Small Garden Techniques and Ideas

With ever more people taking an interest in growing their own vegetables as part of a drive towards self-sustainability, or at least a growing desire to take more control of what they consume; the interest in how to get more out of the often small spaces available is, unsurprisingly, growing also. Thankfully there are a number of ways to grow veggies in small spaces and some great ideas for a small garden such as Raised Bed Gardening, Square Foot Gardening and Container Gardening – generally referred to as no-dig gardening owing to the lack of effort needed to grow plants in general, and vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, onions, peas, beans etc in particular.

This technique is especially important for the numerous city-dwellers who have taken up the idea, and for whome large garden space – or any garden space at all – is virtually non-existent.

S.F.G. Enter the technique of growing veggies in limited spaces!

Square Foot Gardening BookSquare Foot Gardening as with the Raised garden bed is one of the most popular small garden ideas at the moment, as it allows you to truely maximize your growing abilities, by concentrating a number of different plants within the same small area. In the SFG method this area is measured at 4 x 4 feet square. This in turn gives you 16 foot-square areas in which to grow your plants. Now I’m the first to admit that this does not seem like a large enough growing area to supply the average family; however nothing could be further from the truth, and the fact is that with correct planting this small area is indeed extremely effective at ‘producing the goods.’

Square foot gardening system

Typical layout for a 4 x 4 garden area

A quick scan of this picture shows the typical layout of a SFG. The trick is to plant your veggies in such a way as to take control of the natural benefits that each plant will offer it’s neighbor in relation to pest control and nutritional benefits. This is a technique known as Companion Planting, and is extremely effective for growing plants in such concentrations – something that often leads to all sorts of problems in conventional gardening.

In truth SFG is another form of Raised Bed Growing in many ways, apart from the different dimensions involved the real thing that sets them apart is the fact that SFG tends to concentrate more on plant diversity. This offers a ‘balanced diet’ so to speak when it comes to serving a small family with a good range of selected vegetables.

Get more details on SFG by Clicking This Link

Consider A Raised Bed Vegetable Garden:

Raised Bed GardeningRBG Techniques are similar in many ways to SFG, indeed many would argue that they are both concepts of the same idea; that is they both grow vegetables in a confined area using ‘special’ growing medium.

In fact the main differences between the two is in the area concerned, the hight of the ‘boxes’ and the principles behind the ideas themselves. With regard to the growing areas, the typical Raised Bed system is 9 foot by 3 foot. The SFG system is as mentioned earlier 4 x 4 foot, and the average height of a Raised bed is 12-18 inches compared to 6 inches for a SFG.

As for the principles behind them. The Square foot system is mainly about rotational planting allowing the growing of a diverse range of different vegetables; whereby the RBG really concentrates on producing more of the same species in each bed – usually about 2 or 3 different vegetables.

However…it should be obvious to the reader that both these systems are liable to the interpretation of the gardener. For instance there is nothing to prevent me from growing just one crop in the SFG, and at the same time growing multiple crops in the RBG. Indeed there is nothing preventing me building a SFG in the same way as a Raised Bed – just with higher sides!

In reality the gardener concerned must weigh up the different aspects of the two systems, then just go for it :) It’s not rocket science after all. Provide your plants with the correct amount of nutrients, light and water – and they will grow just fine. Incorporate some Companion Planting ideas  and they will grow even better!

Get More Details On Raised Bed Gardening By Clicking On This Link

How About Container Gardening?straw bale gardening

Another aspect of growing vegetables in tiny spaces, is Container Planting, which as small garden ideas go is pretty effective. As the name suggests this is simply taking any available container and planting vegetables suited to the size or make-up of said container. This means that good healthy vegetables can be grown on your patio or window sill! Many books have been written on the subject of growing vegetables in containers of all shapes and sizes, growing tomatoes in containers being off particular interest it seems.

Apart from the obvious advantages of this method for those without any space to consider the other options discussed, the container gardener has the advantage in that the containers can be moved around to take best advantage of the sunlight – an option that is not open to the other systems. (though to be fair the SFG can be portable if built correctly)

Straw Bale Gardening:

straw bale gardeningThis is actually another form of container gardening in as much as the planting area is contained within a container – which in this case is a bale of straw. (although it could indeed be a hay bale garden?) The advantage with this type of micro-gardening is that it requires very little in the way of compost or fertiliser as it is pretty much self contained.

Simply lay out your bale on a sheet of garden membrane to stop weeds. Make sure your bale is sitting with the cut side up (on its edge), then soak it through with water which has in turn been infused with a suitable fertilizer to give it a boost – preferably use water from a water-butt or pond if you have one handy :)

After about 10 days dig a hole in the straw bale about 6 inches deep and 3-4 inches diameter. Fill with compost and plant your veggies according to their requirements. If support is needed then simply fix a post into the ground at each end and string some wires 6 inches apart to grow climbers.

Over the course of the growing season the bale will rot down to keep your veggies fed and weed free!

This is a growing trend amongst vegetable growers, as it is a definate contender for the no-dig gardening awards!

For more gardening hints and tips on these and other growing techniques, please visit our book store here



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Autumn Gardening Jobs

Whilst early Autumn is generally the time for bringing in the last of the fruit harvest, or perhaps preparing the root vegetables for storage. There are many other jobs around the garden that need attended to once the jam and pickles have been made!

Atuumn GardeningPruning fruit trees and bushes are best done in the late August, otherwise left until the first buds of spring and the last of the winter frosts. Many people I know prune trees over winter, but this is not such good practice as the hard frosts can damage the fresh cut on the plant and leave it vulnerable to infection or insect attack.

Root vegetables such as parsnips or carrots can effectively be left in the ground providing the temperature does not drop much below 23F (-5c). In fact parsnips in particular taste sweeter after they have had a touch of frost on them. To protect your roots from deep frost conditions, cover them with a 6 inch layer of straw or fallen leaves.

If you are subjected to windy conditions then you can lay some chicken mesh over this to hold them down. In the springtime the straw and leaves can be dug into the ground to add excellent fiber to the soil.

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How To Grow Vegetables in Hay or Straw Bales:

hay bale gardeningStraw bale or Hay bale gardening are really types of Container, or perhaps Raised Bed gardening idea’s, that are certainly growing in popularity as gardeners wake up to the new easy-gardening ‘revolution’ that is taking place today.
There are many explanations for this interest in small vegetable gardening ideas, but I suspect that it is mainly to do with the hectic lifestyle for many people who are trying to juggle work-time, while providing healthy food for the family.
As for growing plants in hay bales, city dwellers in particular, whilst being continually bombarded by the need to ‘be organic’ and provide fresh chemical-free vegetables for the kids, are opting for this gardening technique as they simply do not have access to the land needed to grow their own vegetables. Bales of Straw or hay take up very little space!

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The Brick Potato Planter – Was It Worth It?

Back in may I posted a little experiment with a potato ‘barrel’ type planter. This is following the technique of planting a few potatoes near the bottom of a container – traditionally a barrel or drum – then as the plant grows you keep adding the soil until the plant eventually reaches the top.

The theory is sound, and is indeed a great way to increase your potato crop – but by how much?

simple potato planter

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Never Transplant carrots!

If ever there was any doubt as to the wisdom of transplanting carrot seedlings, then the following pictures should put these doubts to rest :)carrots grown in pot

I transplanted some seedlings from a shallow tray that my wife had scattered a packet of seeds in (Yea I would blame the wife!), into a variety of pots and containers – and the results you could say are predictable.

Though I must say that as they grew, they looked to be in ‘rude health’ with great foliage showing no signs of the disaster unraveling beneath the soil. Strong green leaves, with no signs of the dreaded carrot fly (which causes the leaves to droop as the plant expires). The containers were kept moist yet free-draining, a condition that suits carrots just fine – as you might see from the picture.

The soil mix was good, with a good mix of sand for drainage and home-made compost mixed with peat for the nutrients and friability of the growing medium.

All was looking good. Maybe, just maybe I though, they would grow to be healthy carrots despite my reservations. Alas it was not to be- though we did have a good laugh at the results it has to be said :)

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Constructing A Pallet Composting Area:

pallet composting bins

Composting to be sure is perhaps not the most exciting or romantic aspect of growing your own vegetables – but without a good understanding of compost and the ability to produce your own then you are most certainly missing out.
Creating your own compost means several things to the gardener.

  1. You are saving money by not having to buy store-bought compost.
  2. You are reducing waste by recycling all your vegetable ‘left overs’ from the garden and kitchen.
  3. You are helping the environment by reducing the produce sent to land fill areas. This reduces your overall ‘carbon footprint’ and creates a ‘feel good’ aspect :)
  4. Disposing of Grass clippings and leaf molt is no longer a problem!
  5. You can really grow fantastic veggies with quality compost.

And just in case I forget to mention it – It’s incredibly satisfying to witness a load of ‘useless’ waste matter being transformed into good incredibly useful composting material!

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