Dear friends, we believe we have an interesting urban gardening story to share.
We are Sandra and Drazen from Zagreb, Croatia. Our permaculture interest began two years ago when I (Sandra) fell and broke a leg during a recreational badminton match. The recovery process took three months, so I had enough time to forget all work-related stresses, to read a lot and search the internet.
One morning I found Permaculturenews.org and those were wow moments — a revelation that there is a genuine way to tackle personal and world problems and that all problems can be solved in the garden. I’ve been reading the site ever since.
My husband shared this enthusiasm, so we started contemplating leaving the city and buying our own piece of land to put our new knowledge into practice — as is probably the case with many who start reading, learning and absorbing permaculture knowledge and expand this to aspects of health/disease, community problems, real food revolution, consumerism, peak oil, agriculture, climate change, politics….
But, financial insecurity held us here. However, the idea of growing our own food became important and we made a plan to plant our garden in the city using a self-watering two-bucket system. The problem was — we do not have a balcony! We live in a small flat in a 16-story apartment building here in Zagreb, Croatia. Growing at ground level was out of the question because of neighbors walking their dogs and the possibility of vandalism and/or theft. There were no city gardening plots either (that has changed this spring, but they’re still nowhere near us).
There was only one option left: the roof! Way up there in the sky!
See that balcony in a concrete box on top of the skyscraper at left? That’s where we got
permission to install our garden in the spring of 2013.
May 2013. Runner beans growing happily till the first wind.
It was a disaster. Had to pull them out.
We planted bravely in May 2013 with many ups and downs, but learning all the way: no chance to grow runner beans because the wind is too strong, and no cucumbers or zucchinis either — there are no bees to pollinate at this height (we pollinated some with a brush). Tomatoes are very hungry, thirsty plants and susceptible to fungal diseases… we didn’t pick many of them. All the same — it was an interesting summer!
July 2013: Small tomato guild – tomato plant, Greek basil and nasturtium. Plants were
struggling to survive during the cold and windy May, remained small and early blight
finished them in August. It was too much for them.
During the winter months we contemplated new strategies: to start our own plants from seeds, to think about protection during cold and windy days in May, grow spinach and chard in early spring, choose vegetables that do not need insect pollinators, mulch with hay instead of using plastic bucket covers, add mycorrhizal fungi spores into our soil, feed plants with comfrey and protect them with nettle tea, spray with raw milk to prevent fungal diseases, add banana peels and crushed egg shells for phosphorus, potassium and calcium, even spray with Epsom salt for magnesium… working with nature, never against it!
So here comes the new story of 2014:
Starting our own seedlings at the end of February 2014
March 2014. Chili peppers looking cute and strong with a few granules of mycorrhizal
spores already added to the soil.
March 2014. Tomatoes – cocktail and one Heinz variety. Also with a few granules of
mycorrhizal spores to help them develop a proper root system.
May 2014. Transplanted and growing happily. Bell Peppers in buckets.
Cocktail tomatoes in May. Supported and mulched. Looking good.
May 2014. Yellow bell peppers needed support. See the mulching hay underneath.
Early June 2014. Already we have sweet peppers for our salads. See the milk droplets on leaves
— spraying with raw milk helps them form a protective bacterial coating
and fight fungal problems.
July 2014. Let the feast begin! No fungal problems whatsoever even though we’ve had plenty
of rain and warm days. Still feeding them every week with comfrey leaves we pick — cut and
tuck under the mulch.
June 2014. Cocktail tomatoes have produced so many fruits
— more than three hundred on each plant.
Chili pepper urban jungle
July 2014. A few kilograms of fruit on this branch alone.
Lots of joy and many tasty vegetables this year!
And looking down on Zagreb from where our cloud garden is — we see huge potential for more gardeners to join the fun of growing their own food wherever they can.