Urban Eden's in the Sky - By Alex C - Guest Blogger

A month ago, Pebble Soup team attended GBC photography workshop. Mid-conversation someone mentioned edible walls. That immediately grabbed my attention. That someone is Alex C, a soon-to-be blogger who is passionate about the quality of the food she eats and very knowledgeable when it comes to growing her own. she was in her fifth sentence when on the spur of the moment, I asked her if she wouldn't mind writing a post about it. Here it is
Urban Eden's in the Sky
I’ve always wanted to grow my own food, particularly herbs and spices. Their culinary and therapeutic properties, really fire up my imagination and taste buds.
Second to none for adding unusual specialist produce, difficult or expensive to buy, to your repertoire, some of my homegrown favourites include cavolo nero, Vietnamese coriander, borlotti beans, elephant garlic, sea kale, callaloo, edamame, tomatillos, goji berries, quinoa, and golden raspberries.
Don’t so don’t let lack of space put you off like I did. You see I only have a balcony. Although it’s south facing, it’s tiny. Worse still it’s overshadowed by huge trees that blocks out virtually all heat and light for most of the day.
©Growing Culture : My small balcony
Focusing on what I didn’t have, rather than what I was blessed with, my growing ambitions remained on the back burner for several years.
Eventually, I realised I’d best try and work with what I have. There’s no need to help supermarkets make superprofits. If you lament deteriorating food quality, service, and, poor value for money join the club and start growing your own It was time to start showing it my small balcony a little love.
Investigating how to get the best out of my space led to the following discoveries
  1. Quite a few fruits, vegetables and herbs thrive in shade,
  2. Produce you can start/continue growing in the autumn-winter period include leafy greens, broccoli, salads, perennial herbs, beets, beans, assorted berries,
  3. The only way is up for space-challenged city dwellers like me, i.e. gardening up and along, walls, balconies, window sills, fire escapes and roofs.
There is plenty of helpful advice and support on vertical gardening available in the form of workshops, books and blogs.

©Growing Culture

A couple caught my eye with their sage advice, innovative ideas and practical tips for growing edible Edens in the Sky:
Mark Ridsdill Smith’s, founder of Vertical Veg, sprinkles his magic helping city dwellers get the maximum benefit from their tiny spaces. Passionate about what food growing can contribute to city life, health and sustainability he provides online information and workshops on vertical gardening. Check out his excellent free step by step guide on getting started The Art of Growing in Small Spaces.

 ©Vertical Veg
       For years Mark yearned to grow his own produce, but like me, believed his small London property wasn’t suitable. Finally, after years languishing at the bottom of allotment waiting lists, he started experimenting on his small balcony and was amazed to discover the amount of produce he was able to grow.

© Vertical Veg One year he grew more than £900 worth of produce!

In The Edible Balcony, writer Alex Mitchell, shares her DIY punk philosophy to growing edibles when space is a premium. Challenging assumptions that that you need a large amount of space to succeed it is packed with creative real life ideas. Here are a few inspiring examples for space starved growers featuring recycled materials such from old hat stands to colanders, mugs, guttering and shoe holders. It was certainly killed off my allotment envy.

 Source: The Edible Balcony by Alex Mitchell
Growing. Eating.
Ultimately vertical gardening allows you to eat fresher, tastier and more nutritious produce at a lower cost to the environment and your pocket. What’s not to love. Quick and easy things I love to make with my bounty include
  • herb oils and vinegars, salsas, pestos
  • simple dishes with anything deep, dark green like Cavolo Nero

© Growing Culture Wilted Cavolo Nero with Black Rice Red Thai Fish Cakes and Sprouts

Cavolo Nero is an Italian staple. A key ingredient of the well-known Tuscan bean soup Riboletta, it is also commonly used in a wide variety of dishes including risottos, pastas and frittatas.   Unaffected by the cold and most diseases, Cavolo Nero, a member of the kale family requires little attention and gets by in partial shade. Accordingly it is fast becoming an edible garden staple. Buy some seeds online or at the garden centre and follow the instructions for autumn planting.

I love it’s rich, earthy flavour. I like it best lightly cooked dressed with some simple chilli garlic oil. Great food that makes the palate sing.

Helpful resources mentioned in this article :
The Edible Balcony by Alex Mitchell 
Here’s another great starting point too:
If you would like to contact Alex, drop her a comment below or tweet her @growingKultur

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