Gardening in Small Spaces
There is dirt in my blood as well as under my fingernails. I come by it honestly; there are generations of gardeners in my family tree.
Mom always had a big garden and my brothers and I could help ourselves to anything growing in it or in the orchard anytime we wanted. She taught me to can and freeze the vegetables and fruit from that garden. I continued the practice when I had my own family. A friend, with a farm about a mile west of the village, gave me space for a garden. When the melons, sweet corn and tomatoes came in, we had more than we needed and gave it away by the bushel. There is nothing like home grown potatoes fresh from the earth or tomatoes picked from the vine, still juicy and warm from the sun. That garden helped feed us throughout the winter.
For the last several years, I’ve had to learn to grow vegetables and herbs in small spaces. The only place suitable for a full-blown garden is smack-dab in the middle of my backyard. I don’t want to till up the lawn I’ve worked on so hard for years, so I’ve had to be creative.
My friend Bill helped me make a raised vegetable plot using treated landscape timbers, along the south side of the shed. I replenish and renew the soil every year with humus from my mulch pile. I also dump the dirt there from my hanging and deck planters at the end of the season.
The vegetable plot is twelve by four feet which is just the right size for two hills of bush zucchini, two short rows of Swiss chard, a couple sweet basil plants and a smattering of dill weed. A cage or two of cherry tomatoes complete my little garden by the shed.
I first heard about bush zucchini from a fellow writer-gardener, Margaret Realy who has written several gardening-themed books and also has a weekly blog. She told me that they are perfect for smaller spaces. The plants do spread out a bit but nowhere near as much as regular vinning zucchini. The fruit develop close to the base of the plants and I pick them when they’re about the size of a cucumber.
In previous years, I’ve grown green beans which did very well; beets and potatoes which did not. Behind the shed is my mulch pile. Rhubarb flourishes on its edge along with a bunch of chives. A mound of chocolate mint grows in front of a boulder in the north-east corner of my lot and asparagus spears pop up between the roses.
I was given a few red raspberry bushes that I planted along the back fence. They don’t get quite enough sunlight but there are berries ripening for the first time this year.
I grew snap peas on the sunny side of my picket fence that separates the side and back yards. They did well, but died down by mid-summer leaving that flower bed empty. I didn’t like the loos of the bare dirt so I only grew them for a couple years then when back to planting impatiens.
Then I thought I’d try growing a Roma tomato in a five-gallon bucket on the deck. For a whole summer’s worth of care and watering it gave me three tomatoes. This year I’m trying something new in the same spot: growing yellow beans in a large, round, shallow pot. I’ve thinned the plants down to four. They look strong and healthy so I’m hopeful for a good crop.
My garden has taken a lot of trial and error and it is fun to try new vegetables and fruits in unusual places. I love going out in the morning and seeing what is ready to pick. I’ve found gardening in small spaces is an enjoyable and rewarding challenge. I hope you accept the challenge, have fun and give it a try.