Self-sufficient is one of the popular words being tossed around these days when it comes to green living, and food is one of the growing areas where families are striving to be more self-sufficient than ever. Due to the depressed economy and in an effort to be more sustainable, families are beginning to look at growing some of the food they eat. There are awesome online tools like Smart Gardener to help with your endeavor too. Space, however, can seem like an insurmountable obstacle, especially in an urban setting, but having limited outdoor space doesn’t mean that a garden is completely out of the question. You just have to use a little imagination and design smart.
Imagine Your Space
Do you have room for raised beds or only a cluster of containers? Have you considered going vertical and growing your plants like this? Or maybe you only have space for a window box. Hopefully you’ll be able to do a combination of things, but don’t let yourself be restricted by the selection or price of pots at your local greenhouse. Almost anything can be made into a potting container. As long as there are holes for drainage, or you can make them, you could use everything from recycled tin cans to a thrifted, old-fashioned washtub. Small space gardens can be quirky or magical and surprising based on the containers you choose.
The Importance of Soil
Soil is a crucial element to “intensive planting.” You’ll probably plant a lot of things in a little area which means that the soil has to be fertile. Gardens planted on a large plot need less-fertile soil, because you can space out your crops. That won’t work in a small space, so remember to augment your soil’s structure. You want the soil “sweet spot” of loam, the rich halfway point between clay and sandy soils. Also, don’t forget your compost.
What and Where
Deciding on what to plant will depend partially on the size of your container.In the book Square Foot Gardening, Mel Bartholomew suggests dividing your bed into tightly spaced squares that give crops a “living mulch” of foliage as they grow. Depending on how much growing space your crop needs, one 1-by-1-foot square may be occupied by only one plant. Smaller crops such as carrots and radishes can be planted more closely together.
Climate is another obvious consideration. Due to the nature of a smaller garden, you will need to water more frequently. In southern locations with high humidity, flowers and grasses will need additional space when planted to prevent fungus and molds.
All the Better to See Them
Don’t forget your solar garden lights! When creating a garden for a small patio or porch, lighting is important. Solar powered lights are a great addition to your garden, and a green solution, that will light the way for entertaining. Your enjoyment of the space will be enhanced when you can utilize it past sundown.
Adding herbs, vegetables or flowers to your outdoor space will increase your family’s self-sufficiency and enjoyment. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you desire, limited only by the boundaries of your imagination. With a little bit of planning, you can eat the fruits of your labor while utilizing the outdoor space to its fullest potential.
[CC Image by Richard Masoner via Flickr]