As the world grows ever more eco-conscious, we’re all looking for ways to make natural resources go further, and there’s no better place to start than in our own gardens. It might sound difficult or time-consuming, but growing your own food at home is the hobby that just keeps giving – and there’s no need for a small space to deter you.
If you’re considering starting up your own produce garden and looking for tips on making a compact space work hard for you, the pointers below will have you off to a great start.
The position of your plants in your garden determines how much sunlight they get – a critical consideration for any garden-dwelling species. Most food-producing species need plenty of sunlight, so ideally, you’ll want to have them out in the open, away from other objects that cast shadows. Even in a small area, the difference in sun coverage can be significant, so make sure you check out the area at different times of the day. This way, you can be sure that your plants will get what they need throughout the day.
Even a limited space can be surprisingly productive if you’re clever about how you position your plants. Pots and planters are a great space-saving option as they can be positioned on palings and window sills hung from above other garden bed spaces, or even nestled into portable garden beds. These can be made from any number of materials or containers, from rickety wheelbarrows and old trolleys to basic planks of timber – and if you choose to plant on the ground, you can always hang more plants from above. Just make sure that the plants on the lower level still get enough sun!
Technically, choosing the right plants is a single step in this process, but there are several things to factor into the decision, including each of the following points:
Your local climate and weather conditions will have a significant bearing on what you can and can’t grow in your garden. If it’s often cold and grey where you live, you probably won’t have much luck growing plants that thrive in hot, sunny climates, and vice versa. It’s also important to consider the amount of rain you receive, particularly if you’re in a very wet area, because while you can always water plants more regularly in a dry climate, it will be almost impossible to protect dry plants from excessive rain.
In a small garden, space is one of the biggest constraints, and some plants need more room to grow than others. You can save a lot of space by choosing plants that don’t spread. To that end, popular space-saving plant varieties include micro greens (spring onion, chive and leeks, for example), garlic, dwarf fruit trees, and vegetables like potatoes, runner beans and tomatoes. These plants produce more food per square metre than most others.
It’s also important to choose plants that grow well together, and some plants are natural companions for others, while others develop highly beneficial symbiotic relationships with each other. For example, plants with shallow roots pair well with plants that grow deep, while tall, rigid plants can act as a frame for climbers. It’s all about planned planting!
Having a small garden can be limiting in terms of how much you’re able to grow at any given time, particularly if the plants you choose take a long time to grow. Fast-growing plants like strawberries, herbs, edible flowers and lettuces will allow you to replant more regularly and get more value out of your garden.
No matter the size of your garden, the number one rule should always be to grow food that you enjoy eating. This way, you’ll be more willing to invest time and energy in tending to your garden and keeping it in good condition.
Growing plants can be an incredibly rewarding hobby, particularly if you’re looking to create a healthier, more eco-friendly lifestyle and feed your family healthier meals. Just remember that while there will always be some work involved, the payoff – a fully operational, productive garden full of tasty fruit and vegetables – will be well worthwhile.