Rē-thinking Traditional Gardening with Apartment Farmer, Nick Cutsumpas

Here’s how to get your hands dirty even in the smallest living spaces.

By: Karyn Trepanier
Rē-thinking Traditional Gardening with Apartment Farmer, Nick Cutsumpas

There is a transcendental oneness we can experience when engaging with nature through gardening. Some people even consider it to be a form of active meditation. Nurturing plants from seed to harvest helps attune us to the all-embracing energy of life and reminds us of the natural generosity and abundance the earth offers. Getting our hands dirty and growing our own food is soul medicine. Research even shows that gardening improves physical and mental health so much so that some therapists prescribe it for patients suffering from anxiety and depression.

Gardening also helps us practice the spiritual law of giving and receiving. Consistent care and consideration need to be given to our plants in order to receive the gifts of home-grown produce. Tending to plants is co-creation with nature at its finest and it’s a deeply-rooted, instinctual human desire. 

“The Biophilia Hypothesis is a theory that suggests that humans are inherently drawn to seek out connections to nature and plants, and it makes sense when you realize that humans have lived in and evolved with nature for nearly seven million years,” Nick Cutsumpas explained to rē•spin. “Only in the last few thousand years have we migrated to urban cities, and because our species is not fully adapted for life without nature, our green isolation is having a drastic impact on our well-being.” 

Studies show that caring for plants has the ability to make you more productive, boost creativity, and even help you live longer. Traditionally, gardening requires a large plot of land with plenty of healthy soil. So how can you reap the benefits of gardening when you have limited space? We asked plant coach and apartment farmer, Nick Cutsumpas, to show us how to embrace gardening in urban areas. Here are his top tips for gardening for your well-being, even in the smallest spaces. 

Get Vertical  

Small spaces are always tricky but there are some creative ways to trellis your plants that will allow you to use the negative space above. Plants like peas, beans, and squash are natural climbers, and giving them a sturdy trellis to scale maximizes your yield if you’re growing on a small balcony or terrace. You can even use your trellis to shade plants like lettuce.

Cut and Come Again  

A small terrace garden may not provide enough food to feed you, but it will provide a nice addition to your everyday meals if you practice the cut and come again method. Let’s use romaine lettuce as an example. Instead of harvesting the entire plant when it is mature, start by harvesting the outside leaves with your harvesting shears. Doing so will allow the plant to keep growing from the center and give you lettuce all season long. You can also do the same thing with herbs!

Start Succession Planting 

Succession planting is when you’re starting seeds and growing seedlings that will replace the freshly harvested crop, and growing them simultaneously will minimize the amount of time your garden is bare. There’s nothing worse than staring at an empty pot, and advanced gardeners are planting seeds indoors all year long. If you do want to harvest that whole head of lettuce, make sure you’ve got a seedling on deck to replace it in the garden. 

Grow Herbs, Leafy Greens, and Wheatgrass  

If you have absolutely no outdoor space at all, you still have options to grow food! Crops like herbs and leafy greens can be harvested within 30-45 days and do not require pollinators to produce fruit. They do best in south-facing windows but you can definitely add a grow light if you think it needs a boost. You can also harvest them early to get microgreens which pack a major nutritional punch. Wheatgrass is another delicious and nutritious option that can be harvested in as little as 10 days!

Invest in a Lettuce Grow Farm Stand 

The Lettuce Grow farm stand is the best hydroponic growing system I’ve ever used. Just fill the reservoir with water, plant your seedlings in the grow baskets and feed it once a week with nutrients. Everything is completely automated after that and it is quite prolific when it gets growing. I’ve grown herbs and leafy greens like cilantro, basil, and bok choy, but I’ve also experimented with edible flowers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and even a whole cauliflower! It also comes with glow ring lights that will allow you to grow indoors all year long.

Food is the foundation of wellness, and growing your own can yield produce that’s more nutritious and flavorful. Try adding some home-grown herbs to this tomato-basil-watermelon tartare or as a garnish on this herby Eyeswoon toast. Pair your meal with a refreshing Camp Craft Cocktail blend and join our founder in virtual cheers by sharing your drinks and tagging #campberryrefresher. Cheers to connecting over home-grown food and nourishing summer cocktails!

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