You don’t have to have a ‘back forty’ or a large patch to grow a lot of produce. Sometimes the smallest spaces produce the most interesting and creative gardens.
Driveway Garden – Got a driveway? There’s usually some green space on the side of the driveway. Consider tall vertical plantings down the side of the driveway (or against a fence or side of the house). Think corn down the driveway is tacky? Try planting peppers in pots in the same space.
Got a Front Porch? – As long as your porch receives some direct sunlight you can plant there. A front porch is a great spot for a pretty pot or window garden.
Got a Patio or Deck? – If you have a patio or deck, you’re all set! Add planters and planter boxes. You can even elevate planters to form a screen for privacy. Pots on wheels (or plant caddy) help you to change the look up a bit and move plants around for better sun exposure.
Got a Balcony? – Sure you can add a pot or planter to the balcony. For more floor space consider adding rail planters that attach to your railing!
Step One: Small Space Gardening
First you need a space. We outlined some options above, from a real, plowed up the Earth, to a balcony railing. Consider the space available. You really can’t grow tall corn on a balcony nor can you grow a sprawling watermelon vine, but you can grow tomatoes, radishes and lettuce. Consider the space available when choosing what to grow.
Don’t limit yourself to just vegetables. Get creative. Grow what you love. The possibilities, aside from space restrictions, are limitless!
What Type of Garden Should You Grow?
Look around. Where is there an empty spot that gets good sunlight?
It’s a fact. Unless you’re my father, weeds will grow in your garden faster than you can keep up with them. (I assume Dad weeds everyday….) Face it, most of us will not take the time, on a daily basis, to weed and tend the garden. ALL gardens need tending. You have to check the moisture levels in the dirt, you have to watch for bugs, you have to water, you have to harvest. While we all might dream of that garden that our parents or grandparents had you have to realize just how much time you’ll have to tend to the garden. Will other family members assist? It’s always best to start with a small version of a garden and ‘grow’ into a bigger one. If you don’t start small, you’ll become overwhelmed with how much work there actually needs to be done… and the weeds will win.
What Will You Really Use?
Every gardener has eyes bigger than their stomachs… You love yellow squash…. but there is no way on earth you need more than a hill (or two) as when the produce starts coming… it just keeps on showing up in bountiful numbers. You may dream of canning quarts of tomatoes into sauces but do you really have the time and energy to devote? Start with one or two tomato plants. If you can handle the bounty this year, next year plant more. You see, in today’s families, most often both members work. When you get home from work you’ve got things you have to do, like making dinner. You might have time to grab a tomato or two out of the garden for a dinner salad…. but if you hang out long enough to weed, or harvest, you may forget you have something on the stove. A disaster waiting to happen. Even if you do manage to haul in a bushel of tomatoes before dinner…. WHEN will you have time to actually can them? It’s not something you can do in an hour.
Those wintertime dreams over an open seed catalog when combined with a notepad with a garden design on it are just that, dreams, unless you have the time, money and energy to make those dreams come true. For most of us, life will get in the way. In your dreams is where the yard filled with cutting flowers, rows of corn, and blueberry bushes might have to stay. We also tend to go overboard and not think about how much space a mature plant will take up. For instance, you might have thought you needed 6 blueberry bushes in one spot only to realize years later that two would have filled the spot nicely and probably produced better berries since they wouldn’t be crowded. The same holds true for the food garden. You have to take into consideration the width of rows and allow for growth. Sure corn grows straight up…. but vining plants will spread out… sometimes a really long way!
Small Space Gardening Tips for Success
No matter where you’re growing your garden,on your back porch or a tilled up half-acre, there are some success strategies that will make your gardening just a little bit easier.
1. Plan ahead – Go ahead and dream then pare it down. Decide what you want to plant, where you’re going to put it, and what your small space garden will look like before you buy anything. Draw your plan out allowing for growing space.
2. Buy everything before you get started – Us country folk now there’s nothing worse than having to spot what you’re doing and head into town for a part or supply. It’s important to plan ahead, make a list beforehand and get prepared for the job before you start.
3. Plant on an cloudy day – If possible, plant your fruits, vegetables, and herbs on a cloudy day. The sun can be harsh on new plants that are trying to adapt to their environment. An overcast day gives them, AND YOU a little break while they settle in. Wear a hat and sunscreen.
4. Keep pests at bay naturally – Plants in containers or raised beds will naturally tend to deter some pests more than a garden in the dirt. However you can still lose plants from rabbits (a container seems to be just the right height) deer and other critters. Just be aware. I’ve planted a garden in a former ‘animal pen’ with 6″ fencing only to see deer just hop right on in there. I don’t mind sharing, but when deer take the entire row down to the ground it might be time to find some kind of ‘friendly’ deterrent.
5. Start from seed AND pre-grown plants – If you’re not careful with that big design plan you may find that you ‘should have’ planted certain seeds a long time ago. Seeds, of course, need longer to go from start to produce. Consider getting at least ‘some’ starters from your local nursery or farmer’s market. Less headache for you, and a better start and faster to the end result.
There are many small space options for growing fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables. Consider what you want, what you need and what you’ll use as well as alloted space and time before you begin and you’ll find gardening in small spaces a rewarding experience.