Bringing the farm to your apartment

Berlin has no shortage of fantastic restaurants and food outlets. If you want Chinese noodles at 4am you can get it. Gourmet döner, tacos, snitzel and of course burgers to white-linen table cloth dining, Tim Raue and local Brandenburg produce, Berlin has it. The city is home to 24 hour worldwide cuisine from street food to fine dining, yet there is still something special about cooking your own meal and more importantly, using your own, homegrown ingredients.

lettuce anyone?

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a balcony, and not everyone is patient enough to preserve gardens over winter, let alone the summer months, but there are some easy tips that help even the most delicate vegies survive in a balcony-free, six month long winter environment.

First, buy fresh.

Getting produce to plant from markets such as the Saturday produce market at Kolwitzplatz or Markthalleneun as well as curated garden centres like Der Holländer Pflanzencenter Gartencenter am Treptower Park and specialised florists you’re more likely to inherit a plant that has been well germinated and cared for in its early life.  Avoid flower stands at the Sbahn, Mauerpark and of course LIDL. Many garden centres offer both established seedlings that just need potting – meaning they may already bare some fruit, or have developed leaves – as well as seeds that you can grow from scratch.

a mixed box of kale

The benefit of seedlings.

You can save time by purchasing seedlings. These plants have already grown through a development stage, and just need the right size vessel and regular watering to fruit. In many cases for vegetables like chilli and tomato and almost always for herbs, these are a fool proof option. Germinating seeds from scratch comes with a lot more risk, and about a six to eight week period of the unknown, before they start to shoot. You also need to know in advance what you want to grow and how long the planting season and germination periods are. For example, starting to plant seeds for strawberries in November will not result in anything. The plant needs warm conditions and lots of sunlight. Instead, planting in April, for a mid-summer harvest is ideal.

What if I don’t have a balcony?

Depending on how much sunlight your apartment gets, you can grow many herbs and vegetables inside. Thanks also to modern devices like the urban cultivator, you can even start your own greenhouse with even the most limited spaces. The key here, is good soil, regulated watering and access to light – yes, even warm yellow lamps can act as the sun for the darkest of apartments. Depending on what you want to grow, chilies, tomatoes, spring onion, lettuce and all herbs are easy to grow inside in confined spaces.

Whether sharing with flatmates, friends, family or dinner just for one, actually using your kitchen has great rewards. Growing your own produce can be this easy!

mixed herbs, lettuce and spring onion. Tip: use your left over ground coffee as fertiliser!