Growing Food At Home | Starting Steps

It’s come a long way since then but this blog started in March 2013 with gardening pics, homemade recipes and photos from hiking adventures on the east coast of Barbados. I was living on a farm in the ‘farming parish’ of the island, which ironically constantly had water problems (the island has a shortage.)

For the first year in the countryside, I was volunteering on another one learning to grow food and started planting at home growing fresh herbs, vegetables, fruits and ground provisions since then. Today, I’m sharing steps and encouragement to start growing food at home, even if you live in a small apartment and have little or no yard.

gooseberry tree in the backyard

Why grow food?

Aside from the global ‘timeouts’, fluctuating curfews, cost of living in Bim, outdoor situations, public transportation challenges and the constant quest to find legit organic produce that all make venturing outside a lot less appealing in this season, gardening is healthy for the mind and physical movement and (at some point) our meals. It’s strength training on a lot of levels and can help us develop a heightened sense of patience, proactivity and thankfulness. When you grow even just some of what you eat you can vouch for how your food was handled and receive it as soon as it’s fresh.

Let’s walk through a short list of steps and essentials to hopefully inspire you to start growing a fruit, vegetable, kitchen herb or ground provision garden, or motivate you to give some extra attention to the plant you already have or the forgotten tree in your yard. By the way, I may have been growing greens, fresh herbs 🌿 fruits and and provisions for years, but I’m not an expert and there’s still a lot to learn.

What are some seasonal fruits where you live, and do you know if there are trees in open areas nearby you can forage from when they’re in season?

Starting Steps

⁃ pick a planting zone (in or outdoors or a combo of the two.) It can be your kitchen sill to start off, the patio, a balcony, front or back yard – a well-lit area in a room. Observe the sunlight pattern, its timeline and research what grows best where. Examine the different types of soil where you are and if you can identify different micro climates or well-watered zones outside. Seeing any caterpillars around, bees and birds visiting certain bushes or flowers – any butterflies gathering? Monitor that.

  • Decide on what you eat most, what you might be interested in supplying or making a product from or what grows fastest depending on your motivation and goals.
  • If you don’t have a yard, but have some space to plant and a spare $10. (depending on where you live) buy some pre-mixed soil or potting mix to start. If not, don’t be discouraged – scout around right where you are for the most living, rich and loose (not tough, gluey) soil. It may be somewhere in an open pasture in the neighbourhood. After a light rain, go for a walk and take a good look at the land. I’ve collected bags full of earth and lugged them home early in the morning before. Potting mix is recommended a lot by gardening experts, but it’s not always instantly affordable so don’t let that get in the way. After all the original ‘potting mix’ is the earth before bags were invented. If you can, start with one then add bit by bit.Same for seeds. If you can buy, buy but if not, and you can afford an organic market bought tomato and sweet pepper, eat the fruit, save the seeds, plant and water them…wait and watch for future food. If you can, start with one then add bit by bit.

Same for seeds. If you can buy – buy but if not, and you can afford an organic market bought tomato and sweet pepper, eat the fruit, save the seeds, plant and water them…wait and watch for future food. If you can, start with one then add bit by bit.

decide what you’re going to plant – how about your favourite veggies or something the closest store seems to always run out of first.

⁃ start saving seeds from things like those tomatoes in that salad, okra, melongene (eggplant) or buying (real) seed packs.

⁃ designate a small kitchen compost tin (with a secure lid), outdoor compost area or a combo of both.

córrale and crunch up any leaf stacks 🍃 to use as mulch or a compost layer (y’all in autumn places have leaves galore.)

⁃ get a gardening fork or start with a designated knife for digging. Oh, and a watering can or spray bottle.

⁃ be enthusiastic, it helps.

check out Mumbai Balcony Gardener and CaliKim on YouTube, JulBe on Instagram or join a gardening-support group like ‘Bajan Home Gardening’ or ‘Green Thumb Barbados’ on Facebook. If you know any other helpful ones where you are, feel free to share.

adjust your morning routine if needed so you prep for mind for quiet mornings and gardening time.

8 Essentials to Start Growing Food

1. designate a planting zone/s (cups, pots, containers, seedling trays, outside areas with borders of rocks or bricks, wooden pallets)

2. potting mix or healthy soil

3. seeds or seedlings 🌱

4. compost bin or heap. set aside a small kitchen compost bin or covered bowl so you can collect scraps to add to the outdoor one every day.

5. adequate sunlight (for whatever you’re planting), clean water and fresh breeze.

6. organic plant bug repellent (crushed garlic water, neem leaves/tea, ground peppers 🌶 )

7. plant matter (vegetable, fruit and provision scraps & eggshells)

8. patience

⁃ Seed-saving tip: Get a multi-compartment tin like an ice tray or mini envelopes or tiny Ziploc ‘baggies’ to save seeds by type. Label by name and date then set aside those seeds to plant or gift at some point.

Tamarind, squash, gooseberries, lemon…

It starts with just one seed and good soil, even if that looks like a cup with a plant cutting on your kitchen window sill or a jar of water with a plant sprouting roots.

Food security is a hot topic for a reason in and beyond this season, and though we don’t find actual security in food, having things you can eat growing at home helps ease the mind and put food on the table in these trying times. Meanwhile, scout for any fruit trees spilling over in the public domain in your neighbourhood or along nature trails. Your real food security regimen is making sure bugs, rodents, tree climbing visitors, butterflies, belly-crawlers and pets don’t harm or gobble down the plants. (A little but important note for any Barbados-based aspiring gardeners reading this, having grown and shared food with families of green monkeys for years – leave some for them and they’ll leave some for you. They know who likes them and who doesn’t, and they respond in kind.)

The blessing of that precious quiet time taking care of a plant that was created to help nourish you too is both humbling and exciting. There are so many beautiful surprises with gardening, and yes – challenges too but that’s also a part of how we grow. It’s a mutual thing.

The rain literally just started showering down and the plants and trees outside will respond sweetly to that, especially after a baking hot day. That thought alone just made me take a deep thankful breath. So, pelt that piece of potato or ginger (with the ‘eye’) and save seeds from those tomatoes in that salad and you’ll be sweetly surprised with what you see in a few days. May your hands be blessed and whatever you grow flourish, by His grace.

What food will you start growing, or what’s already springing up or flourishing in your home or garden?

picking mangoes to eat and use in smoothies, curry dishes, and for hair treatments.

Gardening is calming – it’s also a good way to get moving and you don’t need to pay any membership fee to start or enjoy. It’s muscle-building for the mind and body and stirs up patience. Don’t be intimidated by all there is to learn or challenges and disappointments along the way; be inspired and motivated to join in and grow food at home. Start with what you have and scout around for accessible plant cuttings and supplies when you can, or just ask someone for a helping hand. I’m happy for you already. In this times and with serious conversations about food shortage and the scriptural reality of coming famine, our works pale in comparison to the help we’ll need to endure the seasons to come…but at the very least, you’ll be making a step forward to having food at home and cultivating a healthy mindset by starting to garden.

Related guest posts about gardening: Growing And Storing Food & The Ultimate Guide To Composting

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Refreshment and resources for the journey. Join singer, songwriter and farmer Indra from Barbados for gardening moments, songs of freedom, tropical recipes and travel journeys on what has organically grown into one of the leading 'Caribbean Lifestyle Blogs & Websites to Follow.'

23 thoughts on “Growing Food At Home | Starting Steps

  1. These are great tips! My partner and I love gardening and really want to move to growing fruit and veggies – I like the idea of the kitchen windowsill as a planting space so you can always watch for new growth xx

    1. Ooo, that must be so cosy; y’all gardening together. Any recommendations for best houseplants for tropical places? I have no idea which ones work best for inside; just one kind so far.

      1. My favorite indoor plants are philodendrons because they are usually pest-free. I love the tropical feel that palms bring to the indoors, but you need to rotate them regularly otherwise they tend to get scale and mealy bug inside which can be hard to control. Some hanging ferns are great too if you have space to hang them – but they can be difficult to water without making a mess. I love to bring orchids in from the garden when they are in flower, but for many species that’s only once or twice a year. Dieffenbachias (dumb canes) are hardy indoors too, but be careful if there are young kids around because the leaves are toxic if chewed on.

      2. Beautiful walk-through of your plants and thanks so much for sharing. Looking at getting a couple palms and grateful for these tips before getting any other indoor ones

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