Planning a small garden in urban areas requires thinking creatively to maximize space. Here’s how to squeeze a little more growing room out of your space.
Stuck with a small garden space?
There’s no doubt that I often dream about having acres and acres so I can turn my land into a self-sufficient, food-producing machine that holds ALL the chickens and some goats, and ducks, and cows, and fruit trees, and… you get the picture.
The reality is that currently I don’t have acres and acres; I have a little less than one acre and although I like dreaming, it makes more sense to work with the area I have right now. I’ve slowly been working on ways to maximize my space so my backyard and small garden area is thriving and efficient. And on ways to get the most out of the plants I do grow, like using the beet leaves as well as the beet roots!
Vertical vegetable garden design has played a HUGE role in making the most use of my small garden area. Whenever I’m planning my next project (my husband really loves me for that) I always think how I could use thinking vertically to help maximize whatever I’m doing. I used to live in an apartment in California and had a tiny balcony garden. Even then, we used vertical thinking to use our space as efficiently as possible.
If you’re living an apartment, growing veggies on a trellis is far more productive than growing veggies that bush. Even with the acre I have now, I’m planning to trellis my melons, zucchini, and cucumbers to maximize the ground area I have. Then I can plant other small veggies like lettuce, radish, and carrots in the bares spots in my small garden.
Thinking vertically can also be as simple as attaching a hanging basket to the side of your chicken coop. Fill it with herbs that help repel flies in the coop like basil, lavender, bay leaf, and mint.
Square foot gardening
Square foot gardening takes a little bit more planning and prepping. But square foot gardening allows you to maximize raised vegetable bed space when you don’t have a lot of it. For example: In one square foot, I planted 8 radishes, 4 lettuce and 1 tomato plant. By the time the tomato plant gets big enough that it crowds the radish and lettuce, I will have harvested them. Cool, right?
- 16 carrots in a square foot
- 9 leeks/onions in a square foot
- 9 bush beans in a square foot.
Even if you only have a 4×4 bed, you can actually grow A LOT of food using the square foot gardening method.
Multi-purpose methods in the small garden
I wanted to create more space for our chickens, so I had the bright idea to get free pallets and make them into an extended chicken run. Because of this, I was able to turn the tops of my pallet fence into container gardens. I plan to use the veggies I grow on the tops to feed the chickens to help bring down the feed bill. We also made a planter box that wraps around the front of our chicken coop.
I’ve used that to plant herbs that help repel flies, flowers that attract bees and butterflies. I’ve even added some edible greens in between plantings. I filled the box about halfway with pieces of wood I gathered from along our fence line. I covered the rotting wood with a mixture of compost, vermiculite, and peat moss. This saved the expense of paying for enough soil and amendments to fill the raised beds completely.
This drastically cut the initial cost of installing our small garden bed. Plus, the wood will break down into nutrient-rich matter. I’ll just have to continue to add soil after each season.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
My husband often tells me that he doesn’t want to have to do things twice so we need to get it right the first time but I think the opposite. How are you supposed to know what works and what doesn’t if you don’t try it? Not everything we’ve done has worked out but often times, the best ideas come from failed attempts. If we don’t ever put our first foot forward, we’ll never know. I encourage you to try, experiment, and try again.
By experimenting, you’ll find a system that works for your small garden space!