Urban Gardening: You- Yes, YOU- Can Grow Food ANYwhere!

The whos, whats, whens, wheres, whys and hows of urban gardening…  with picture proof that you can do it!

Who?

YOU!  Your family, neighbors and friends.

What?

  • Growing your own food, herbs, spices and medicine
  • Supporting bee populations by planting flowers they can collect pollen from, and trees they can build hives in (Bee populations are collapsing, and without them plants can’t cross-pollinate)
  • Mulching and Composting to create fertile soil to use in garden beds or potted plants

When?

Why not now?

Where?

Any place you can find or put dirt.

  • If you have a yard, you’re already good to go.
  • If you live in an apartment or condo, you should be able to ask the property owner for permission to use a plot for growing.
  • If all else fails, buy some pots or make them out of used buckets or bottles.  You could also buy a large bin from a local home supply store.
  • Make the garden in your house, or on your porch or patio!

Why?

  • To eat better food- the radishes we grew last year were so much more sweeter and tangier than the ones I bought yesterday.
  • To avoid pesticides and GMO:  If you don’t put them, no one else will. Growing your own food gives you knowledge and control over what you and your loved ones put in and on their bodies
  • To save money- You can’t believe how many tomatoes a tomato patch can yield.  When we harvested, we HAD to give some away, eat some, then freeze the rest for later.
  • A new, healthy hobby- Gardening is VERY fulfilling, and hard work = good exercise!  Remember how fun it was play in the mud as a kid?  It still is!
  • Learn about nature and connect with the earth
  • Have food supplies in times of crisis- You never know!
  • Extra income- Sell your surplus at a farmer’s market!
  • Interior decorating- Beautify your living/work space with flowers, and remember that indoor plants naturally purify the air and increase oxygen!

How?

  • Tools you’ll need:  shovel, hoe, rake
  • Pots:  Buy some, or use any used buckets or bottles (a great way to recycle by the way)
  • Study the local climate to learn when is the best time to plant what, and how to plant it.  Ask a neighbor, elderly family member or anyone with experience farming or gardening for advice (a great way to make friends).  Buy the appropriate seeds and plant them!
  • To create the right soil, you could mulch or compost.  This basically means letting organic waste decompose in dirt, and then using that dirt, which will be very rich in nutrients, to plant in.  You can start by collecting all your organic waste- eggshells, food that has gone bad, coffee grounds, tea leaves, plant rinds, etc.- and burying it at the end of the day.  This should be done AWAY from your house, because it will attract bugs.  Make sure you cover each deposit well, so it will actually decompose, and not smell.

Our Experience with Urban Gardening

I live in an apartment complex in Saudi Arabia- not exactly the place you’d expect to be able to plant crops.  But you’d be surprised what you can grow here:

Beautiful flower bush in full bloom
Beautiful flower bush in full bloom
Henna tree (Where the body paint comes from)
Henna tree (Where the body paint comes from)
Ladybug in a berry patch in Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast across the peninsula from where I live near the Persian Gulf
Ladybug in a berry patch in Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast across the peninsula from where I live near the Persian Gulf

We’ve successfully planted and grown orange trees, lemon trees, garlic, potatoes, eggplant, chili peppers, radish, onions, tomatoes, coriander, aloe vera, basil, and various flowers.

A year ago this month I had two major setbacks:  tearing my achilles (unable to do work for 5 months) and was moved by my university from a house on the compound that had a yard, to an apartment complex.  At the same time, my wife was also pregnant with our 4th child, and summer was coming.  It wasn’t looking good for our garden…

2 1/2 months in a cast...
2 1/2 months in a cast…

But we found a few solutions.

1) Potted plants

When we tried to move our lemon and orange trees from the ground to pots, they died.  But we bought new ones, and they’re coming along:

Citrus sapling
Citrus sapling

We also have flowers and aloe vera in pots inside our house and on our patios:

Stairwell
Stairwell- Basil
Front patio
Front patio- Basil, Aloe Vera, etc.
Front Patio
Front Patio
20150214_163803
Staircase

 

Aloe vera, by the way, is a very effective medicine.  We use its juice for cuts, sunburn, rashes, and aftershave (no more razor bumps!)  It’s a hardy plant that just needs water, so I recommend it to everyone.

2) Find potential garden beds and use them

There are a lot of empty plots in the concrete around our house that weren’t being used.  The one right below our apartment is now growing flowers, coriander (which we just harvested), and eggplant.

20150214_125828

 

Another one nearby has chili peppers, garlic, onion, coriander, peppermint, and tomatoes.

20150214_125853

In the highest terrace, we just put two trees of a local species that bees like to use for hives.  We hope that they’ll also provide shade in the extremely hot Arabian summers when they mature.

They don’t look like they’re doing too well, but that usually happens when you re-pot plants.  As long as they bounce back before summertime, they should be fine.  If they don’t, we’ll try again.  You win some, you lose some, especially starting off.  It takes patience…

3) DIY Compost Heap

I just dug a compost bed this morning.  It was a sand bed full of rocks, concrete, glass, and some scary-looking red beetles!  My girls and I dumped out all the rocks and glass.

Little Gardeners in Training
Little Gardeners in Training

I had to take a hammer to the concrete (dumped there by local workers) and before shoveling it all out.  Then I dug up half of it, dumping the sand on the other side.

To compost, I’ll just take our day’s- or meal’s- organic leftovers or garbage, dump it on the sand, then bury it, like so:

1. Dig
1. Dig
20150214_134034
2. Dump

 

3.  Cover
3. Cover

By this fall- which is planting season here due to the extreme heat of summer- the waste should be decomposed.  We may or may not have to add dirt to it before using.  We’ll see.

4) Hire a gardener

OK, I cheated.

With me in crutches and then a cane, my wife in late pregnancy and then postpartum, we really couldn’t do anything.  Luckily, for us, we met a very man with an honorable disposition named Muhi adDeen who works as a groundskeeper on campus.  His expertise and willingness to help have been essential, and we hope he will continue to share his expertise with us and our children.

Me & Muhi-adDeen
Me & Muhi-adDeen

5) Use House Plants

These are usually very low maintenance- just flowers or vines that you have to water a few times a week.  If you travel, make sure you have a reliable neighbor take over while you’re gone.

Hanging Gardens of Dhahran
Hanging Gardens of Dhahran

20150214_164029

6) Harvest!

Look at the peppers my wife picked this afternoon (an essential ingredient in her native Punjabi cuisine):20150214_134316 20150214_134310It’s already paying off!

We’re open to suggestions.  Send yours in the comments and I’ll put them into the article.  Let’s learn and grow together!

 

Advertisements

This Is Your Brain on Junk Food

There are a range of factors that scientists and food manufacturers use to make food more addictive.

Dynamic contrast. Dynamic contrast refers to a combination of different sensations in the same food. In the words of Witherly, foods with dynamic contrast have:

… an edible shell that goes crunch followed by something soft or creamy and full of taste-active compounds. This rule applies to a variety of our favorite food structures — thecaramelized top of a cremebrulee, a slice of pizza, oran Oreo cookie — the brain finds crunching through something like this very novel and thrilling.

Salivary response. Salivation is part of the experience of eating food, and the more that a food causes you to salivate, the more it will swim throughout your mouth and cover your taste buds. For example, emulsified foods like butter, chocolate, salad dressing, ice cream, and mayonnaise promote a salivary response that helps to lather your taste buds with goodness. This is one reason why many people enjoy foods that have sauces or glazes on them. The result is that foods that promote salivation do a happy little tap dance on your brain and taste better than ones that don’t.

Rapid food meltdown and vanishing caloric density. Foods that rapidly vanish or “melt in your mouth” signal to your brain that you’re not eating as much as you actually are. In other words, these foods literally tell your brain that you’re not full, even though you’re eating a lot of calories.

The result: You tend to overeat.

In his best-selling book Salt Sugar Fat, author Michael Moss describes a conversation with Witherly that explains vanishing caloric density perfectly…

I brought him two shopping bags filled with a variety of chips to taste. He zeroed right in on the Cheetos. “This,”Witherly said, “is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.” He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. “It’s called vanishing caloric density,”Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it … you can just keep eating it forever.”

Sensory specific response. Your brain likes variety. When it comes to food, if you experience the same taste over and over again, then you start to get less pleasure from it. In other words, the sensitivity of that specific sensor will decrease over time. This can happen in just minutes.

Junk foods, however, are designed to avoid this sensory specific response. They provide enough taste to be interesting (your brain doesn’t get tired of eating them), but it’s not so stimulating that your sensory response is dulled. This is why you can swallow an entire bag of potato chips and still be ready to eat another. To your brain, the crunch and sensation of eating Doritos is novel and interesting every time.

Calorie density. Junk foods are designed to convince your brain that it is getting nutrition, but to not fill you up. Receptors in your mouth and stomach tell your brain about the mixture of proteins, fats, carbohydrates in a particular food, and how filling that food is for your body. Junk food provides just enough calories that your brain says, “Yes, this will give you some energy,” but not so many calories that you think, “That’s enough, I’m full.” The result is that you crave the food to begin with, but it takes quite some time to feel full from it.

Memories of past eating experiences. This is where the psychobiology of junk food really works against you. When you eat something tasty (say, a bag of potato chips), your brain registers that feeling. The next time you see that food, smell that food, or even read about that food, your brain starts to trigger the memories and responses that came when you ate it. These memories can actually cause physical responses like salivation and create the “mouth-watering” craving that you get when thinking about your favorite foods.

All of this brings us to the most important question of all.

Food companies are spending millions of dollars to design foods with addictive sensations. What can you and I do about it? Is there any way to counteract the money, the science, and the advertising behind the junk food industry?

How to Kick the Junk Food Habit and Eat Healthy

The good news is that the research shows that the less junk food you eat, the less you crave it. My own experiences have mirrored this. As I’ve slowly begun to eat healthier, I’ve noticed myself wanting pizza and candy and ice cream less and less. Some people refer to this transition period as “gene reprogramming.”

Whatever you want to call it, the lesson is the same: If you can find ways to gradually eat healthier, you’ll start to experience the cravings of junk food less and less. I’ve never claimed to have all the answers (or any, really), but here are three strategies that might help.

1. Use the “outer ring” strategy and the “5 ingredient rule” to buy healthier food.

The best course of action is to avoid buying processed and packaged foods. If you don’t own it, you can’t eat it. Furthermore, if you don’t think about it, you can’t be lured by it.

We’ve talked about the power of junk food to pull you in and how memories of tasty food in the past can cause you to crave more of it in the future. Obviously, you can’t prevent yourself from ever thinking about junk food, but there are ways to reduce your cravings.

First, you can use my “outer ring” strategy to avoid processed and packaged foods at the grocery store. If you limit yourself to purchasing foods that are on the outer ring of the store, then you will generally buy whole foods (fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, etc.). Not everything on the outer ring is healthy, but you will avoid a lot of unhealthy foods.

You can also follow the “5 ingredient rule” when buying foods at the store. If something has more than 5 ingredients in it, don’t buy it. Odds are, it has been designed to fool you into eating more of it. Avoid those products and stick with the more natural options.

2. Eat a variety of foods.

As we covered earlier, the brain craves novelty.

While you may not be able to replicate the crunchy/creamy contrast of an Oreo, you can vary your diet enough to keep things interesting. For example, you could dip a carrot (crunchy) in some hummus (creamy) and get a novel sensation. Similarly, finding ways to add new spices and flavors to your dishes can make eating healthy foods a more desirable experience.

Moral of the story: Eating healthy doesn’t have to be bland. Mix up your foods to get different sensations and you may find it easier than eating the same foods over and over again. (At some point, however, you may have to fall in love with boredom.)

3. Find a better way to deal with your stress.

There’s a reason why many people eat as a way to cope with stress. Stress causes certain regions of the brain to release chemicals (specifically, opiates and neuropeptide Y). These chemicals can trigger mechanisms that are similar to the cravings you get from fat and sugar. In other words, when you get stressed, your brain feels the addictive call of fat and sugar and you’re pulled back to junk food.

We all have stressful situations that arise in our lives. Learning to deal with stress in a different way can help you overcome the addictive pull of junk food. This could includesimple breathing techniques or a short guided meditation. Or something more physical like exercise or making art.

With that said, if you’re looking for a better written and more detailed analysis of the science of junk food, I recommend reading the #1 New York Times best-seller Salt Sugar Fat.

James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares ideas about using behavior science to improve your performance and master your habits. For useful ideas on how to live a healthy life, both mentally and physically, join his free newsletter.

Follow James Clear on Twitter: www.twitter.com/james_clear

From http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-clear/why-we-crave-junk-food_b_4261415.html?ir=Taste&ref=topbar

ESSENTIAL & EASY Natural Remedies and Natural Lifestyle Tips

Do you love natural living, a natural lifestyle and natural remedies? Share your story with us here and check out some of the tips we offer too!

Nature Hacks is dedicated to bringing you the very best natural remedies, natural lifestyle tips and all the ways that you can safely and effectively live in a more natural way – that’s better for you and your family.

Whether it’s a natural remedy or you’re tired of all of the added toxic ingredients that go into cosmetics these days, you’re surely going to love what we have to offer.

A website and page combined gives us the best chance of hearing from you, letting you get to know us and it also gives you the opportunity to hear all about you and what you love about natural ways!

Click HERE for invaluable information about:
Harvesting and Storing Herbs
Drying Herbs
Healing Herbs
Pest Repellent
Herbal Insecticides
Natural Cures
Natural Antibiotics
Natural FIrst Aid
Natural Painkillers
Teas
Gardening
Change your life…  naturally…
___
I’m not getting paid by this site.  I just really think it’s good for you.