How do I grow my own vegetables on the balcony?
“Life begins the day you plant a garden,” says an old Chinese proverb. And that’s what it said one morning in 2016 on the teabag of Anna Meincke’s Yogi tea. Having recently moved into her apartment in Duisburg, the qualified ecologist was faced with the question of what to do with the roof terrace that was part of her new home. It would be stupid not to use it, thought the then 27-year-old. The saying on her tea bag suddenly reminded her of her childhood, when she squatted in the vegetable patch with her mother, a florist, and her grandparents, who were trained gardeners, and nibbled sugar snap peas. And so Meincke decided to grow vegetables on her terrace: radishes, tomatoes, lettuce.
Since then she hasn’t stopped. With her company “Dachgemüse”, founded in Erfurt in 2022, the 34-year-old is trying to bring more greenery back into the Thuringian capital – for example with a city farm built on an old railway track. The vegetables produced here are sold in a subscription box model. With the project, she wants to prove that it is possible to grow vegetables economically even on small areas in a city. And her book “Stadtgemüse”, which has just been published by Löwenzahn-Verlag, should also play its part in bringing the big city and nature closer together again.
The thing with the garden, without which, according to the Chinese calendar, life cannot begin, is not always so easy, especially for people in a big city. According to the Statista statistics platform, 77.5 percent of Germans lived in a city in 2021, around 30 percent even in a large city. At the same time, only 17 million German households have a private garden. According to estimates by the Federal Association of German Garden Friends, around five million people use around 900,000 allotment gardens. Around 60 million people are left without direct access to greenery at home.
And not every one of them was born with a green thumb like Anna Meincke, blessed with a spacious roof terrace or ready to rent an allotment garden. But how can you still grow radishes or even your own lettuce? We therefore asked the expert for some useful tips on how to easily grow your own vegetables in the city on the balcony, in the backyard or even in the basement.
How to: city veggies for beginners
Spring, which is slowly arriving in Germany, is the perfect time to start the vegetable cultivation project, as most varieties are sown in March and April. According to Meincke, radishes are ideal starter vegetables for all those who are still green behind their ears when it comes to gardening. Lettuce or peas are also suitable. Because with these plants you can see “success quickly and something to harvest quickly” – the motivation to keep at it increases. Radishes are the fastest vegetables, after just four weeks you can pull the small tubers out of their earthy bed. Lettuce also only needs about four to six weeks before it can be harvested.