Grow Up Will You!

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All over the news we are hearing that food prices are soaring and of the damage that mass production is doing to the planet, not to mention the effect of low quality food on the human body. And you could be forgiven to succumbing to the gloom and doom and accepting our fate as it is out of our hands and in those of policymakers and the multinational supermarket chains. Well unfortunately for them it’s not the case, no no no. Quite the opposite.

It is fairly simple logic that brings you to the conclusion that if we can’t afford/trust what is on the shelves at the local store then we should just go ahead and make it ourselves, so that is exactly what we are doing! The seeds are planted the plants are growing and soon Troo Food Farm will be in full swing! It really could not be easier to make use of even the tiniest amount of balcony space in the densest part of downtown Athens! We are doing all our growing on our balcony here and so far we have corn, courgette, aubergine, tomato, cucumber plus loads more and even some superfoods poking their heads out of the compost! I reckon the only thing better than cooking yourself a delicious meal is growing the ingredients yourself. And you would be shocked at just how much vegetable comes from a single plant!

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Now, it might be a little too much information to give you all at once so every week or so we will post a little update on how the farm is coming on and more tips and instructions on how to break away from our reliance on massive chains making decisions about our lives without thought actually for us!

So lets start at the very beginning, where we all started from, seeds. You may want to consider what space you have when it comes to selecting your seeds. If you are short on space then I would easily recommend growing upwards! Vertical growing is an absolutely perfect way to solve space issues. Squash, aubergine, courgette, cucumber, tomato, beans, peas and so much more can be grown by training them upwards (we will come to that part in a later episode, for now lets get things in the soil and sprouted). So if you have a bit of wall to grow up against then its perfect to get things vining up and you should select what you want to grow accordingly. If you are pot–bound, however, then you still have massive possibilities. Basically anything you can grow in the ground you can grow in pots, anything. Depending on how much sun you have got and how much time you can devote to your growing darlings, will determine what your choices should be. Beets, carrots and potatoes are super delicious if you have deep enough pots and if you have wide enough pots then lettuce, broccoli and even kale are an absolute must. Come December I will also be reminding you to get your onions and garlic in the ground for early spring crops.

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For me, the best way to get seeds is to find the veggies you want to grow buy a couple from your local organic farmer and just whip the seeds out. Then you simply wash them and they are ready to plant. Alternatively, check out Peliti (peliti.gr), they are building Greece’s seed bank and run an amazing organic farm in Drama. The work they do is fantastic in saving and sustaining native and organic varieties of so many plants that are otherwise threatened with extinction. Finally if you can’t find the seeds you are looking for then get on the ever-reliable World Wide Web and look up organic seed sellers the world over. Most will ship world wide, so long as the plants are legal, and if they are approved organic then all the better. Needless to say the seed is the most vital part of the whole process, it will determine the quality of the final edible bits or indeed, if the plant will grow at all. Instructions on how to sow your seeds will be on the back of anything you buy in packs, but the rough rule of thumb is as follows:

Fill a small pot with good quality soil. A mixture of soil and compost is best and should cost you no more than 3euro for 20litres, which is more than enough at the planting stage. If you are planning on planting a whole bunch of stuff then seed trays might be a good idea to keep everything neat and tidy and to be as efficient as possible with space:

Pop your seeds on the surface of the soil, and then push down roughly the length from your fingertip to your first knuckle. How many seeds you plant in each little pot will depend on what you are planting. If they are tiny seeds I would put up to 6 and see how many sprout up, and for bigger ones 2 or 3 per pot is plenty. Water them well and regularly, but be careful not to overwater them, your plants need the oxygen in the soil to grow and if they sit in muddy water then they will be starved! If they are in direct sunlight then once a da should be fine. Top tip: Water your plants early in the morning so there thirst is quenched ready for a busy day growing and so that it doesn’t all evaporate in the midday sun. Try to avoid the pots completely drying out as this can cause irreparable damage to roots and your seeds won’t make it!

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Then just sit back and wait for the magic to happen. It may take a few weeks to see visible signs of life, but under the surface it is all going on. All you need to invest is a tiny amount of time and energy into those little fellas and you will, literally, reaping what you sow, namely free food for the rest of your life!

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