Green Living, sustainability

Tend your Tiny Garden

Window Farm


It’s a troubling time for South Africa. With drought-stricken farmlands and water restrictions already being enforced in some municipalities, urban gardening is becoming a smart and sustainable option for city dwellers who are eager to have more control over the production of their own food.

In her TEDxManhattan talk on the subject of urban gardening, Britta Riley cites an article by New York Times writer Michael Pollan in which he argues that growing even a few of your own fruits, vegetables or herbs is one of the most effective ways that individuals can positively impact their environment. For Riley, this idea grew into a company called Window Farms, which brings hydroponics (the art of growing plants without soil) into tiny spaces in the city, thereby turning even the most cramped apartment into a mini farm.

It’s because of this point that Jane Griffiths' new book entitled Jane's Delicious Urban Gardening is an essential buy for every concerned South African wondering how they might ease their reliance on the country's resources.

Unlike the cramped quarters of a New York city apartment, many South African abodes have ample space in their backyards for the creation of a garden of edibles. And even if you are living on the 16th floor of a high-rise, there's still no excuse not to cultivate at least a few pots of your favourite herbs. In South Africa, there are many companies, like Hydroponic.co.za and Grow Guru for example, that offer compact, out-of-the-way hydroponic systems that are totally manageable for the home.

If that doesn't appeal to you, Griffiths provides a number of different ideas for homes that haven't got the space for a sprawling veggie garden, including suggestions for setting up vertical gardens, container gardens and even rooftop gardens.

Moreover, she argues that South Africans should be using their grey water – from a bath you've just had or after washing dishes – more effectively. And for this too she suggests a few smart ideas.

The message from both Riley's inspiring Ted Talk and Griffiths' new book is that reducing our negative impact on the environment doesn't require a huge shift or a lot of effort. In fact, it’s the sort of change that will not only help the environment but improve your own health and happiness too. For example, research recently published in the UK’s Journal of Public Health found that spending just 30 minutes a week gardening was enough to have a positive effect on self-esteem and mood for participants.

Watch Britta Riley's inspiring TED Talk below and get Jane Griffiths' book Jane's Delicious Urban Gardening on YuppieChef for R295.