It has been SO HOT here in London the past couple of weeks. Right now, as I sit here typing this, it is 34 Celsius or 93 Fahrenheit in my flat and that is with the windows wide open and a cross breeze. Ugh. I die! But my plants are absolutely loving it, though I have had to water them morning and evening to keep up with the amount of water they are sucking up and is being evaporated off by the heat and wind.
Anyway, flick through the photos to get an update on how everything is going!
Urban Homesteading Principle #1: Grow your own FOOD on your city lot.
"More than 50% of diet, organically, on an urban lot (approx. less than half an acre*) with visually appealing landscaping. *Depends on square footage of house, location, and climate zone."
If you’ve been following along, you know we are conducting a little experiment with urban homesteading. We’ve devoted as much of the 144sq ft. rooftop space (and as much as we estimate we safely can without caving it in) for food production. Now. This first principle puts 50% as the marker for earning your “urban homesteader” badge. I’d estimate we are absolutely smashing it right around the 5% marker. I can practically feel my badge (which I imagine to be like that of an American Girl Scout’s) between my compost encrusted finger tips now! Seriously though, there is no shame in that figure. For me, this is about the act of moving towards something rather than waking up one day and deciding to produce 50% of our dietary needs! That, btw, is an “s” ton of food – no, seriously, like actually 2,000lbs of food! I mean obviously this is the eventual goal but I’m doubtful we can accomplish that in 144sq ft of rooftop space with dubious underpinning. But until we have more space, I will grow what I can. It is also helpful to remember that anyone who is actually producing that much food for themselves will tell you to build up to it season upon season rather than expect it can be done all in one go.
So what I’ve discovered through this whole process is that even more satisfying than eating my own, homegrown, fresh veggies is giving them away or using them to make food for others. We had some dear friends over recently and I don’t actually remember enjoying my own plate of food as much as I remember staring my friends down while bouncing around like an over excited puppy and jabbing my finger at things on their plate asking “did you try that yet?” “what about that?” “want some more?” “what about this? Here! Eat that! And this!” Thankfully they are close enough friends to find it amusing rather than extremely creepy.
Other things I’ve enjoyed are the time it takes to grow food. Life moves so fast, especially in an urban setting. It is nice to not be able to click your fingers and get a result immediately. The idea of sowing seeds and patiently awaiting a harvest is quite a refreshing one. I’m also more aware of small little fragile signs of life. I notice tiny little creates buzzing or crawling around that would have never before been a blip on my radar. I’m enjoying the sense of being acutely attuned to beautiful little details that previously fell on dull senses.
Anyway - scroll through my pictures as a visual update on how the 5% of our diet is going!
I have had several people contact me and say they plan on starting a veg garden of their own. Hooray! The reasons range from giving their young child some dirt to play in to wanting to experiment with supplementing their family food supplies. I’ve been asked loads of questions as well such as: Is it too late in the season to plant? Will I need raised beds? If I start a veg garden will it survive in the summer while I’m away on holiday for a few weeks? Well guess what… I haven’t the foggiest what the best answers are. But you know who does? www.smartgardener.com I only just found it this week but had I had it at the start of my veg garden experiment, it would have been massively helpful. It has shedloads of resources around what to plant, when to plant, how to plant it, how to make it grow and that is only the beginning. It is also free to set up an account and start planning. You can even use your Facebook account to set it up. How social media aware is that? Sheesh these people should pay me to market their product! So go here, sign up and start your veg garden.
6 PLANTS THAT REPEL INSECTS :
Feverfew is great for repelling mosquitoes and other flying biting insects. It is ideal for planting around outdoor seating areas, pathways and close to doorways and windows; for maximum benefit, plant in conjunction with citronella grass and lavender (see below).
In addition to its insect repellent qualities, feverfew also has many medicinal uses. It is historically used to help treat nervous disorders, headaches and it also works as a laxative and helps ease bloating.
Pyrethrum also known as Chrysanthemum
Pyrethrum helps to repel a whole host of insects and bugs, including: aphids, leafhoppers, spider mites, harlequin bugs and ticks.
Pyrethrum is best used as a ‘companion plant’ to protect other plants with its insect repellent properties. It is planted close to plants which are affected by the insects above.
Additionally a natural pesticide can be made with pyrethrum flowers. The flowers need to be dried and crushed and mixed with water. It is beyond the scope of this article to give specific instructions on potency etc., so please carry out further research before trying this, as even though the pesticide is completely natural, it can still be harmful to humans in certain situations.
Pennyroyal helps to repel mosquitoes, gnats and also ticks and fleas!
Pennyroyal is often used in commercial natural insect repellent creams and sprays. Pennyroyal is great to plant in the garden, but it is best utilized as a topical insect repellent applied to the skin.
If you crush pennyroyal leaves and rub them onto your skin, this acts as an effective insect repellent. Additionally, you can also crush the stems and put them in pockets, bags and hats.
Crushed pennyroyal leaves and stems can also be rubbed on dogs to help repel ticks and fleas. Actually you will often see dogs rubbing in pennyroyal patches when outdoors.
Lavender is most useful for repelling mosquitoes and gnats when planted in the garden; it can also be planted in pots and placed by doorways and windows. As with feverfew and citronella grass; lavender is best planted in the garden around seated and eating areas and also around windows and doors.
Cut and or dried lavender can also be placed on windowsills to stop mosquitoes entering the house. Additionally, dried lavender flowers can also be used in wardrobes to repel moths and keep clothes smelling fresh.
Lavender also smells amazing and has many medicinal properties, it aids relaxation and helps promote restful sleep.
As with pyrethrum, marigolds are best used as a ‘companion plant’ to help protect other plants; however, marigolds do also have some mosquito repellent properties, so it’s a bit of an all-rounder.
Marigolds contain a chemical compound called thiopenes in the roots. This plant repels aphids, cabbage maggots, white flies and many other pests. Marigolds are particularly good at protecting tomato plants.
Citronella grass is an old favourite; everyone knows it is commonly used as an insect repellent in outdoor candles, which are used around outdoor eating and seating areas. Citronella grass is a great mosquito repellent and it can be planted and used in a similar way as citronella candles, to keep flying insects away.
For best results, plant citronella grass in the garden and use in conjunction with feverfew and lavender.
Additionally, citronella grass has also been found to have a calming effect on barking dogs, which is worth considering if you have a dog which barks excessively day and night. Your neighbours might thank you for at least giving it a try!