Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gardening in Small Spaces

The past couple days, we've had hints that spring may be coming soon, with temperatures soaring into the 40s and snow melting like crazy.  As a result, I find myself itching to get gardening.  I can't even calculate how much money I've saved over the past few years with my modest garden, and I'm planning a much larger one this year!   The first couple years I gardened, I only had two 4'x4' boxes to grow things in.

However, using the square foot gardening method, a lot can be grown in a 4'x4' box!  This is one of my two boxes last year during its peak prettiness:
This box contained onions, green pepper, broccoli, corn, carrots, cantalope, cucumbers, beans, and pumpkins!  The other box contained carrots, cayenne pepper, broccoli, heirloom tomatoes and watermelon at the time.  One of the tricks of square foot gardening is to make sure your squares are never vacant. When you harvest one, replant it as soon as possible to maximize your limited space.

Last year, I decided that I wanted more gardening space, so I expanded to container gardening.  The place we were living in was pretty strict about what could be laying around the yard, so I had to be creative with my use of space.
Here is my stairwell garden of sugar snap peas, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, raspberries, and blackberries (didn't get any raspberries or blackberries last year, but it was my first year with those plants, so that isn't really a surprise).
Five-gallon buckets with holes drilled near the bottom provided a shed border of squash, zucchini, and pumpkin.
I also had a bucket-based potato patch hidden behind the shed!

This year, I am really looking forward to getting my garden going, since I pretty much have the landlord's go-ahead to do what I want, turning the whole (although much smaller) yard into a garden!

I have friends that aren't so fortunate to have that kind of space, as modest as it is.  My friend Zoë has a third floor apartment in Boston, and still manages an extremely impressive garden on her balcony.

As you can see from Zoë's beautiful garden and mine, with our eclectic pots, buckets, and other found materials being used as pots, you don't have to spend a lot of money to do this either.  A guide to tell you what size pot, and I use that term loosely, you need is very handy though.  Zoë recommends McGee & Stuckey's Bountiful Container and I prefer The Apartment Farmer (which also covers information about gardening inside, something I haven't attempted yet, but likely will sooner or later) for this purpose, but there are other books out there too, so you may want to look at a few of them to see what suits your needs the best.  Zoë has a blog as well, so that will be another resource for ideas for extensive container gardening ideas.

Sometime in the next few days, I'm hoping the snow will have melted enough that I can actually see my yard well enough to plan what I want to do with it, so keep watching for more great ideas for getting the most out of a small yard!

Here are some books that might help inspire and inform you when it comes to your own unconventional gardening efforts:


  1. Love it!

    When we lived in a trailer park,I had lined up rectangular planter boxes all the way around the large patio(26 in all)plus had 12 hanging baskets,and a regular in the ground type garden that was 6 ft by 15ft.We had a very large lot for a trailer park,so we had a little more space than most park dwellers.

    Now that we have 1 1/2 acres of space,I pretty much have no limits,other than constantly working to improve the soil here.

    Have you thought about getting some of those Pole Apples? They can be grown in large pots,with no need to be planted in the ground.

  2. I think I have seen pole apples in some of the container gardening books I've perused. I'll have to keep that in mind this year! Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Thank you for the book recommendations! I was able to find some good gardening books for pretty cheap at half.com (and by combining orders from all one seller)! Thanks again! Can't wait to have my girls start gardening and enjoying the fruit (and vegetables) of their labor!!!

  4. Home Depot Buckets? You didn't have to pay for those did you? I got lots of pickle buckets from a local diner.

  5. Unfortunately, some of the buckets I did have to pay for. I've heard of people getting buckets for free from diners or bakeries, but all the ones I had a chance to inquire about had a waiting list for their buckets!

  6. If you're in need of more buckets I can get you some for free,I've got an inside source at a restaurant....did not know until I read your lip balm post just how close we are to each other...same town,opposite ends..

  7. I don't think I'll be needing any buckets, since I believe I should have pretty much free reign on my yard this year, but I'll definitely keep that offer in mind. Thanks!

  8. I don't know if you are able to use hanging baskets but I grow most of my tomatoes and even strawberries in haging baskets regular watering can be an issue, but some of the herbs that need good drainage grow really well as they don't get wet roots, and they can be moved to sunny positions.