“On my back porch, I have about 40 square feet in raised beds and pots,” Carter said. “It’s all about how you can raise vegetables on space that’s not on the ground.”
Carter was one of several presenters scheduled for the first EcoFest at ENMU-Ruidoso, featuring entertaining and educating events designed to promote gardening, greening and creating a sustainable environment.
The space needed to grow vegetables isn’t huge. Carter said one square foot can grow one tomato plant, one pepper plant, four heads of lettuce, 16 carrots or 16 onions.
Those observations were made based on what he’s already grown. He’s always looking for new vegetables to grow.
“This is a great thing to experiment with,” Carter said. “This year, I’ve been growing broccoli and artichoke, just to see what happens.”
Many aren’t willing to try growing their own vegetables due to the time or expense, but Carter said doing so doesn’t cost a whole lot either.
“The wood to make the beds is easy to find, and you might have to buy a trowel, but mostly it’s hand work. The soil’s about the only thing that costs that much,” said Carter, who stated he had to put out about $300 for the 40 square feet of soil. “And once you get everything set up – about a day – it’s only 15 or 20 minutes a day to water everything.”
So what are the benefits, besides the obvious one of feeding yourself?
“Well, if everyone did this, we’d get a little closer to being sustainable,” Carter said. “It also changes the nature of how you think about your food. When you grow it yourself, you know exactly where it comes from.”
Carter emphasized the key is to grow these plants without chemicals or fertilizer, which only serves to stress the plants and leave them open to disease and insects.
Carter uses natural compost from coffee grounds, melon rinds and the like for nutrients in the soil, and has even come up with an effective way to keep the pests off.
“Take two liters of water, cut up some cigars and let that sit for a week. Then drain out the water and put in a little habañero powder,” Carter said. “Spray that on the leaves, and there’s no insect that likes that.”
One word of warning, if you start doing this, you might end up with a space problem.
“It’s a really good stress reliever, and the porch – or wherever you plant these – becomes a really nice place to hang out,” Carter. “But I’ve actually grown so much, I’ve kind of crowded myself out of the porch.”