Self-sufficiency on a balcony
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It's not just the planet you'll be saving when you grow your own fruit and vegetables, it's your soul, writes Jackie French.
The salad you ate for lunch yesterday may have used more fossil fuel than you used all week. Your snow peas were probably flown from Zimbabwe; your vacuum-packed greens were probably brought from China, which was where the garlic came from, too. Your salad's "energy miles" also included the fuel needed to grow it, as well as to make and transport the fertilisers, fungicides, herbicides and pesticides. That salad probably used more water than you did, as well. (Only about 3 per cent of water use is domestic.) What's the use of turning off lights and cutting back on travel kilometres if your cherries come from California?
So how do you minimise your "tucker footprint"? By buying local, and organic. But the greenest solution - in every sense - is growing your own.
Aha, I hear you chorus, impossible! I've only got a balcony and 10 spare minutes a week …
Impossible? Of course not.
Step 1. Buy six large pots (small ones heat up and dry out too quickly).
Step 2. Plant:
■One Eureka lemon (three to four lemons a week all year round).
■One grapevine (one month of fruit; the tiny leaves are good in salads, the large ones for stuffed vine leaves).
■One passionfruit vine (four months of fruit).
■One choko (four months of fruit).
■One tamarillo (five months of fruit).
For the sixth pot, choose from: the dwarf Stella cherry, dwarf apples, a dwarf mulberry, dwarf peaches or nectarines, a dwarf pomegranate, an "All-in-One" dwarf almond, Tahitian limes, a cumquat or a calamondin, blueberries, gooseberries or raspberries (try the giant native Atherton raspberry on hot patios or the new jostaberry, a gooseberry-currant cross).
Step 3. Around each tree plant parsley or silver beet, or let thornless blackberries, strawberries or Cape gooseberries trail down the pot.
Step 4. Buy 10 giant hanging baskets. Hang them from the eaves, but stagger them - some high, some low - but all within reach for watering.
Step 5. Now plant:
■One basket of Wandin Winter year-round rhubarb.
■One basket of "cut-and-come-again" lettuce, such as red cos or Webb's Wonderful.
■One basket of rainbow chard. One basket of Warrigal spinach.
■One basket of perennial basil, thyme and oregano.
■One basket of Chinese celery, garlic chives, mizuna and mitsuba.
■One basket of cherry tomatoes and spring onions (eat the tops).