Local Food Web

Protect It, Build It, Use It

The Power of One (Plant)

How much difference can one plant make? A lot.

By Ian Rose
Published January 2, 2020
Categories: Gardening

One of the things I wish I could tell everyone in the world about the local food and permaculture movements is that there's something everyone can contribute.

It often feels like the problems we're facing as a society, with our land, wildlife, air, water and climate, are so big that only governments and multi-national corporations can make a dent. In some ways, this is true. A handful of corporations, aided by governments, have caused many of these problems. Why not look to them to solve them?

The simple answer is that waiting for those responsible for our climate and food crises to take that responsibility and begin paying back their debt is going to be a long wait. It may happen someday, but I've seen few signs that day is on the horizon. In the meantime, there are things we can all do to help build more resilient local food systems and make our lives less carbon-dependent.

Maybe you have a small yard. Maybe you live in an apartment with no yard at all, but there's a balcony with a little open space. Maybe there's no space at all at home, but a tiny spot where you work. If we think about it, almost all of us have room to add one plant to the world. But how much good could one plant do?

Add a Little Spice

Most foods require more than one plant to feed any significant number of people. You couldn't very well feed a family on one head of lettuce or a single onion. But there are plants whose food product is small enough to let one plant supply all a household needs. These are mostly herbs and spices

Thyme, rosemary, dill and basil all grow relatively easily on a windowsill or half-shaded porch, and can provide you with all or most of your yearly need for these spices while adding a little green to your space.

For the Bees

If your outdoor space doesn't have much in the way of flowers, or if most of the flowers you do have bloom only in one part of the year, the addition of even one flowering plant with a slightly different schedule could mean a lot to your local pollinators, like bees, butterflies and more.

Ask your local garden store if there are any small plants that flower especially early or late. Some can even flower all winter, depending on your local climate.

Inspiration and Motivation

One of the most important things a single plant can do is get you in the habit of caring for a plant. A lot of us in the gardening community can tell you - if you enjoy a plant, you'll often get more, sometimes more than you or your house- and office-mates can handle! Growing things can be addictive, but as far as addictions go, it's hard to find a healthier one, especially if it also provides you with a little food or a flower.