Tilling the ground up for a garden, especially in the early, cold months of the year, can be an arduous, burdensome task; but believe it or not, this isn’t even the top reason for the absence of home gardeners in the neighborhoods that surround us. This day in age, the more appropriate excuse for not gardening and growing a beautiful garden that can satisfy nearly all the appetite you can possibly express, is the fact that there is simply no room.
Your backyard is too small to have a 20ft-x-20ft garden space tilled up. You live smack in the middle of town and your driveway takes up pretty much all of your yard. As a matter of fact, with all of our mass urbanization, an overwhelming majority of us have very limited space, especially for growing a garden.
However, this is not at all a disadvantage to creating more self-reliance for oneself. Quite the contrary, to be honest. The main goals of gardening is the aggregation of resources in a comparatively bountiful and well-manicured area. So, in fact, container gardening can offer you a much, much easier way to accomplish this!
By small-space gardening, you can really make the most of the area; you will also find that it is much more manageable, which will prove to create a highly fruitful and rewarding production.
- Easy management and cultivation
- You can literally plant your food anywhere
- They can be far easier to shelter than a large plot garden
- On rooftops in cities, you will have great opportunities for rain-harvesting
- Your small garden will instantly liven up your living area
- In cities, your opportunities to obtain great compost materials is very high
- Finding materials to use for your garden containers is easier as well
- Gardening itself brings on incredible health benefits for you and your family
- It is most definitely good on the health (or thickness) of your wallet
- It can teach lessons that are precious, priceless and irreplaceable
- By growing your own, you are reducing your own ecological footprint on our earth; and that the world needs a good deal more of, I believe we can all agree!
How Can I Get Started?
The best thing about small space/container gardening is that you can literally do it anywhere! Not to mention, it is literally the easiest way to dive into your gardening career. With little to no experience in gardening, using containers and small space techniques, you will have better opportunity to properly learn how to care for your vegetables and plants.
Just for starters:
1. Figure out and measure what kind of space you will be working with. Locate the most favorable place in your yard/windows/balcony; where does the sun touch the most throughout the day?
2. Raised beds may very well be the ideal way to grow (that is if you have the space or ground to build them on). As for building them, the process can be as simple as YOU make it. My favorite grow boxes I have built were made from free pallets I picked up from a local source. From a simple 4X4 box to an elegant, staircase-style waist-high box, the design opportunities are completely endless.
3. If, upon measuring and checking that and this, you find it impracticable to use raised beds/boxes, have no fear! All you will need to do is find small to medium sized containers. In the case that you may live in an apartment with only windows or a small balcony, container gardening will be the most logical choice to go with.
4. The best thing about container gardening is the fact that you can use practically anything you can find as a “container”. Salvaged shutters, wooly pockets, old tables, the top of a birdhouse, old deep-set picture frames, pots, barrels; the list can go on and on. The size and depth requirement for the pot will depend on the plant that you will be growing in it.
Another really cool, space-saving technique is to do a vertical garden. This will help to increase your choices and your harvest in a small space. While using the vertical garden method, keep in mind always the different heights of your different plants; be sure to situate the tallest ones in the northern portion of your garden. When you use a trellis to keep your tomato plants stretching upward, rather than bushing out, you not only save space, but you promote a far better harvest as well.
Related article: Growing Vegetables In Pots – Choosing Plants That Thrive
5. This next portion is extremely important, though it may, at first thought, seem like the simplest. Depending upon which method from above you have decided to go with, you will now have to decide on a soil to use for filling your garden with. Any successful gardening venture, whether it be a large scale or small, always starts with fertile soil.
This day in age, buying soil has never been easier (imagine that, buying earth material…). Simply go to your local get-it-quick-store, and pick up a few 50 lb sacks… (they’ll have several different types for you to “choose” from). However, seeing as how this is a “survival and d.i.y. site, it is only right to give some advice on doing it the “home-made” way.
The exemplary type soil for growing most all crops is soil considered loamy. A loamy soil is a rich halfway point between silty and sandy soils. If you are not buying soil, and you happen to be going with the kind that you have in the backyard, or if a pal is letting you have some of theirs, you’ll want to check and see what “kind” it is.
Grab a handful of the soil, wet it, and try to roll it in your palm into the shape of a ball. If this results in a hard, compact ball, your soil is made up of clay. If you can’t form a ball at all, chances are it is too sandy. Loamy soil will create a ball, but it will crumble and break apart fairly easily.
The best thing about soil is that no matter which type you have, you can drastically improve it without too awful much trouble. You can enhance, not only your soils structure but its fertility as well, by working a compost mixture into its top layer each year. Believe it or not, there a multitude of effective composting alternatives for even the smallest of spaces.
Recommended reading: An Easy Guide To Growing Herbs – 12 Herbs You Should Have In Your Garden
I get all the ingredients for my compost pile from our local restaurants throughout the late fall and winter, and that has proven to be effective enough to fill my entire garden every spring with a perfect, pitch-black soil that is worth its weight in gold!
The next thing on your list of needs will probably be a few tools. However, this does not mean that you need an entire shed of Farmer Bob’s handy attachments. A simple set will do everything you’ll ever need, and will not take up any space at all (or at least very little). A few light hand tools will suffice, such as a hand-held trimmer, a pruner, a spade, a trowel and a cultivator.
You can typically find these at second-hand stores, or garage sells for next to nothing and in just-fine condition.
Finally, deciding what plants to plant! Here is the absolute best thing about small space gardening: Picking what varieties of vegetables and herbs you want to grow. From exotic and rare to easy and most productive to nature’s most natural healers, the selections are nearly endless. Seeds or plants can be obtained from a number of different sources, depending upon your area.
Your best bet is going to be to scoop the annual copy of your most local Farmer’s Almanac and study it up. It is practically your natural-as-it-comes lesson plan for gardening. It will give you information on just when to plant what, how to go about planting and an absolute abundance of other totally awesome knowledge!
Top Concerns in Raised Beds/Container Gardens
1. Water, water, water!
In containers and raised beds, the soil tends to dry out much faster than it does in the ground. Of the few challenges of small-space gardening, one of the most difficult but equally important is making sure that your plants do not dry out.
You must remember to water your container/raised bed garden more frequently. Be sure that when you water your container plants, water comes out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. While tap water can be used to water your garden, your best bet would be to collect rainwater and use that as your source (beats paying a mean water bill, especially if you already like twenty-five-minute showers!).
There are many multifarious ways to bring water to your garden or containers, and most of them can be done with rummaged materials that cost you little to nothing. An old hose laying around, perhaps a large piece of scrap guttering or a piece of pipe. Put your mind to it, and you’ll find that you can use just about anything to set up your very own irrigation system; all the while saving the hide of your wallet!
Be sure to keep in mind that over-watering is very possible as well, and should be avoided like the plague. There is a happy medium to how much water each plant, container or bed will need.
2. Use potting soil
The type which is designed to give container plants the texture and drainage they need. Or be sure that your soil is loamy and up to par. If you are attempting to use a clay-heavy soil, you must understand that the water will not be able to properly soak the soil and allow for draining. Just as a t00 sandy soil will filter the water through at a faster rate and dry out quicker, causing your root system to die.
3. Planting flowers or herbs in containers?
Be choosy with which plants you decide on. Make them POP and you will bring a whole new value to your house or apartment. Be sure to include a wide arrangement of colors, textures, and heights.
4. Tomatoes will thrive in container style gardens.
However, be wary of how close you plant them in a container garden. They will need plenty of room and will best produce if they are vertically strung to a trellis of sorts.
5. Is sunlight a problem?
If that’s the case, try placing your container on a tabletop or box that can be easily moved. Move it around to follow the pattern of the sun. The front-running method is to, before deciding how, why or where to put your garden, pay a good amount of attention to the sun and where it falls on your home/growing area throughout the day.
6. Start an indoor herb garden year-round for fresh herbs!
Their need for space is far less than that needed by most vegetables. Herbs are rather easy to grow and take little time to “keep up”.
7. Try your hand at vertical gardening!
Take advantage of trellises or walls to grow up, as well as out. As mentioned before, this not only looks super awesome but is extremely beneficial when it comes to how much and at what quality you will reap.
8. Beginner container gardening?
Some of the easiest container varieties include herbs, salad greens, and tomatoes. While some plants may be “harder” to take care of than others, there really is no serious challenge to gardening other than simply getting out there and just doing it.
9. Remember that nearly anything can be used as a container!
The key to success is to be sure that there is enough room for the soil and plants root system, as well as being sure of its drainability.
10. Get rid of the unwelcomed threats
Most likely weeds and other unwelcomed sprouts may grow along with your vegetables or fruits and most likely it will affect its growth and share of the soil’s nutrients. It would be wise to have some effective weed killers beforehand to prevent this to happen.
What we each need to remember, whether we live on a homestead out in the sticks or right in smack in the middle of a city condominium, we can get out of nature just what she intended for us! While losing weight from eating healthily from your own home-grown garden, you can also guarantee that your wallet will not be losing any weight due to a rather large grocery bill (and we could all use a little bit of that!).
With a little patience and a bit of green dye for your thumb, no matter your residency, you will be growing your own first-place fair-prize vegetables and herbs!
This article has been written by Jonathan Blaylock for Prepper’s Will.