Urban Farming: How Restaurants and Cafes Can Grow Their Own Food
Close your eyes and imagine sitting at a table on a restaurant patio watching the sun go down over the city. Although the night throbs with the usual urban clamor, the sound of doors slamming and taxis honking, the air around you is fragrant with the soothing scent of lavender and the earthy aromas of rosemary, thyme, and sage. Bees buzz from stem to stem, busy at their work, as one of the chefs snips off salad leaves for your starter.
Sounds pretty idyllic, right? Well, introduce pots and planters to your establishment, and you can benefit from freshly grown produce, too.
Cultivating fruits, vegetables, and herbs in containers is surprisingly simple, bringing fresh, delicious flavor to your dishes and adding to the overall ambiance of your interior and exterior decor. And don't let a lack of space put you off — just one or two pots behind the kitchen, on a windowsill, or dotted around your dining area can still produce a bounty of home-grown goodness.
To help, we've put together this handy guide, covering everything from the benefits of urban farming to what edible plants thrive best in containers. Let's grow!
What Are the Benefits of Urban Farming?
There are numerous benefits to growing your own fruit and veg. Here are some of the main boons of urban farming:
- Using fresh ingredients results in tastier dishes and happier customers. Unlike store-bought produce, plants grown just a few feet from your kitchen aren't sprayed in any nasty pesticides or preservatives and contain more flavor as they haven't been sitting around on a shelf for days on end.
- As you're not buying food grown in far-off countries, flown to the store, and then driven to your restaurant on a gas-guzzling lorry, cooking with food grown locally significantly reduces carbon emissions and is much better for the environment.
- In addition to their functional purpose, utilizing stylish outdoor planters to grow edible vegetation blooming with leafy greens and a rainbow of vibrant flowers adds interest and beauty to your schemes and is guaranteed to make you stand out from your competition.
Get Started with These Container Gardening Tips
Before you start planting, take the time to research different container options, as this will play a significant role in the health and happiness of your crops. There are thousands of pots on the market, manufactured from many types of materials, including terracotta, concrete, timber, or aluminum, and each one has its own unique set of pros and cons. Fiberglass planters tend to be the most popular pick for urban farming as they're resistant to inclement weather, come in a wide variety of shapes and designs, and are amazingly lightweight, so you can easily move your plants inside as the season's change.
Another top tip to remember is to avoid buying containers in dark colors as they absorb heat during the warmer months, causing moisture to evaporate quicker and drying out your plants.
Next to think about is the container's size. Bigger is often better, as large planters hold more soil and retain water for longer, meaning your fruit and vegetables can last longer without a drink. However, if you're worried your chefs will end up spending more time gardening than cooking, self-watering planters might be the best bet for your business. All you need to do is fill up the pot's reservoir every few weeks when it runs low, and your plants will do the rest.
Lastly, always fill your containers with high-quality potting soil, either mixed by yourself or bought from the store. Using earth from your garden won't drain as well and can potentially contain weeds and diseases harmful to your crops.
Best Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs to Grow in Pots
Even in the tightest of spaces, there's still a vast range of tasty and easy-to-grow produce perfect for your delighting your customers. Here are a few of our favorites to get you started:
- Root vegetables — growing root vegetables in a pot might seem utterly inconceivable, but in truth, most tubers grow surprisingly well in container gardens, including onions, potatoes, radishes, carrots, and beets. To ensure you pull a plentiful harvest, all you need is a deep enough container full of loose, well-draining soil and a good dose of organic fertilizer (the type derived from plant or animal sources). Just don't forget to read the label on your seed packets and mark down the maturity dates of your veg on your calendar so you know when they're ready to dig up.
- Lettuce and salad greens —brilliant for beginners, salad greens are incredibly fast-growing and ready to use in your dishes in only four to six weeks from seeding. Simply harvest them when a few inches high and at their tastiest, and enjoy! Plus, when it comes to leafy greens, there's no shortage of variety. Stick to the classics with iceberg lettuce and spinach or branch out and grow arugula, mizuna, or mustard leaves. As a top tip, water them with a fine spray so as not to damage their foliage.
- Herbs — as long as they require similar growing conditions, planting several different herbs together in the same pot is an excellent space-saving option. For example, combine Mediterranean varieties like rosemary, thyme, lavender, and sage as they prefer dry soil and plenty of sunshine. Or, house leafier types, such as tarragon, parsley, and cilantro, in one container as they thrive with moist soil in shady spots. Regularly harvest your herbs using a sharp pair of pruners to prevent these flavorsome beauties from taking over your garden.
- Fruit bushes and trees —large planters with lots of drainage holes in the base are best for growing trees and shrubs. Some of the fruits most suited to urban farming are fuss-free strawberries, drought-tolerant figs, and pomegranates, as they have a much shallower root system compared to other fruit trees. Make sure you give these plants lots of water and position them in full sun.
- Edible flowers — often overlooked, edible flowers are ideal for adding vibrant color and bold flavor to your main meals, desserts, and cocktails. Some might already be growing from plants in your garden — for instance, those on mint bushes or runner beans are perfect for salads, while flowers blooming from zucchini are large enough to stuff with cheese and fry. Others, like the tangy taste of marigolds, can act as cheaper alternatives to saffron and other expensive spices. Or those with sweet flavors, such as roses and violets, are great for brewing in teas or infusing liquors.
Discover our collection of outdoor planters, perfect for growing fruits, herbs, and vegetables in your restaurant's new container garden. If you need any further assistance, please get in touch by calling (855) 627-1066 or emailing us at email@example.com.