Saturday, April 12, 2014

Oh ye of little space!

If you are anything like me, you don't have a lot of room to grow in. My parents have an awesome spot that is large and gets a ton of sun for most of the day that they use for their garden. Me...I don't have that luxury. I have a decent sized backyard...which has two giant oak trees in it so it is full of shade all summer long. Wonderful for relaxing in the backyard, not so wonderful for growing veggies in. My side yard is tiny, but it will be used for growing grapes starting this year! I'm so excited! My friend graciously shared one of her shoots and gave it to me, the plant was from a 30 year old strain, I LOVE getting stuff like that! Anyways, back on where do I grow? In my tiny front yard that my landlord originally wanted to pave over and make into more parking. Over the last few years what I have learned in that you don't need a ton of space to grow enough food for your family. No, really, you don't need a ton of space!

I have 3 planter boxes that I use, they are 3'x6' and I have 1 planter that is 4'x4' which came with the house. I got the 3'x6' planters on sale at Bi-mart, they are 100% cedar wood and I got them in the $30-50 range for each one. I LOVE my planters, but I didn't start out with planters. Truth be told, I barely had the money to buy the seeds, let alone dirt to fill all of the planters and the planter boxes as well!

I looked on craigslist and got a bunch of different planters for free or close to it, went to the Dollar Tree and did makeshift planters. One of the makeshift ones that worked really well was an old aquarium that had a cracked bottom, the crack allowed for the water to drain and thus worked perfectly! I managed to come up with the money for some organic soil and filled my pots and planters and I was on my way. Back then I had NO clue what companion planting was, and I just started planting what sounded good. Needless to say, that was a learning curve year! I had way more flops than I had successes that year! Since then I have upgraded my planter pots to ones that are a bit bigger...yeah, I love LOT. This planter here has become my favorite style of planter, however I get the 25" ones directly from Costco in the store, not online. They will run you around $18 each, which for planters, that isn't bad at all. They call them whiskey barrel planters and are made of a resin material so they are weather resistant so all you have to do is drill out the holes at the bottom of the barrels for draining and fill with dirt.

You are probably wondering why on earth I love these so much...well, let me tell you! I use my barrels to grow anything and everything! I grow blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers and beans in them. I also use them for asparagus, and this year I am trying my hand at Elderberries, although the starts might not have survived the transplant, but we shall see over the next few weeks. In my smaller planters, I use them for salad. I call them my salad bowl planters, because I grow lettuce and spinach in them, and since I like baby lettuce and spinach, I harvest before they get too large.

These are my salad bowls. In the center I plant spinach and then surrounding it I plant different types of lettuce.
As you can see I have several different planters. Two are designated for blueberries as once they are planted, you don't ever have to move them...gotta love that!  The others I trade off with using it for tomatoes or peppers usually as needed.

This barrel in front is used for my raspberries. Now they are contained and don't take over an entire section of my garden! As you can see there are other planters used for tomatoes as well. I plan on growing my selection of planters and building a grow platform, just not this year!

Now that I am a little further along in my gardening experience, I have learned a lot more about what grows better together, and what really doesn't. I have also learned how to condense into a small space. I am able to feed my family of 5 with much of what I grow from my garden (and that is with neighbors coming a taking some of the literal fruits of my labors...I figure if they really need the food that badly, then they should go ahead and take what they need!)

This planter I got at the Dollar Tree. I even got the plant hanger from Dollar Tree!

This is the makeshift planter made from the old aquarium/terrarium. It would have worked much better if I had picked different plants for it, like I said, that was the year of not knowing what the heck I was doing!
This year I plan to make even more use of my planters by companion planting in the containers, and not just in my boxes. I will be planting onions, garlic and carrots around single tomato plants for my larger barrels as those are all beneficial to each other. That's the cool part about companion planting, both plants benefit from being planted next to each other, be it for the nutrients in the soil, the shade provided by others, or how the soil is broken apart to make easier root paths, there is always something to gain when you plan your garden well.

The moral of the story is, even if you don't have space for planter boxes, almost anyone has room for a few planters on their porch or in their yard. Using the right techniques, you can plant a lot in a small space! As always, if you have questions, ask away! Until next time...Happy Gardening!

This is just an example of a strawberry planter, I love it, but the birds tend to get to many of my strawberries before I do, so for next year when it is time to replant (strawberries only produce fruit for a few years in a row) I think I am going to try some other methods in addition to replanting this beauty. :)

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