You can start your own food producing garden no matter how little space you have. Small space gardening is all about making the most of even the tiniest of spaces. Even if you don’t have any outside space at all, you can still get growing. You can grow a little of your own food at home even if you only have a sunny windowsill.
Decide on a Growing Method for Small Space Gardening
Of course, every small space will be a little different, The method you choose will depend on:
- Where you live and the conditions to be found there.
- Whether you are growing indoors or outside.
- Exactly how much space is available.
- The availability of resources (and time).
- Your own personal needs and preferences.
Indoors, and in very small spaces outside, you will likely be opting for container gardening of some kind. But remember, even within this type of gardening, there are a number of different options.
It is most common to grow plants predominantly in pots or planters, either placed on a windowsill, on the ground, or hanging above. But you might also grow in vertical garden structures, or even consider hydroponics or aquaponics and grow in water-based systems.
In a small outdoors garden, however, you might branch out from container growing. Instead, or in addition, you might be able to incorporate small raised beds. Or small in-ground growing areas where you can grow not only annuals but also small polycultures of perennial plants.
If you have enough space, growing even a single dwarf fruit tree with a guild around it can provide a surprising amount of food using the principles of forest gardening.
Deciding on a growing method is important as a step on the route to creating a holistic plan for small space gardening. And a plan is important if you really wish to make the most of your space, and make sure that it is as productive as possible long-term.
To make the most of whatever space you have available, no matter what method you choose, it is important to consider the vertical as well as the horizontal space. Where horizontal space is limited, embracing vertical growing is essential to maximising yield.
This might include adding vertical garden structures of various kinds. It also often includes growing vining and climbing plants vertically up support structures and cordoning plants rather than letting them sprawl out to cover a wider area.
If you include a small domestic polytunnel in a small outside space, you can make use of the crop bars and other parts of the structure to grow vertically as well as horizontally.
It also includes thinking, in a small outdoors space, about including taller plants like trees and shrubs below and around which other plants can be grown.
Layer Planting In Space and Time
Whether growing annual or perennial plants, or a combination of both, it is important to think not only about which plants you grow and how you grow them but also about how you combine those plants.
You also need to think about how you can make the most of your garden over time – filling gaps and ensuring productivity over as much of the year as possible.
Layering plants in space means creating beneficial combinations of dense planting with companion plants which aid others in various ways. Learning how to combine plants to gain benefits without increasing competition too excessively is essential to success – especially in small space gardening.
Successional sowing and planning to replace one crop with another at the right times is also key to making the most of whatever space is available.
Make Sure Every Element in a Small Space Has Multiple Functions
Every plant should have its place in small space gardening. Likewise, you should think carefully about any other features included within the space.
It can be a good idea to think about incorporating elements which provide more than one service, or which can do a range of different things. To give just one example, the side of a raised bed might also serve as a bench seat, and open to provide storage.
Consider Water From the Beginning
When planning a small space garden, from the very beginning, it is best to have water in mind. Remember that it is always best to water your plants with rainwater where this is possible. So you should think about where this might come from as you plan for your space.
Indoors growers without a garden may find it challenging to harvest rainwater. But in some instances, it may be possible to harvest some – even if it means hanging a bucket or other receptacle out of a window.
Outdoors, you should certainly try to add a rainwater barrel or butt to the guttering on your home to collect whatever rainwater you can.
You also need to think about how easy it will be for you to provide water for the plants that you grow. Consider how close the growing areas/ pots are to your water source. Think about employing sustainable irrigation systems which will make watering easier, and reduce the amount of water that you use.
Drip irrigation, clay pot irrigation and watering globes can all be good solutions for small spaces. These can reduce or even eliminate the need to water by hand.
Set Up a Composting System Right Away
Small-scale composting is something else to think about right away if you are planning and creating systems for small space gardening.
Making your own compost at home is something we should all be doing,. It reduces food waste, and also reduces the costs of the garden by giving you a valuable material to help fill containers and/or fertilize your growing areas so you do not have to rely on harmful products like peat-based compost, or potting mixes wrapped in plastic.
In small spaces, there are several different composting methods to consider. Hot composting or vermicomposting methods can be good, because they can be quite small and contained, and speed up the composting process.
Choosing Containers & Materials: Upcycle and Reuse
Whichever method or methods for small scale gardening you choose, it is important to make sure your efforts are as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible.
When choosing containers, and materials for things like paths, raised beds etc. in small outdoors spaces, always consider upcycling and reuse before you buy anything new.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.