As tempted as I am to make my perennial pitch on behalf of the so-sensible worm composter, I’m going to resist this year (you can check out past columns at theclutterhead.blogspot.com) and instead move onto why you need one now more than ever.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably also read that there’s a worldwide shortage of food which has us all paying more for food these days. You’re likely also aware of the good sense of buying produce that is locally and organically grown. If that’s not enough reason to get you growing your own too, I’m beat.
I potted up my first homegrown harvest — tomatoes, zucchini, green onions, peas, basil, oregano — in my mid-20s, when I finally emerged from subterranean living and into a co-op townhouse with a tiny, sunny balcony. I was clueless, but I followed my gardener mom’s odd instructions: Go down to the beach and bag up some seaweed to mix with the soil before you plant the tomatoes; plant garlic around your roses; leave the roots of the pea plants in the soil; pinch out leaves to yield more fruit. It was a steep learning curve, but I was soon talking mulch, manure tea, black gold and white fly. By late summer the garden was growing faster than the Man of the House and I could eat it. I learned herbs could be frozen into ice cubes for winter, and that zucchinis made great doorstops.
Growing your own food in the balcony garden is extremely rewarding. Vertical plantings, or groupings in fountain-like tiered planters and hanging baskets make the most of limited space.
But container gardening requires commitment. Be ready for daily watering as the season heats up — if you can use collected rainwater, as promoted in this space two weeks ago, all the better — and be willing to learn how to create the best organic soil conditions.
Which brings me back to the worms. Except for my occasional seaweed scavenging, the compost produced by my red wigglers is all I need to keep my container plants thriving. City residents can call City Farmer at 604-736-2250 to take a Wormshop and buy a bin.
I just top up the pots every spring, then let those worms do their thing the rest of the year, munching my produce scraps into black gold. They munch, I munch, they munch again. The circle of life. Hakuna matata.
Carlyn Yandle is a Vancouver journalist with her own room-planning business, Home Reworks (www.homereworks.com). She dwells on urban-home issues every Thursday in Metro.