"Tomatoes that have bloomed in the second wave, artificially pollinated and then bear small fruits; carrots did not grow roots until the seventh day of hydroponics, but carrot tassels had grown up early; lemon trees that had been bearing fruit for a long time, after heavy pruning and fertilization , and new leaves grew again... The vitality of plants is far beyond our imagination, in a reinforced concrete house, you can have a rural life." This is Zhong Liu, an illustrator living in Shenzhen, on the social account "echo's Planting diary recorded on "North Balcony Garden".

  Since the outbreak of the new crown pneumonia epidemic, there are not a few young people who start the "idyllic dream" on their balcony like Zhong Liu.

From the selection strategy of seeds and nutritious soil, to the harvest scene of planting "first vegetables", and then to the idyllic landscaping on the balcony, "talents" and novices shared their own vegetable growing experience on social platforms.

On Xiaohongshu, there have been more than 60,000 notes related to "growing vegetables on the balcony", and the topic of "growing vegetables on the balcony" on Weibo has reached 74.204 million views.

  The growing popularity of vegetables on the balcony has also driven the development of related industries.

According to the "2022 Balcony Vegetable Planting Report" released by Taobao, in the first quarter of 2022, the sales of various vegetable seeds soared year-on-year, and the number of seed purchasers increased by more than 100% for three consecutive years; Sales increased by 52.7% year-on-year, and sales of smart vegetable planters increased by more than 200% year-on-year.

  Why do young people who don't even go to the vegetable market are willing to "grow" on the balcony?

  Your Own Garden: Fresh, Healing, Personalized

  Freshness is what Zhong Liu felt when he first tasted the garlic sprouts he had grown with his own hands.

  At the beginning of 2020, affected by the new crown pneumonia epidemic, Zhong Liu stocked up a lot of vegetables at home. Over time, garlic, potatoes, and sweet potatoes all sprouted.

Zhong Liu, who has long been experienced in planting flowers, directly planted the sprouted garlic heads into the soil. After a week, the garlic seedlings will grow to a height that can be harvested.

  "The freshly picked garlic sprouts were fried into vegetables, and the taste was unexpectedly fresh. Since then, I have discovered the 'New World' where I grow vegetables at home. I have also planted fruit trees such as passion fruit, lime, lemon, and plum. It is very decompressing when it reaches maturity." Zhong Liu said.

  Han Yijun, director of the National Agricultural Market Research Center of China Agricultural University, believes that growing vegetables on the balcony can give people a sense of pleasure, work, responsibility and gain, and is an important way to relieve anxiety.

  "The sense of security and certainty brought by 'no effort, no harvest' can especially play a role in relieving emotions during the epidemic." Zhang Xiaoqing, associate researcher of the balcony vegetable innovation team of the Vegetable Research Institute of Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said.

  According to Zhu Xiaowei, the founder of the "Seed Hunter" store, the variety of varieties is also a reason for the rise in the popularity of vegetable growing on the balcony. The direction has been improved. The skin of vegetables and fruits is thicker and the pulp is harder, which will inevitably affect the taste and flavor. If you grow it yourself, the problem of long-distance transportation will not exist, and there will be room for personalized choices on seeds and saplings.”

  Since 2018, Zhu Xiaowei's team has been looking for special crop seeds all over the country. In the past few years, more than 1,500 varieties of tomatoes have been collected.

"Any variety that tastes good after the evaluation will be sold in the online store. The old varieties of tomatoes with thin skin, light salad vegetable seeds, and spice potted plants all have relatively high sales, such as two-color ice cream watermelon and glass gem corn. It is a niche variety with eye-catching appearance and good 'filming' effect, and it is also very popular with young people."

  In addition, showing individuality, paying attention to beauty and landscaping is a major feature of growing vegetables on the balcony.

"Although the balcony is small, it is my own garden after all. No matter what, I have to take into account the beauty." Zhong Liu said.

  In 2021, Zhong Liu and her husband moved. The balcony of the new home faces north and covers an area of ​​less than 6 square meters.

In order to build a balcony orchard, Zhongliu pre-buried water pipes on the balcony to waterproof the floor drain, and also purchased tools such as watering guns and fill lights.

In addition to the original passion fruit, lemon, lime and other tree species, Zhongliu has also planted "new friends" such as pineapple, guava, blueberry, tomato and watermelon.

  After the orchard took shape, Zhongliu and his wife designed and built a small green plant scene called "Aquaponics System" on the balcony. Through the siphon effect of the water pump, the water can circulate between the fish tank and the vegetables and fruits to realize automatic irrigation." The orchard gardener"--the pet parrot "Chicken" also shuttles among the saplings and small scenes from time to time.

  "Growing vegetables can be 'addictive'. Recently, I planted ginseng, grapes, trout and begonias, which made the orchard more scenic and the kitchen more ingredients." Zhong Liu said.

  Start from seeds and adapt to the balcony scene

  When young people's enthusiasm for planting vegetables is transmitted to the supply side, the feedback on the sales of merchants is the most intuitive.

  Zhu Xiaowei noticed the popularity of growing vegetables on the balcony for the first time in early 2020. "During the Spring Festival, the online store directly 'exploded orders', and a large number of new customers poured in, which has never happened before. In 2022 In half a year, despite poor logistics in some regions and 60% of orders not being delivered, online store sales still increased by nearly 40% year-on-year.”

  "Four or five years ago, we launched mobile flower stands, wall-mounted flower pots, gardening tools and other products, which have always been profitable, but sales in 2022 are particularly good, and the total sales in the first three months have increased significantly. Considering that many families are families Consumers, we have reduced the difficulty of assembling mobile flower racks and hanging vegetable racks during product iteration, and consumers can basically install successfully without reading the instructions." said Ye Jianfeng, founder of Mengyuan Environmental Technology Co., Ltd., Dongguan City, Guangdong Province.

  Corresponding to the hot sales, merchants are also launching more products suitable for the balcony scene: from small batches of seeds, saplings that can be planted out of the box, to family kits with flower pots, nutrient soil, fertilizers, seeds, and gardening tools, Then to the "Lazy Man" self-absorbing water growing pots, three-dimensional space-saving vegetable growing racks and other devices... "Urban Farmer" emphasizes the needs of individual, beautiful and simple vegetable growing, and is bringing new development space to the market.

  Selecting seeds is the first threshold for growing vegetables on the balcony.

  Compared with traditional planting, the balcony scene puts forward more targeted requirements for seeds.

In addition to the existing seeds with dwarf growth, low maintenance difficulty, and high yield per unit area, which are favored by consumers, the exploration of variety selection and breeding by research institutions such as the Academy of Agricultural Sciences has also provided new opportunities for balcony vegetable cultivation from an incremental perspective. s Choice.

  Established in 2019, the balcony vegetable innovation team of the Vegetable Research Institute of Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences, as one of the few professional teams in China to carry out research related to urban balcony vegetable production, has promoted the research on balcony vegetable cultivation from the aspects of vegetable variety selection and technical support. .

  "The team has recently developed fruit tomato and colorful pepper varieties that are more suitable for balcony potted plants and are both ornamental and edible: tomato varieties have improved taste, plant height does not exceed 45 cm, strong branching, and more fruit per plant; pepper varieties It pays more attention to the richness of colors, including orange, orange red, purple, etc. In terms of technical research, the team adjusted the types and concentrations of fertilizers for the problem of vegetable growth caused by weak light on the balcony. At present, relevant varieties and technologies have been carried out in a small range display and promotion." Zhang Xiaoqing said.

  Zhu Xiaowei introduced that "Seed Hunter" is cooperating and sharing seed resources and related technologies with Tianjin Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Tianjin Agricultural University, Xinjiang Agricultural University and other institutions. new trend".

  "Growing vegetables is a technical job"

  "4 Essential Knowledge Points for Novice Vegetable Planters", "Strategy for Buying Nutrient Soil", "Hydroponics or Soil Culture?"... Since the outbreak of COVID-19, videos and posts related to gardening on the balcony have gained high popularity on social platforms When launching new products, many merchants not only write product features, planting steps and precautions on the purchase page, but also produce video content from sowing to harvesting.

  Despite this, problems such as "seeds did not germinate" and "hydroponics rotted roots" still plagued many new vegetable growers.

  "Growing vegetables is a technical job, especially the sowing process, which requires high temperature and humidity. There are also many details to pay attention to in the cultivation method. For example, the soil used for soil cultivation is nutrient soil, not ordinary soil in nature. When cultivating, you should also pay attention to controlling the amount of water to ensure that the plants 'quench their thirst'; if you choose hydroponic cultivation, the roots of the plants should not be dipped too deep in the nutrient solution, and 'shallow sap flow' can promote plant growth. It is popular, but there are not many people who are really good at planting them." Zhang Xiaoqing suggested that beginners might start with leafy vegetables and spices, which are less pest-infested, easy to take care of, and have a fast growth cycle, "like melons and nightshades. If you really like it, you can also consider buying seedlings and skip planting directly, it is relatively easy to get started.”

  In Zhu Xiaowei's store, 60% of consumers will choose seedlings, "As long as a variety has seedlings, everyone will not buy seeds, but it is much more difficult to sell seedlings than to sell seeds. The seedlings are not easy to store, and it is easy to step on the 'pit' in packaging and logistics. For example, we initially packaged the seedlings with plastic wrap and sent them to the buyer, either already scattered or suffocated during transportation. However, the survival rate was not high. Later, it was changed to the original pot and the original soil was directly packed in the box, and the situation was improved.”

  It is worth noting that the popularity of planting vegetables on the balcony has also brought industry chaos such as fake and inferior seeds into the public eye.

  "It is a long-standing problem in the industry that the quality of seeds is difficult to control. On the one hand, it takes time to verify whether the seeds have sprouted, and it is difficult to be held accountable once the settlement period is exceeded; on the other hand, there are many reasons for the low germination rate, how to confirm There are also difficulties in the attribution of responsibility." Zhang Xiaoqing said.

  In Zhu Xiaowei's view, the long cycle from sowing to harvesting provides space for a few merchants to counterfeit seeds. "Some peers use rare varieties as a gimmick to sell at high prices, but in fact, they will not sell the seeds without high temperature inactivation. This way The seeds cannot be planted at all, and consumers will not know the tricks."

  In addition, industry insiders pointed out that many people still have misunderstandings about the effects that can be achieved by growing vegetables on the balcony.

  "Many people think that growing vegetables on the balcony can realize the freedom of vegetables and the cost is low, but it is not accurate. In order to achieve the freedom of vegetables, we must first ensure the amount of vegetables. After all, the balcony area is limited, and it is difficult to carry three meals a day for a single person. In terms of cost, a new balcony novice needs to add various facilities, and in terms of output per unit area, the price will not be lower than the market price.” Zhang Xiaoqing said.

  Zhong Liu has invested more than 10,000 yuan for the balcony vegetable garden. "Not counting the large expenses such as balcony decoration, screen windows, and hydroponic boxes, the monthly expenditure on supplementary lights, electricity, and new plants is also several hundred yuan. My balcony vegetable garden It can't be self-sufficient, but it can bring me happiness, that's enough."

  Li Xuan, a trainee reporter from China Youth Daily and China Youth Daily. Source: China Youth Daily

  July 05, 2022 Edition 07

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