Sunday, November 17, 2013

Making the most of small spaces

Not everyone has large spaces where they can grow veggies, most of us home vegetable growers have average suburban plots and we try to combine a bit of flowers, grass, playroom and vegetable beds.

We live on 900square meters of which more than half of that is buildings, paving and pool. The rest is gravel pathways, chicken coop and vegetable garden. We have 11 raised beds, some 5x2m others 7x2m. On the paved areas we have wine barrels and pots and planters where we also grow vegetable.

We try to make use of the vertical space with hanging and wall baskets. I had plans to grow a granadilla over the fence as well as berries and espalier fruit trees against the walls. This has proven to be more troublesome that I thought it would be so has never gotten off the ground.

I wish I were able to say that we are able to grow all our vegetables, but I think if would be more than we could manage, so we are happy with the fact that we grow lots of vegetable according to the season and we enjoy it in waves.

For instance it is asparagus season at the moment. From our 10 plants (8in the ground and 2 in wine barrels) we eat more asparagus than we would if we had to buy it. It graces our dinner plates or salads at least twice a week.

All through winter we have eaten cauliflower, kale and spinach. Kale and spinach are still on the go. Yesterday I went peeping under the big courgette leaves and we have lots of them waiting for harvesting. Soon tomatoes will follow as will cucumbers and corn.

The key to growing loads of food in that small space, I have learnt, is that you must only grow what you like. Recently while reading Animal Vegetable Miracle I was intrigued by all the heirloom names of the potato and tomato varieties. I can only grow two or three types of tomatoes because of the spacing required so I go for the heirloom varieties that give big yields for each plant. Beefsteak is a good choice. Cherry tomatoes don't get to go in a bed, they have to be happy in pots in the back garden.

Potatoes have to be in the ground a long time so I only give two beds to them, and even though we will never grow enough to see us through to the next season we really enjoy the crisp fresh dug up spuds that we can harvest for a period.

The next thing with getting food from small spaces is to harvest the first fruits as young - small spinach leaves, small courgettes, small beans but then to leave a few to get big and freeze those for later consumption. Obviously beans can be grown to full pod stage and then dried and stored in a pantry.

Another technique we have tried is to plant a fast growing crop like radish with a slow growing one like beans. So in the bean tripod area we set up the tripod, planted 2 runner beans at each post then planted marigolds front and back against the edges and radishes and watercress along the long sides of the bed. The radish and watercress will be ready long before the beans cast shade over the lower bed.

When you start to think about growing food in an urban setting you need to look beyond what works in big spaces. Intermingling herbs with flowers with vegetables also works if you want to hold onto a flower border. In one place in our garden we have spinach, lavender, sage and evening primrose growing. I had dreams of pressing the evening primrose flowers eventually but that has not materialized yet.

Well, enough words…lets take a look at some of my small spaces so you can be inspired to grow in your small spaces…

The backyard is covered by brick paving except for one small circular bed which has a fig tree growing in it. This is where the bulk of the wine barrels and hanging baskets and my eclectic collection of pots are. The picture above is one of the two blueberry plants that we have which gave us a great daily snack, or at least some of us, each day for the last while. Planted at its base is a butternut and a tomato.

Another wine barrel with a butternut, asparagus and strawberry. The big flat leaf plant at the back of the barrel is borage which I encourage as it attract the bees.

 Under my bedroom window is a wine barrel with another blueberry which was planted late last summer and is not too happy. Around its base are small cucumber plants. In the pots in front are bush cucumbers, tomatoes and a lovely red chard.

We inherited this pot when we moved in and it held a Delicious Monster. It died :( and I replaced it with a curry leaf tree. Its very slow growing like Bay, and it needs to be in a pot. Around its base I planted rocket and 1 nasturtium plant. In the small pots my elder daughter put some flowers and some chilli plants.

This is a built up bed outside my kitchen which was here when we moved in. Since 2008 it has held runner beans, herbs, chilli plants, coriander and now it has a planting of bush beans. In this area I also have more hanging strawberry baskets and its where we tend our new seedlings.

I also use my compost heap for growing at this time of the year. I don't turn one of them and plant some trailing squash here. It covers the heap and trails up the fence at the back.

Outside our lounge door we have this funny shaped bed. It now holds spinach and kale, yarrow, a butternut plant and bulbenella. The pots around here have basil and sage and some shade loving perennials.

 So that's it. Do you have small awkward places that you can use for veggies or herbs?

I also hope you like the new blog look. I decided to splash out and get the kind folks at Cutest Blog on the Block to make me all ready for summer. What do you think?

1 comment:

Cath said...

Wow. I LOVE the new look site. Very inspiring and attractive.