After going from three acres of land to a small urban section, I've had to get creative with how we use our space. Here are a few tricks and tips I've learnt along the way to get the most out of a smaller sized backyard.
Vertical gardening - When it comes to small sections, vertical gardening is your friend. By adding a few well placed structures you can grow so much more. Normally I make up bamboo teepees for our runner beans and cucumbers. This year I'm going to experiment with different structures. I've been looking at the reinforcing mesh at Bunnings, but am still doing my research on that one. I figure a frame set up at the back of a raised vegetable garden will take up less space than my large bamboo teepees, allowing us to grow something in front of the frame as well. Beans, peas, cucumber, smaller varieties of pumpkin and squash can all be grown vertically. I'm also keen to give staking a zucchini a go this year, as a bit of an experiment.
Growing in containers - Containers give you some added space to grow those vegetables that you can't squeeze into your garden plan or gardens. Now when I do my garden plan, I consider what I can grow in containers first. If I can grow it in a container, I know it will free up space in the raised vegetable gardens for something else. This year, we're growing capsicum, potatoes, cherry tomato, parisian carrots, glass gem corn, and a mix of herbs in containers. My hack for cheap containers is the flexi tubs at The Warehouse. I then have holes drilled into the bottom for easy drainage. The 42L containers are currently two for $14, which isn't a bad price. They last well too.
Selecting varieties carefully - I used to think that having a small section meant there were a lot of fruit and vegetables I could no longer grow. The reality is that there's not much we miss out on. Growing from seed also gives you a lot more options. Yates Golden Nugget Pumpkin is a perfect option for smaller gardens. Sarah introduced me to this variety a couple of years ago. It grows more like a courgette so doesn't take up a huge amount of space. Luke has always wanted to grow watermelon. This year I came across Baby Dragon Watermelon in the Kings Seed Catalogue. I contacted Kings Seeds directly and they've assured me we only need 1m2 to grow this variety so we're going to give it a go. Each season I try to grow something new to keep gardening fun and interesting. Smaller varieties of cucumbers like Space Master or Lebanese are also great options. Dwarf Fruit Trees are also perfect for small backyards. Because we can plant fewer berries than I'd like we opt for certain varieties e.g. Aspiring Raspberries that fruit twice instead of the once. I could keep going, but you get the idea.
Grow what you'll eat - I know this seems like a real obvious one, but in my first couple of years of gardening I failed to put a lot of thought into this. I think now with the increasing cost of vegetables we put a lot more thought into what we grow and why. I try to grow what we regularly use in meals and vegetables/herbs that cost more to buy. Don't get me wrong, we still grow some things more for the fun of it too e.g. popping corn, potatoes in a bag. If you make learning fun for children they'll want to keep joining it. For me, you can't put a price on that.
Succession planting - In the past, I was hopeless at this. All of my cabbages would be ready at once or I'd go from having a garden full of lettuce to having nothing for salads in a few weeks time. I now try to stagger my planting better. It's still a work in progress, but I'm getting there.
Underplanting - Planting underneath taller crops/plants can work really well sometimes. In the far raised vegetable garden, we grow our berries - raspberries, blackberries, and boysenberries. Underneath I grow my salad veggies - silverbeet, spinach, lettuces etc. They don't mind the partial shade in the warmer months and I find it stops them from bolting as fast in our Northland sun.
It's a rainy, windy day here in Northland so the plan for the afternoon is going to be to do my garden plans with Luke and finish off sorting out my new seed storage containers. I hope you all have a good weekend and that it's feeling more Spring like in your part of the country today.