How to Grow Your Own Food in Any Space

By Maureen Wise in Thinking Sustainably

Let's talk about why you might want to grow your own food. For one, it's fresher: garden tomatoes just taste so much better! Done the right way, growing your own vegetables, fruits, legumes, and herbs can help you save money, too. It's also better for the environment since it minimizes the environmental impacts of packaging, transporting, refrigerating, and processing the foods you eat.

And there's more: When you grow your own food for yourself and your family, you learn to appreciate the connection between the Earth and yourself. You'll want to celebrate that one lemon that took months to grow on your lemon tree (I speak from experience there!). And lastly, it's an excuse to get outside and be purposeful in your own backyard or community.

So, where to start?

Grow Your Own Food in Any Situation

No Outdoor Space

If you live in an apartment or don't have any outdoor space, don't fret. You still have plenty of options, including these.

green herb plants in terra cotta pots looking down at them

Grow Sprouts

Sprouts are tasty on sandwiches, salads, soups, and stews. They're super nutritious and take less than a week to grow from seeds. You can grow sprouts in a jar or a specialty sprout-growing container. They need light, so make sure your container is clear, and change the water daily. Harvest when they're just big enough to eat.

Grow Herbs

You can grow herbs in small pots on windowsills. Over the kitchen sink is the perfect spot. Try parsley, cilantro, or dill to add a fresh zip of flavor to your favorite dishes.

Regrow Food Waste

After chopping green onions, keep the roots and soak them upright in a shallow container. They'll regrow in water! You can do the same with the bottoms of red cabbage, celery, and iceberg lettuce.

Join a Community Garden Plot

If you don't have any means to garden outside, explore your options. You may be able to join a community garden that lets you rent a plot of land to grow whatever you like. You'll get to know other gardeners and learn from their experiences. Usually, community garden spaces provide a place to compost your waste and water to hydrate your plants, too.

Limited Outdoor Space

If you have a yard but not much room to start a garden, you can grow your own food in pots.

Grow Mint

Mint can grow anywhere! Plant it in a pot and place it somewhere sunny. If you grow it in a garden, you'll be digging back roots every year, so a pot is the optimal place to grow this invasive herb. You'll have plenty of new plants to share with friends next year, too!

Grow Tomatoes

Tomatoes grow happily in limited space. One plant needs about a five-gallon pot. Like mint, tomatoes like a lot of sun. You can easily find starter plants at your local nursery.

Grow Garlic

Garlic is such an interesting food to grow! Plant them in the fall and let them overwinter in the cold. They'll start to grow green leaves in late winter, and they'll be ready to harvest in early summer when the leaves turn yellow. Garlic tolerates shade, but it needs at least some daytime sun.

woman holding three zuccinnis, stems first, she is out of focus

Plenty of Space (But Just Getting Started)

If you have room for a whole vegetable garden but don't have much experience, start with these veggies. They're easy to keep and can help boost your confidence as you start to grow your own food.

Grow Green (or Purple!) Beans

Beans are easy to grow from seeds but need space to grow upward, so you'll need to provide a trellis or fence. Because beans need something tall for their vines to climb, they don't grow well in pots. They're happy in a sunny spot but tolerate some shade.

Grow Black Beans

Growing your own protein from the soil can be rewarding. Black beans also need a lot of sun but tolerate some shade. You probably won't find starters at a nursery, so you'll need to grow them from seeds. The beans will grow in a pod. Wait until the pods turn brown and hard to harvest them.

Grow Zucchini or Yellow Squash

These two summer squashes are similar and grow well together. Their plants and leaves get pretty big, so they need some space. Watch for powdery mildew, which kills the leaves. One way to help prevent this white mildew is to only water at the base of the plant (don't use a sprinkler). You can easily find zucchini and squash starters at your local nursery, or you can grow them from seeds. They prefer full sun.

Planting the Seeds of Change

Tom's of Maine supports young climate leaders through its annual Incubator Program, which provides mentorship and funding to five Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) individuals who are working to make the changes they want to see in the world. One of this year's Incubators, Brittney Portes, empowers people to grow their own food—no matter where they're from or how much land they have access to.

Want to learn more about growing your own vegetables, fruits, herbs, and more? Make your garden dreams a reality through Brittney's initiative, Gardens of Sol.

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The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.

Why It's Good

Growing your own food helps you appreciate the soil under your feet and changes the way you think about nourishment and food systems.