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Geoff Rich
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Here in Missoula, Montana, One Thousand New Gardens is an informal group advocating sustainable, "organic" gardening. We focus on converting lawn to gardens for people who are new to gardening. To reduce the intimidation factor, we are pondering ways to get people started on manageable gardens that will reward their efforts with success.  Lately I have been thinking about promoting the "Parking Space garden." I imagine this to be a garden that is about the size of a parking space or in the neighborhood of 100 square feet.

As you can see, this is small, but I want people to imagine something that won't kill them to work, take all their time to manage, or cost a lot to do. With success, I hope they will expand and grow their gardens as their confidence and success grows.

I would appreciate any thoughts you might have as I consider how to advance this idea to the group. I know there are a ton of "gardening in small spaces" articles, but I am interested in this group's thoughts.
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Well here is an idea I used (not necessarily confined to a small space but it certainly could be) Cardboard boxes.  And I'm not talking about simply laying cardboard out flat to start the lasagna style bed.  But quite literally planting in a cardboard box filled with compost.  I know some here have a pretty dim view about using paper and cardboard in the garden but I personally think it is a good way to get started in many situations.

Here is my story and how/why I did it.  I bought my house and moved in Feb 2007.  Incredibly sandy soil yet some tenatious weeds.  I did not yet know much about permaculture though I was already a complete compost whacko.  Anyway, I just moved to the new house and wanted to very quickly get some veggies growing.  I hate the backbreaking labor of digging and weeding.  I am also on a rather tight budget and refuse to buy bagged dirt.
Luckily, Our county lets residents take free compost (perhaps not great compost but I'd just moved in, my compost was barley started and being kinda lazy, I do the two year compost.)  So, to get the garden started quickly, I simply dropped heavy duty produce boxes on the ground and dumped free compost into them.  Hooked up some drip irrigation and planted seeds.  I managed to grow my first warm season veggies this way at the new house.  Squash, zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins, and even some corn.

This made for an almost instant raised bed at almost no cost.

Some modifications I would make to this plan if I did it this way again...
1- lay down flat cardboard under everything and extend out from the boxes on all sides and place mulch over the cardboard.  This will make for nice mulched pathways and help keep the aggressive weeds down as they are tricky to pull when they grow up through the corrugations in the boxes!
2-avoid corn the first year of a lasagna bed, it tends to be stunted if the roots can't easily get down to the mineral soil.

After a season or two, the cardboard breaks down and becomes mulch around slightly mounded beds.  Keep adding compost and organic matter each year and the soil keeps getting better.

This was the quickest/cheapest way to start small that I know of and it did work.
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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books chicken duck food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees
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In Missoula, Montana you may want to look at Ruth Stouts methods (lot of youtub vids) for gardening, as they are very forgiving and easy for beginners.  Her methods could then be morphed into something more landscaped later on down the road.

I also like TC's suggestion if the cardboard, as long as it's not waxed or coated - plain brown moving boxes maybe?  However I do not suspect these would hold up so well as coated food boxes.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Geoff, do you know Paul Wheaton, the list-owner?  He's also in Missoula.

Kathleen
 
rose macaskie
Posts: 2134
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      Aren't there wine  bottle holders that hold wine bottle one on top of each other, at a bit of an angle. Could you have pots one on top of the other that where not held vertically but a sloped down then you could get a lot of near vertical pots on top of each other.It would be good for a small place.
Making things which could hold pots like that might be a job for some out of work person or other-.it possible to catch what i mae from this? agri rose macaskie.
 
                    
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Geoff - that's a great idea!  It's a space that people can easily visualize.  And you're right, it's a perfectly un-intimidating size that has potential to grow food! 

TCLynx - love the insta-garden in the boxes.  You gotta just get it done! 

When I lived in Philly I was constantly finding new things to drill holes in and fill up with dirt.  We had the only row home front stoop around that was decorated with a beautiful assortment of flowers/herbs growing out of a random assortment of containers.  And, in an area where vandalism was REALLY common (we were totally expecting to come home one day and find dirt all over our sidewalk and stairs).....our container planting arrangement was never touched.  Flower power! 
 
Peta Schroder
Posts: 62
Location: Australia
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I recommend broccoli boxes instead of cardboard boxes. Only because I tried the cardboard box idea myself when I embarked on my first garden, and the creases of a damp box attracted very very large and scary spiders. I was terrified of boxes after that (and still am) so it might turn off a few of the convertees.
 
Varina Lakewood
Posts: 116
Location: Colorado
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We have high winds periodically here and hot summers. Dry summers.

I would never recommend cardboard for lasagne gardening because I tried that one year, and despite constant watering, over 70% of my garden curled up and died of heatstroke.

What does work for this area, and is pretty easy all things considered, is digging a shallow trench, fill it with leaves, put the dirt back on top, smooth out and tamp down lightly. Instant raised bed. If you are worried about nutrient levels, sprinkle a layer of compost or composted manure on top of the leaves before adding the dirt. This works amazingly well. The leaves hold moisture, decay fairly quickly, and never burn my plants. Plants happily grow right into them. They also provide a nice structure for the soil, prevent waterlogged roots, and don't create a hardpan-like layer that will stunt or kill plants (yet make weeds ecstatic). In fact, it seems to inhibit the growth of certain weeds.

Better yet, all it needs is a bag of leaves, cost-wise. I raked my neighbors' lawns last fall, much to their delight and puzzlement. Eight hours of raking spread over two weeks vs hours of frustration watching my plants die or spending money I don't have for straw and such? Hmmn...let me think. I'll be raking leaves again this fall.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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to expand on the cardboard box idea..generally most urban areas have access to organic bagged soil or compost..you can lay them side by side over concrete, or lawn, and if you need more depth cut them so they can be stacked..

you slit the bottom, lay them, then remove the tops leaving the sides intact..to double or triple height..you do the same but then stack more on top removing both top and bottom of bag..this acts like a raised bed and the plastic will hold up for a while longer than the cardboard.

plant right into the bags...also easy to remove if it doesn't work out for them..less messy looking as the plants will grow over the sides and hide the edges.
 
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