16 April 2012

Small-space gardening options to consider

Those who've read Self-Reliant Info for a while will recall our post on getting started in container gardening (or our newer re-visitation of the topic on The Practical Prepper blog). We've also offered our review on Mel Bartholomew's All New Square Foot Gardening book, which is a great resource for container and raised-bed gardening.

All of the above provide great information for those looking to grow vegetables in a limited space. As you get going, you may want to spend some time with the following articles. Each offers a different way to help you in your quest to increase your self-reliance and self sufficiency by growing more in less space. (This means you apartment, urban, and suburban readers can get in on the act!)

Getting started simply
We found The Nickel Pincher: How to Plant a Pizza Garden on Rodale.com. It presents a great concept for novices, which is starting with a small variety of plants that relate to a specific cooking project. In the article, they gave an example of tomatoes, basil, and peppers to be used for pizza. The text then goes on to describe how to get started with seeds, when to plant them, and when/how to transition them to outdoor containers or beds. It's a nice, neat way to get going with your green thumb!

Consider these options for small-space gardening
Also on Rodale's site is 6 Strategies for Urban Vegetable Gardening. This article provides an excellent overview of different ways that you can grow good amounts of food in very small spaces. While not totally in-depth on each topic, the text gives enough information to help you decide which of these approaches are worth more investigation:
  • Container gardening
  • Raised beds
  • Lasagna gardening
  • Vertical gardening
  • Community gardening
  • Aerogardening

Again, these are not really how-to instructions; rather, they discuss the concepts further. Of course, you can refer to our container gardening posts linked above (here or here). It's also worth noting that All New Square Foot Gardening has a lot of good information on raised-bed and vertical gardening.

Speaking of vertical gardening...
As noted, the Rodale article above briefly discusses why you might consider vertical gardening, but we found a related article on NaturalHomeAndGarden.com that's a bit better — and free! The Benefits of a Vertical Garden is actually an excerpt from the book Vertical Gardening by Derek Fell. Like the article's title promises, the text discusses how you'll gain from vertical gardening:
  • Smaller beds to prepare and maintain
  • Vertical pots and containers for very small spaces
  • Fewer pests, diseases, and problems to handle
  • Increased yields in a small space
  • Less bending, fewer backbreaking chores, and easier plant care
  • Easier to harvest

Note that this article is geared toward showing why vertical gardening is a good thing; they leave it up to you to buy the Vertical Gardening book to get the how-to information. As mentioned above, All New Square Foot Gardening also has some good how-to material on setting up your vertical garden.

Permaculture in a barrel
One of the gardening topics that we've found most interesting is permaculture, which involves designed patterns of landscape and function, placed for the maximum benefit of the system. One aspect of permaculture is agroforestry, or using an integrated approach of combining trees and/or shrubs with other crops (and sometimes livestock). Agroforestry works with layers of plants/crops, often mimicking the layers in naturally occuring forests.

Permaculture is an interesting concept, but always seemed to us to be a "big" idea, requiring more space. That was before we found Container Gardening: Food Forest in a Barrel, also on the NaturalHomeAndGarden.com website. This post describes ideas for marrying permaculture and container gardening, allowing for a more sustainable approach to small-space gardens.

Food Forest in a Barrel assumes a bit of skill on the part of the reader, providing just basic tips on:
  • Container choice
  • Soil
  • Planting
  • Maintenance
  • Watering and fertilizing

Unfortunately, the most useful section — plant selection and combinations — is tantalizingly short. It lists a number of plants in categories, presumably all things that go well together. It'll take a bit more reading for us, but we'll be trying some "forests in a barrel" this year. (Fortunately, there are a number of books on permaculture home gardens.

How about you? Do you have a favorite small-space gardening resource, tip, or experience? Please share below!

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