Challenge #20 ~ Growing Our Own Food

Read the blog post on the July Theme ~ FOOD

Photo by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash

We often hear “We used to grow our own produce,” “We were part of a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture),” “We had a community garden in our neighborhood.” 

The myth is that because of the summer heat in Qatar, a home garden with vegetables and fruits is impossible. Home gardening, however, is a real possibility for all of us here in Qatar who may wish to eat home-grown, organic produce, even during hot, humid, and dusty conditions. The option of growing food at home not only gives us good quality produce, but also makes sense from a financial perspective. Gardening and farming are healthy, stress-busting activities that may add years and quality to life. 

“It is well-known that an outdoor lifestyle with moderate physical activity is linked to longer life, and gardening is an easy way to accomplish both.”

Gardening could be the hobby that helps you live to 100

Choosing to grow our own food is our most sustainable way to eat. When we garden, we’re in charge! We can choose to enrich the soil, if needed, with natural materials, such as compost, which reduces our reliance on synthetic fertilizers. We can eliminate reliance on chemical pesticides and herbicides with natural farming practices, such as companion planting, meaning “carefully bundled crops offer mutually beneficial relationships between plants, soil and the grower,” according to Dan Barber, author of The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food. For instance, using the three sister companion planting relationships, the farmer plants beans to provide nitrogen for corn, as legumes draw nitrogen from the air into the soil. Corn stalks provide a natural climbing trellis for beans, and the grower or farmer does not need to stalk the beans. Squash, planted around the base of the corn and beans, suppresses weeds and offers an additional vegetable to harvest in late fall. 

And consider the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and waste production. When we harvest our fully ripened produce we can eat it right away. No packaging is needed and we create a nearly zero-waste food supply. According to the Worldwatch Institute, it is estimated that food travels 1,500 miles, on average, before it reaches the consumer. On the other hand, plants that we grow absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transform it through photosynthesis to oxygen we breath, assisting in air quality improvements.

The Qatari growing season extends from October until March, sometimes later.  We can grow a wide variety of plants in our backyards such as herbs, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, leafy greens and fruits like papaya, bananas, and citrus. New technology such as hanging and vertical growing containers makes it possible to grow even strawberries.  Another option to consider – grow food in raised beds filled with fresh potting soil to ensure healthy and nutritious growing conditions for the plants. The sky (and space) is the limit! 

Live in an apartment? No worries, we can grow many vegetables in pots either indoors or on balconies. The only requirement is ample sunshine, preferably indirect sun to better protect plants. In fact, indoor planting in Qatar can take place year-round due to the plentiful sunshine and a controlled summertime indoor environment. It is important to use good quality soil to ensure a successful harvest. Herbs are particularly easy to grow indoors. Additionally, decorative indoor plants can act as natural air filters, thus providing benefits of indoor air quality improvements. Some common plants that filter air are the peace lily, snake plant, aloe vera, and spider plant. While adding a cosy and brightening feel to a space, indoor plantings also help to de-stress and relieve tension.

If neither pots nor balcony are an option, there are opportunities to help out in schools that have introduced community gardens, such as the Doha English Speaking School and Doha College. Tree planting, gardening or food growing are great educational initiatives for schools to involve students.

In addition to health, environmental and financial benefits, home gardening offers beautiful looking backyards or living spaces full of colors, greenery, and produce. For help with home-gardening tips visit Doha Garden Club.

This challenge contributes to delivering UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) #3 Health and Wellbeing, #12 Responsible Consumption and Production, #13 Climate Action.

Sources

  1. Dan Barber, The Third Plate, May 2014
  2. Worldwatch Institute, Is Local Food Better? May/June 2009
  3. The Peninsula, DESS opens community garden, 16 Nov 2016
  4. Marhaba, Doha College Learning Garden Flourishes, 7 Mar 2016
  5. Doha Garden Club, Accessed 30 Jun 2019
  6. UN Sustainable Development Goals, Accessed 30 Jun 2019