Organically grown Turnip Photo: Zahra Ali

A Zero-budget & Low-carbon Vegetable Garden

What if I tell you that you can grow your very own vegetable garden without spending a penny but still earn profits of thousands of rupees per month with the added bonus of reducing your carbon footprint to almost zero? No kidding, it’s true!

Reduce carbon: produce more

We all know that uncontrollable CO2 emissions have ruined our natural environment beyond our imagination and knowledge. Sadly, no matter how much we appreciate and value this planet and the life on it, we have had a major part in gravely harming it.

It is time to put things in order.

Home grown Carrots by Siam Rizwan

Home grown Carrots by Siam Rizwan

Even little things, such as consuming farm-grown food, contribute additional CO2 to the environment, and that means we often spend our hard-earned money on things that are detrimental to our planet and our lives. By saying this, I do not aim to discourage the consumption of all farm produce, but I do strongly discourage buying from inorganic farms.

Unfortunately, most of the vegetables available to us come from inorganic farms with high carbon footprints because they use lots of dirty, carbon-based energy to run farm machinery as well as heavy pesticides and chemical fertilizers with known perilous effects on not only human health but also on the Earth’s environment. Once this produce is harvested, vans, trucks, trains, ships or planes, which all release high amounts of carbon into environment, distribute the food to our markets. And let’s not forget the energy used in packaging and by our cars that carry us back and forth from grocery stores.

But there is good news. You can reduce your carbon emission by 1lb per square foot of a vegetable garden over an entire growing season!

A Zero-budget & Low-carbon Vegetable Garden (3)

Islamabad: Eggplants growing in a sack at Nadeem Iqbal’s organic garden Photo: Zahra Ali

A zero-budget vegetable garden

Starting a vegetable garden is easy. Organic compost, seeds, planters and a sufficient supply of water are the main items needed. Normally, you would have to spend money on these things to get your garden going. But here are some ideas to grow a vegetable garden without spending a penny:

  1. Prepare your own compost by reusing newspapers, wood shavings, used tea bags, vegetable and fruit peelings, eggshells, plant cuttings, etc.
  2. Save seeds from your homegrown heirloom vegetables and herbs to use the next growing season.
  3. Reuse empty sacks, bags, plastic bottles, tires and buckets, and just about anything else that can hold 6-12 inches (15-30cm) of soil and has a drainage hole, as planters in which to grow vegetables and herbs.
  4. Reuse water used for washing dishes and vegetables to irrigate your garden.
Plastic Bottle Towers by Willem Van Cotthem

Plastic Bottle Towers by Willem Van Cotthem

If you do not have a plot to start a vegetable garden, consider designing a container garden on your rooftop, balcony, terrace or windowsill. Vertical farming is a growing practice across the world that allows individuals with limited space to create bigger gardens and thus achieve larger yields.

Most of us will not be able to grow enough vegetables to fulfill our daily consumption, but we can definitely reduce our bills and CO2 emissions greatly.

For every 10 lb (4.5 kg) of tomatoes grown at home, you save 20 lb of carbon emitted into the environment and hundreds that you spend in buying it.

So why not start a vegetable garden before World Environment Day on 5 June 2012? It’s easy and rewarding, and you’ll join the many other people around the world who have made small changes to their lifestyles in order to make a big difference to the planet.

For more reading:

Reuse, Recycle and Produce: Bottle Gardening in Karachi

How, where and when to plant seeds

Green Economy Initiative

World Environment Day

Carbon Footprint Calculator

Tree Hugger

Special thanks to Talib Qizilbash.


Zahra Ali Husain is a sustainability educator, freelance writer and an environmentalist. She is also a co-founder of Organic City Pakistan and runs the Green Schools & the Horticulture Therapy programs along with Yasir Husain. Zahra also manages an organic farm.

  • Excellent …. will try this at home 🙂

  • your website keeps improving. love the background photo, the format of the masthead and the time-lapse video of the growing plants on the sidebar. keep up the good work.

  • very informative article. Your detailed advice on how to cut down cost to alost zero, will encourage many to start a kitchen garden. The cut-down on CO2 emissions is extremely important,too.It is time we started doing our share for our environment and our planet.Keep writing and keep sharing info.

  • Thanks :))

  • very informative blog so nice of sharing. 🙂 your are improving in your field.

  • Greetings!

    I enjoyed reading this post, especially because of your approach to gardening… the why. Would you consider a blog post swap? You can find me:

    I look forward to hearing from you!
    Kind regards,

  • I love your blog it is very Nice,,Keep up the good work

  • Anonymous

    Good informative article.

  • Wonderful ideas, I am going to imply these to make my own vegetable garden. Thankyou for sharing.