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Suggestions for a tiny lot?

 
Posts: 59
Location: Southeast corner of Wyoming
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I live in a house almost smack dab in the middle of town.  The whole lot is only about a tenth of an acre.  The house sits right about the middle of the lot.  
Back half is the dog yard and my small garden.  The garden area is about 20 feet by 20 feet and after some rearranging I found room to start that asparagus bed I have talked about for over a decade( I am starting small with only 10 plants)...  I have also figured out a spot to tuck in some Claytonia and purslane in a little out of the way corner. So that will be my start for perennial plants in the garden.  

Now I am turning my eyes and planning towards the front yard...   but this yard is tiny and we live on a main road so I need something that will look "nice"  Plants I am thinking of trying are dahlia, Jerusalem Artichoke, Chinese Artichoke, and if I can find some groundnut (Apois Americana).  I am in US zone 5 so I know some will need to be lifted and stored over winter like the Dahlias.  Are there any other plants, trees etc you can think of that would be good to try here?   Remember the lot is tiny so trees and bushes must also be small to fit in...
 
Posts: 204
Location: Málaga, Spain
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Hi, I'm unfamiliar with the climatic zone.

My only suggestion is to have you use your walls, so you can grow vertical. Walls usually increase heat, so you might be able to grow something extra. Remember to leave some space for your chair (and table) so you can enjoy your garden when it is not yielding food.
Here, we usually plant grapes, as it is a decidious vine which provides shade in summer and fruit in automn, but it might be too cold in your place for grapes.

Tall plants, vines, hanging pots, is the way to increase your garden space.
 
pollinator
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Location: East of England
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Day lillies are edible, if they grow in your region. Blueberries make nice decorative shrubs with lovely fall color. Many members of the onion family like leeks and chives have beautiful flowers.
 
pioneer
Posts: 347
Location: Oregon 8b
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I've seen a lot of people create highly productive small spaces with tightly pruned fruit trees. My small space experience was limited, but with plenty of supplemental water, compost, and organic fertilizer, I was able to fill my 100 sq. ft. garden with a very crowded but productive three sisters bed to which I added cilantro for pest control/insectary plants, plus greens in the shade of the larger plants that did well like that through the summer heat. It was like wading through a jungle, but that was part of the fun for me. Nowadays I'm a lot more conservative with my water use, so unless I had rain barrels I'd be hesitant to crowd things so much.

If you look to Eric Toensmeier/Paradise Lot, that's a good example of how smallish spaces in cool climates can be pretty productive.
 
Posts: 67
Location: Chon Buri Thailand Zone 11-12
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I would look into rooftop gardens and change the deco plants to edibles.
A visit in a local nursery is always the best guideline you can have.
A Food forest fits everywhere as long you shrink all levels.

Dwarf trees as upper canopy, trellises for vines and bee fodder, nitrogen fixer at least one for the apple tree.
(I like the 3 sisters idea from Matthew too)
Green bench as a planter with seat

a table with a center for a dwarf tree as umbrella. 37 square meter is a huge space if well used.

Its really a fantasy issue as the options are endless...
 
Posts: 79
Location: Currently south Wales (the old one!)
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100-200 years ago espalier trees were popular in the UK. Reduced space, better cropping and it looks really pretty.

You can espalier apples and pears. If the front garden is the north side of the house then plant cooking apples, all the other walls can be what you want.

Cherries, plums, nectarines, etc, can be trained as fans.

I'm told it takes a bit of work to set them up but very low maintenance when established.
an-espaliered-apple-tree-001.jpg
Stolen photo!
Stolen photo!
 
gardener
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Espaliered trees are great! I have three apples and one pear in my tiny garden.

Do get some inspiration, look around what others are doing.
Have you seen this Chicago gardener with her edible frontyard? Very inspirational.
 
master steward
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Edible ornament plants will make your yard beautiful and provide much color. Here are some suggestions:

Cabbage, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, and garlic chives.

Containers will also help provide a larger area:

Lettuce, strawberries, and vine plants.

Here are a couple of threads that you might enjoy:

https://permies.com/t/143914/Edible-Yard-Visited

https://permies.com/t/145124/Grow-Food-Yard#1135770

 
Dorothy Pohorelow
Posts: 59
Location: Southeast corner of Wyoming
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Thanks folks for giving me a bit of direction and cheering up.  I really was starting to feel overwhelmed... and that my lot and climate limitations were insurmountable.  

I decided to keep looking and trying on types of fruit trees and bushes... and I found my small anchor tree.  There is a smaller apricot tree called a Mormon or Chinese apricot that grows about 15 ft tall.  They are self fruitful so I don't have to find room for a second one unless I want to.  Once established it will give me a shaded area I can put some Hosta in and we can build out from there.   So now the framework for the west side is taking shape and I can breathe and enjoy watching it develop.

That leaves the east side where the water main is.  I want to avoid trees or even large shrubs here due to that water main...  BUT there are things I can plant and spaces I can use without worrying about it.   I actually have two areas to plan.  From the sidewalk to the water main and from the alley to the water main.  

On the alley side there is a single row of shrubs that need to be kept trimmed  so drivers can see the traffic before entering or leaving the alley.  They have been there over 30 years now but are not really the best choice for that location.  Someday I will replace them with lower growing plants...  This year the dying cottonwoods will be removed, leaving me a gap of about 3 feet between sections of the shrubs.   I am thinking of some shorter Jerusalem Artichokes planted in that area possibly in a large grow bag this year while we explore other options to keep them controlled and only growing where we want them.  The varieties I am looking at are only 5 to 8 ft tall so could work well as they would be far enough back not to block the view AND this would allow us to see how they handle our winds...

On the section between the water main and sidewalk I am thinking of putting a cattle panel trellis that runs east to west. This will become my anchor.  Eventually it will have ground nuts on it but this year I will have runner beans on it and some dahlias, nasturtiums and marigolds in front.   I may even try a true Tiger Lily or two just to see how they will grow.   I have only a few weak daylily left form my whole collection and won't bring more in due to that huge loss.  
 
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I would definitely recommend Paradise Lot by Eric Toesnmeier also! He transformed  a scrabbly tenth of an acre in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Great ideas for pushing the boundaries of your climate zone.
 
gardener
Posts: 2019
Location: South of Capricorn
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Don't let lack of space get you down! I've got a lot crammed into my tiny space (7 meters by about 5, mostly paved) in the front yard-- a lot of containers (tomatoes, squash, beans, herbs, kale, bananas, figs, kumquat, roses, bougainvillea, hibiscus, gardenia, lavender, rosemary...). A big passionfruit climbing the wall. Abraham's onto a good thing about using walls for warmth to push your zone upward a bit.
One thing I have learned is that with this tiny space I need to be ruthless about tearing out anything that shows the first sign of being done. No waiting around, have new things ready to go, no mercy. I don't have the room to fool around.
Good luck and hope to see what you come up with!
 
Anita Martin
gardener
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Dorothy Pohorelow wrote:I live in a house almost smack dab in the middle of town.  The whole lot is only about a tenth of an acre.  The house sits right about the middle of the lot.  


My own lot is only slightly bigger (typo in my original post) than yours.
I grow a lot of veggies, berries, fruits, and our latest addition are two small grafted apple trees.

I found them via our local ads. For me it was local-ish as the gentleman lives half an hour from here. He has a wonderful small garden and is a passionate tree grafter. He has some pillar trees and espaliered apple trees for sale that are on a weak rootstock and will keep small. You can even keep them in a pot. The two little trees we bought had two varieties of apples each, so for little money we got four varieties of trees to try out!
This year I may start to look into grafting myself.

Espaliered trees can be used instead of a hedge on the borders of the garden and you can underplant them with bulbs for spring bloom and other flowers throughout the year.
 
pollinator
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Location: Lehigh Valley, PA zone 6b
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Some really great information here! I also garden in my front yard in-town, as it’s the only spot where I have sun. Consider looking into the newish breed of bush cherries (not dwarf cherries). They’re hardy to zone 2, and quite compact, topping out at six feet or so. They say after establishment, they can produce up to 30 lbs of fruit. The cultivar names are Romeo, Juliet, Carmine Jewel....... that’s all I can remember at the moment.

Blueberries are also attractive shrubs, especially in the fall when their leaves turn a brilliant red, and the high bush variant has visually interesting structure when they are bare in the winter.

A good friend of mine in London grows a decent crop of potatoes in her tiny north-facing back garden each season using grow bags. I think she focuses on varieties that are best as new potatoes.

Plunk in a bunch of spring bulbs. You can’t go wrong with snowdrops and crocuses, and they vanish by the time anything else is coming up. And nothing builds goodwill with neighbors like masses of daffodils.

Cutting/breaking the bottoms off of pots and sinking them into the ground can help your herbs stay organized and give them a little height. I did that this year for my chives and scallions, and I think it looks wonderful.

Toenmeister is great,  but he did garden in the back. Books for front yard gardening (with a bit more eye to the delicate aesthetic of the neighbors) include:
Hamilton-The Ornamental Kitchen Garden
England-Gardening Like a Ninja
Bennet and Bittner-The Beautiful Edible Garden
Stevens-Your Edible Yard
Stross-The Suburban Micro-Farm

When your garden is up and running, be sure to show us some pictures! Installation pictures are also always appreciated.

Good luck!
Daniel
 
pollinator
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I just finished reading Grow a Little Fruit Tree by Anna Ralph and it was really inspiring.  And I wish I'd read it years earlier.  Amazing, and now none of my trees will be allowed more than 2 meters tall.*

I also just finished Gardener's Guide to Compact Plants by Jessica Walliser.  Not as groundbreaking, but a nice list of small plants and how to use them.

For ornamental and useful plantings, I can't recommend enough Creative Vegetable Gardening by Joy Larkcom.  Despite the title, it's full of gorgeous landscaping ideas, most of which you can eat.  Ooh, and it's $3 today on Amazon US!

*I lie.  I like shade, too, and have a few trees allowed to get big for that purpose.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 3229
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Here is a nice how-to on espalier.



 
pollinator
Posts: 250
Location: Appalachian Foothills-Zone 7
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Nice thing about a small lot is that it is not cost/labor prohibitive to make the finest black soil you have ever seen on the entire property!  What do you have for biomass resources?  Nitrogen?

Take a walk around the neighborhood and see what else grows.  Are there any immigrant communities nearby you could observe?  Seems like they have more edible garden density than other neighborhoods.

Do you have a county extension agent?  If not perhaps the state extension office can make recommendations.  

Look for a local nursery and talk to them about edibles.  They should know something, but beware those that just want to make a sale.
 
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I have found it very useful to thinks in terms of not just size and edibility, but how many meals a plant will provide over the course of the year.

I would recommend chard as the champion in that regard, as it's deep roots and heat/cold resistance mean that it can be cut every week or so for many months. If you plant Perpetual Spinach chard in a very well-drained, sheltered area, and mulch it, there is a good chance it could survive the winter in your zone most years.

Hablitzia vine, since that is a source of perennial greens that is fully hardy in your climate, would be a longer-term source of greens once it is fully established. It is an understory plant in its native forests, and could bring food production onto north-facing walls. Both can be found here: https://www.quailseeds.com/store/c11/Perennial_Vegetable_Seeds.html#/

Continuing with the theme of most meals per sq ft, I'd suggest perennial onions, which find a use in almost every meal. Given a small sunny patch, with good fertility and moisture, they are totally reliable and don't need a lot of prep or washing to use in the kitchen. Pole green beans are another long-season, many-meal plant with a small footprint, in spite of its large vertical size. And I strongly agree with the idea of potatoes, in bags, towers, tires etc., well-described in other threads.

If you have a small area with good sun and accessibility but poor soil, (or no soil), it is worth considering the idea of knocking together a box or finding a big tub for salad greens.  (Ask landscapers for the pots big trees and shrubs came in.) When I lived in an apartment, I made a 1'x1'x8' box out of construction-site scrap that supplied our family with greens all summer. I put a couple of buckets and a shovel in the car and whenever I saw a source of soil or compost, I pounced. Pond dredgings, the compost from years of grass clippings at a retirement home, loose soil sloughing off road cuts, all served to stretch the small amount of soil I bought. The box was able turn an area of gravel and cement into a highly productive source of food.  As Tereza's post points out, the key to intensive food production in a small space is to immediately replace plants that are finished, without waiting for the whole area to be changed over.

The same point applies to soil as well as to plants. Eventually, your whole garden will be rich and fertile. For now, you can reap huge rewards from a small, intensively-managed area while you work on the rest. A small area of intensive annual cultivation is a labor-and-space-efficient way to get more out of a permanent planting in the early years.

 
Dorothy Pohorelow
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Thanks everyone for the support, information and suggestions.  I started a thread over in the projects forum as a way for me to show where I started, what I planned and how it is turning out..  You can see it at KVs lot makeover
 
master pollinator
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Anne Miller wrote:Edible ornament plants will make your yard beautiful and provide much color. Here are some suggestions:

Cabbage, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, and garlic chives.

Containers will also help provide a larger area:

Lettuce, strawberries, and vine plants.

Here are a couple of threads that you might enjoy:

https://permies.com/t/143914/Edible-Yard-Visited

https://permies.com/t/145124/Grow-Food-Yard#1135770



This can be a HUGE consideration in many areas. People often look down on front yard gardens and make any number of complaints. If you have a Home Owners Association or have other restrictions, it can not only be a hassle but a huge time and expense suck. Making things visually interesting can be a way to make things palatable while accomplishing your goals to plant out.
 
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