How to Garden with Limited Space
When you look outside your home, what is it that you see? Do you have a balcony on your apartment? Perhaps you have a very small backyard that you aren’t doing anything with. Maybe you have a patio that’s shaded from the sun. Whatever that space may be, you may be able to grow a garden there.
We have put together a practical guide to help you start and maintain garden in a very small space. If you have only a few feet or a few yards to work with, then this guide is for you. It’s possible that you might eventually grow enough to supplement your fresh produce shopping.
You want to start with the right tools. You only need two things to begin- soil and some containers. The kind of containers you need will depend on what you plan to plant.
Soil is more than just dirt. It is packed with nutrients that plants need, and it retains water to feed them throughout the day. You have a lot of options when it comes to soil products you can buy. You could get potting mix that is ready to go and ready to be poured directly into your containers. Or you could choose something cheaper that doesn’t have as many nutrients in it.
If you would like to create growing soil from scratch, then you should use peat moss, compost and vermiculite. You can use coconut coir instead of peat moss, if you like. That absorbs water better than peat moss, but it doesn’t retain it as well.
Compost is made from organic matter that has decayed and that now serves as excellent fertiliser. You can buy this or make it yourself. Using the organic waste from the kitchen you can make plenty of compost for your garden.
For compost to be viable, you need a few different ingredients. First of all, you have to have nitrogen, which comes from any green or organic sources. You can use egg shells, tea bags, fruit skins, coffee grounds and more in your compost. You’ll find nitrogen in chicken parts and manure too, if you have a farm. You don’t want to add in your dog’s faeces, though, as that can have pathogens you would not want in your garden.
You’ll need carbon in your compost as well. This can be sourced from newspaper, sawdust, dry leaves or twigs. You’ll need to shred them up into lengths of 12 inches or less. If you are using thick branches or anything else heavy, it will need to be chipped before you can use it. You should have about an equal balance of nitrogen and carbon.
In order for the fungus and bacteria that are in your organic components to thrive, you need to supply them with air. Don’t pack the compost too densely or allow too much moisture in, as these factors can deprive the bacteria and fungus of oxygen. If you turn or churn the pile, you can let more air in.
You will need some moisture, though about 40-60% of the compost should be water. You don’t have to make it precise, and you can just squeeze a bit of compost to see how much water it has. You don’t want compost that is dripping water, but you do want enough that biological life can thrive there. If the pile is too dry, then just add in some water as needed.
The bin you use for your compost can be just about anything. You can buy a specialised compost container or just get any large barrel. How long you want it to last will determine what kind of materials it is made out of and the level of quality. You can use a cheap plastic container or a durable metal one to hold the compost.
Planting Container Options
You have lots of choices for planting containers as well. You could use ceramic, plastic or terracotta pots, and you can choose any size you want as well. Raised planter boxes are a good solution for small garden spaces, as they let you grow a range of produce, which includes things like carrots and potatoes that grow underground.
Methods of Planting
There is tons of wisdom out there about how to plant, much of it found online. It doesn’t take much effort to find a lot of great information on gardening in any kind of conditions. We have a few tips of our own to add to what is common knowledge on the subject.
How Dense Should You Plant?
When you are working with limited space, you have to make all of it count. Planting density is important. You don’t want to plant so close together that you crowd out your plants and stifle them to where they cannot flourish. On the other hand, you don’t want to space them so far apart that you end up wasting space. If you have plants with different heights and different root depths all mixed together, you can plant them fairly close to one another and not have any problems. Be sure to replant quickly to keep your crops coming fast and to maintain growth.
Square foot gardening may be controversial for some, but it works, if you know what you are doing. Urban gardeners have made it work for them, and we have to call your attention again to the planter boxes. These things make a world of difference. Set them up in one-foot by one-foot grids, and then plant a large plant in each one, along with some smaller ones. That is really all there is to it, other than simply tending to the plants.
You can go vertical with your plants as well. Use the terrace wall, the exterior wall and the property fence to hang your plants or to attach planter boxes to. You can use this for any leafy veggies you may be growing as well as for herbs. You should plant all your climbing plants such as string beans this way.
If you are feeling very ambitious, then you can mix the raised planter box with the vertical planting method. Take a vertical element like a lattice fence and anchor it to the plant box’s end. This gives you more growing area and ensures that you don’t need to drill holes into the wall or make other structural changes to your property. That comes in handy if it is not your property, such as in a renting situation.
What Should You Be Planting?
It’s up to you to decide what to start with, but we suggest lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and peppers since they are the simplest ones to grow. Potatoes can be grown in their own containers, and squash can be trained to grow vertically, even though they normally grow outward. You can make just about anything work if you have the willpower and the knowledge. Don’t feel like you are severely limited by your lack of space.
You can make your living space into a garden. You simply have to put in the effort and try out a few things to see what works well for you. As you learn, be sure to pass on that knowledge to the next person.