To show that it’s possible to grow lots of food – even if you don’t have a garden – I’ve been measuring the weight and value of the food grown in containers in our small concrete back yard in Newcastle, UK, from 1 May to 31 October this year. This continues the experiments I did on my London balcony – in slightly more space but in a cooler climate and a rented home.
So, how much can you grow in pots in six months? Short drum roll…..
53.6 kg (118 lbs) with an approximate shop value of £548 ($879).
The harvest included over 50 different crops including (in supermarket equivalents):
- 110 bags of salad
- 82 punnets tomatoes
- 70 packs of herbs
- 36 bags of fresh beans and peas
- 32 punnets of fruit
You can see a more detailed summary of the harvest below – and a day by day breakdown of each and every harvest here.
More than money
Of course it’s about much more than the weight or value of produce. The value to us as a family is far higher.
Shop bought veg taste thin and watery in comparison to the singing flavours of our homegrown.
It’s good for our health, too. Very fresh food is higher in valuable nutrients – and with salad growing quite literally on our doorstep, we eat it within minutes of picking. You can’t get fresher than that!
We also get the satisfaction of massively reducing our food waste. This is particularly comforting in light of recent news reported by the BBC that an incredible 68% salad leaves are wasted in UK supermarkets. We only pick the salad leaves we eat.
And all our other waste food – coffee grounds, banana skins etc – is recycled in a wormery (perfect for small spaces) to make a rich compost and great fertiliser for the crops.
But, above all, as a family we get so much pleasure and satisfaction from growing the food, watching the plants grow, and harvesting it for our meals.
We also have the bonus of enjoying all the birds, bees and butterflies that now visit our previously lifeless concrete space.
Could you grow even more than this?
The answer is a definite yes!
This was the first year I’d grown here. It takes several seasons (at least) to learn how to grow most productively in a new space. Sadly I won’t have the opportunity to explore what is possible here as we move again in the New Year.
How was the value calculated?
To calculate the value of the food, I used the online prices for the UK supermarket, Waitrose. I chose Waitrose, a quality supermarket, to reflect the quality of home grown food. Although you can buy fresh vegetables at lower cost, pricing our harvests at the cheapest supermarket prices would undervalue them, I feel. Indeed, most of what we grow is fresher, better quality and tastier than you can buy in any shop!
Also, because there is less waste (no wilting bags of salad in the back of the fridge!), the real value of the harvest is potentially higher than the sum calculated (if that makes sense?).