The Wall – Healthy Food In Small Spaces

I am a renter. I am not always a renter but I am currently a renter. And because I don’t want to rent for the rest of my life, I am renting small.

In reality, I am a farmer. Renting small and farming don’t go hand in hand very well. My small house has a small yard. My small yard has very little space for doing something like say, growing my own food. I could not be happy without my hands in the dirt though. I spent my first three months in my small house with my small yard planting every spare inch of it with cabbage, calendula, onions, carrots, leeks, garlic, berries, and peas.

That was not enough. I needed more. There are potted plants covering almost every concrete surface. To be fair, those were here when I moved in. Most are doing well. Some, not so much. But the growing and planting was eventually done in all these spaces and in this land of 300 days of rain, there wasn’t much else for me to do to get my hands into the earth.

That is when I looked at “The Wall”. The wall is a retaining wall that has been behind my house since the beginning of time. The wall is made out of cinder blocks. The blocks are on their sides with the openings facing out. I find this a rather odd pose for the blocks. Usually, the blocks are the other way with the holes vertical. But what do I know, I am not a builder.

In some of those holes, there are scavenger plants whose seeds were blown by the wind with a little bit of debris. The seeds sprouted, the plants grew, more dirt and debris arrived and before anyone noticed, the wall looked a bit like a weed and brick version of a mangy dog. I figured that if the weeds could grow in the wall, beautiful, desirable plants could too.

The wall was transformed. I would like to say it was “overnight”. But, alas, it was not. Three months of dirt, digging, potting soil, composting, seedlings in the hot water cupboard, rain, shine, and wind ensued before anything came of it. Now, my wall is a perfect vertical garden. Most of the plants that I have chosen seem to like growing in the wall better than they liked growing in pots or even in the ground. Weeding is simple. Watering is both water and time efficient though a little difficult when the plants get large enough to cover their hole in the bricks.

My plant choices are all edible – pansy, violet, strawberry, mint, oregano, lemon balm, carnation, primrose, thyme, and dianthus, so far. I bought most of them, raised some of them from seedlings. Some of the seeds were able to be planted in the wall directly with the use of cotton balls.

The cotton ball idea is probably old news to most gardeners but it was new to me. For newbie gardeners, take this very important hint: Place your seeds on the inside of a cotton ball before planting them in the ground. The cotton ball will whisk up moisture from the surrounding soil without becoming water logged and keep your seed gently damp for sprouting. The cotton ball will also act like a root ball on the seed, anchoring it in place, so that when you water, the seed won’t wash away with the soil leaving you to wonder six weeks later what it is you did wrong when the seedling does not appear where you expected it.

Spring is arriving imminently. With the longer days and a little warm sunshine, I expect that my wall will soon be a flowering paradise.



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