If you read gardening blogs (you’re reading this one, so that’s good!), you have probably seen posts about gardening in small spaces. My question to most of them is – are you for real? Yes, they are beautiful – but who has a garden that really looks that good??
I like real life gardens, so I’m going to share with you not one, but two gardens that are 1/10 acre or less. The owners of these gardens are not professionals – they have full-time jobs (well one is a garden writer). The gardens are lived in and produce food, they may not always be pristine – but they are real life examples.
The Micro-Farm. Michael and Jeremy manager their 1/10 acre in PA. Working with existing plantings, curious neighbors, and limited space doesn’t seem to be an obstacle. The rear part of the lot houses chickens, ducks, and rabbits (they would love to incorporate a donkey, but feel that’s just over the top).
The perimeter is planted with perennial fruits, herbs, and ornamentals surrounding the small lawn area which is utilized by 3 big dogs and a cat. The ultimate goal is to incorporate more edibles, in the form of vines and possibly espalier fruit trees.
As you approach the house a small vegetable garden, enclosed with picket fencing, provides a home for annual vegetables. Close spacing of plants not only maximizes the space, but aids in weed control. While many things work here, tomatoes do not. Due to the lack of space, and the geekiness of the owners to need LOTS of different types, they searched for options.
Ta da! The solution is the neighbor’s un-utilized, rarely seen back patch of grass. Although the neighbor was sure that kids would come down the alley and steal tomatoes, this was not the case!
What the garden does bring is visitors, about 6 people stopped by during my short time there. Once you get past the “guard”
dogs, you can’t help but find the place inviting.
Paradise Lot. Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates, along with their wives and kids, manage a 1/10 acre lot in Holyoke, Mass. The garden would technically be labeled a food forest, but I just call it fun. The goal was to be able to go out in the garden, any time of year, and be able to eat something.
The garden is managed using permaculture principles and includes a mix of edible trees, shrubs, perennials plus the traditional annual vegetables. Every plant has a purpose – many are edible, some fix nitrogen in the soil, while others attract pollinators and beneficial insects.
A four season working greenhouse provides shelter for winter veggies, while a small pond allows for water-loving veggies to thrive.
One goal was to provide an example to neighbors that a tiny back yard can be much more than grass. While neighbors have not joined in and planted up their backyards, there is plenty of interest.
The garden has become a teaching garden, attracting folks from all over the world to tour and see what really can be done in such a small space. I would highly recommend picking up a copy of “Paradise Lot” for an enjoyable read this winter.
So how’s that for small space gardening?