plants. By planting different types of crops, you ensure that it will be a bumper year for at least a few of your crops.
In addition, planting only one crop will be more likely to draw in the pests that thrive on that species. By mixing it up, even adding some flowers into the mix, you will help to baffle pests without using harmful pesticides.
Online Resources for Micro Gardening
There are several web resources that can both inspire you and give you the know how to really make the most of your small space. Here are a few excellent resources to learn more about this green living technique:
This site is run by Anne Gibson from Queensland, Australia. She has been a passionate educator and advocate for the micro gardening movement since 2004. This site is packed full of tips, an engaging personal blog, as well as educational material including online courses for the truly hooked.
Long a leader for gardening fans, Better Homes and Gardens has a container gardening section of their website that is fairly comprehensive. They cover a wide range of plants, climates and both veggies and flowers. Since container gardening is central to most micro gardens, this is a good resource for those just getting started with this sustainable activity.
Although more focused on urban agriculture more broadly speaking, this informational treasure trove includes a wide variety of articles on urban farming practices, as well as news on programs across the United States. There may even be an urban gardening project going on near you!