Hello everyone! Long time reader and first time poster here.
I'm afraid my topic is going to be along the same lines as half of the other topics here; basically help and advice for my new garden. I've just moved into my first home, an end terrace in the East Midlands of England. The garden itself is basically bare soil and is approximately 17ft Long (5.2m) and 12ft (3.66m) Wide.
As you look out of my house there is a fence on the left that provides complete obscurity of view, a collapsed fence at the top of the garden leading to allotments and a small fence on the right directly into my neighbors garden; and as we are terraces this means we are very close and very visible to one another.
I have therefore came to the following conclusions;
* No animals allowed - chickens would not be welcome to the neighbours
* The neighbours fence needs to be obscured by some sort of bush or barrier
* I have no chance of producing food to be anything near self-sufficient.
My desire for my garden is therefore to produce 'supplements' to my diet, such as herbs and spices, as I don't think there is room to be self sufficient in any meaningful sense, nor though would the climate allow me to produce more rich and exotic plants. I want things in the garden to be useful, however, and beautiful; I was thinking of breeds of Amaranth such as 'Molten Fire' and 'Golden Giant' which produce edible seed and are also beautiful, I have also though that varieties of beans could be encouraged up the fences, or perhaps vertical stacked troughs.
Can you put up posts and wire to support climbing plants to obscure the view? This way you could grow some food at the same time. Vining berries such as Blackberries (the thornless kind if you can get them) can be trained on wire. Or grapes, or in the summer, beans or peas.
Even a tiny garden can grow a large amount of nutrition in the form of many kinds of greens. These will also grow in partial shade. Your garden plot is plenty large enough to grow all the salad you'll want.
I didn't consider blackberries, the thorned variety are quite invasive around here so I know they grow well here at least, should I be focusing on perenials or annuals? My tendancy is to prefer plants that would last for years but I hear you often get more 'bang for your buck' in annuals.
with little room and not so much sunlight you might want to go up
beans on trelisses, runner beans are beautiful, so are cowpeas and both produce not only food but ammend your soil, too
potatoes in barrels, balkony varieties of tomatoes in buckets so you can assign them the sunniest spots thruout the year and
leafy greens in the shadier corners of your garden, colorful swiss chard can be a real beauty
Thanks for those plant suggestions! Beans were quite high up my list; the wall at the back of the house is a horrible pebbledash that would require more trouble than its worth to remove but it occured to me that the bumby pebbledash may be a useful little anchor for beans. If I grew the beans in large pots at the base of the property that would prevent any potential damage from roots too, though I don't imagine its too much of an issue with beans.
The problem around here soilwise is that, I always say, the town was dug up and turned over a few times; massive coal deposits underneath so much of the soil was industrial slag at some point and is quite clay heavy, we are fairly sheltered though so we have a good climate (for England!) so I think a wormery and composting would be nessecities.
Herbs would be a good part of the garden, I mean luckily food in the UK is fairly cheap but i'm not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, so being able to buy basic goods such as potatoes and grain from the market and enhance them with what I grow in the garden would be the ideal (until I manage to get 10+ acres when I win the lottery anyway!)
You can grow quite a bit in a small space. Would it be possible to post pictures of your space? It will help everyone generate ideas.
What plant based veggies do you eat? Making a list of the veggies, fruit and herbs you currently use will help you figure out what you want to plant. Then we can give you ideas on how to make that happen.
Sorry for the delay, suffering rather a niggly headcold (the perils of the English climate!) i'm not in the property at present so don't really have a proper picture, i've created a little image though to give you an idea of what i'm working with, hope that helps. As I say the measurements are approximately 17ft Long (5.2m) and 12ft (3.66m) Wide.
If it were me, I'd be looking along that low fence as a place to plant a high growing plant as a privacy barrier.
Just as a first year test, my first thought would probably be sunflowers. That plant choice might be a product of my location. Here the wild sunflowers in my back yard grow taller than my house. Most of my first ideas of tall crops probably take more heat than your climate can provide.
Never really considered sunflowers, I mean the advantage of the East Midlands generally are they are sheltered from some of the wilder extremes England deals with however, no, its still cold of course! I like the idea of fruiting bushes alongside the neighbours fence but i'm not sure what i'd go for, I did think of things like Cranberry but i'm not sure if i'd have much luck with Cranberry and, with the plot size, i'd rather go for something taller than broader.
My fathers idea was to slab the garden and rely on containers, whereas I would rather have a mixed garden with part slabbed and part raised beds, any thoughts?
tyler, thank you for the link. i ll check out the ebook they offer on that website.
what comes to my mind for the small garden:
- worm bin
- bag garden
- gutter garden
- strawberry tower
- growing wheat grass and cress
- some means of rainwater harvesting and/or using of grey water - selfmade pots, bowls and troughs made from cement and peat/potting soil (there are videos on youtube about it)
together with normal beds, some raised beds, climbing stuff, berries towards your neighbour (talk to them, what they think of it!) and potted plants to fill empty spaces.
you could go for a sheltered place for tomatoes and bell-peppers near your house. or even a very small greenhouse (built against the wall of the house for thermal mass).
This sounds like a really fun project. It is a size that you can not only do initially but keep up with; I'll bet you end up with more out of your little garden than many a large plot that has gotten away from its owner.
After making a few gardens (and tons of mistakes over the years!) in a in a cool maritime climate, I suggest currants, runner beans, edible-podded peas, and greens as the screen plants and main crop. These are likely to be the heaviest-bearing and most reliable for where you live. Now that I garden in the lower 48, I can grow tomatoes, beans, sunflowers, cowpeas, but for years those things were just a wistful dream. On the other hand, the growth of salad crops and cooking greens in maritime climates is endless, and over the winter you should be able to have lots of cabbages, Brussels sprouts, kale, and so on. If you prepare your soil well at the start, you could eat out of your garden a lot. I love planning gardens --used to do it for a living for awhile--and I've sketched out a plant to give you 100 square feet of growing space and adequate access for harvesting.
Perpetual Spinach (a chard here; called leafbeet there) should be a perfect crop for you, probably perennializing for at least 3 years. Rhubarb lives forever and will grow in some shade. Welsh onions would make a perennial clump and likewise live for ages. Other perennial vegetables take a while to establish, and are often low-yielding. (I'm thinking of seakale, artichokes and asparagus, which probably don't provide enough of a harvest to pay their way in a small garden.) The area at the base of that high fence is likely to be in shade much of the day. You could put rhubarb, Welsh onions, and perpetual spinach there, or train red currants (which don't take as much sun as black currants and bear on older wood, so can be espaliered) on that fence. Spinach, parsley, and lettuce will take some shade and could also be grown in that area, if you leave a section for annuals. All of these are available from Bountiful Gardens in the US and online, or from Chase Organics in England. Perennials are often available as starts also.
I would put a 2-foot wide, very well-amended bed along that fence for your shade-lovers. Then a similar 2-foot wide, very fertile bed along the low fence--half for peas, and half for runner beans, which are very heavy bearers in a moist climate (they don't pollinate well where it is very dry). Alternatively, put herbs along the low fence and beans trained on a trellis at the gate end. Either way, you have a long sunny bed along that low fence.
Depending on where your gate is, I would run your main path along one of those beds. Even though you are trying to save space, I'd make a 3-foot wide path if it is going to be used daily to get anywhere. You don't want to to feel like you are walking a tightrope every time you come and go. Allowing a narrower path for access along the other bed, (say 1 1/2 or 2 ft wide) you still have room for a nice wide bed in the center where the sun is and where you can have access from both sides for cultivating and picking. How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons will be helpful here.
If you put salad stuff, Asian greens, and brassicas like kale in that bed, you will have all the greens you can eat all summer and a couple days a week in the winter. Chard (leaf beet or silverbeet) in particular offers the most meals per square foot of any plant I know. Other possibilities are roots like carrots and beets, and broad beans or winter peas in winter for a spring crop. Add some herbs in pots or along that fence between you and the allotments, and you have a very productive garden that will be dependable in your climate. I can recommend a couple of books, both written in England: The Self-Sufficient Gardener by John Seymour, and Salad Greens for all Seasons by Charles Dowding. (Dowding makes a living on a quite small parcel selling salad greens.) They are both really, really useful and good reading.
Ooooh, some really good ideas here! Seeing sunflowers mentioned reminded me of sunchokes (a.k.a. jerusalum artichokes) which grow tall like sunflowers and are a whole lot easier to grow (I have yet to get sunflowers to grow, but my sunchokes do). They have an edible root that, when cooked tasted like artichoke heart, and like jicima/waterchestnut when raw. It's also full of the prebiotic fiber, inulin, which is good for our gut bacteria but is best introduced slowly into the diet (else gaseousness can result). The sunchokes would be great on the northern fence, and you could grow bean up them, or the perennial groundnut (apios americana) if you can find tubers of it over there. The ground nut take a while to get established, from what I've been reading, so beans might be a better fit for you right now. Just know that, wherever you plant sunchokes, you will likely have them forever as it's hard to harvest all the roots.
You could also make a tall edible hedge along that fence made of hazelnuts &/or serviceberries &/or nanking cherries, or even a few espalier fruit trees, if your neighbor doesn't mind fruit falling over.
A big bang for your buck over the long term would be berries, like raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries etc. These should do well in your drizzly climate (at least they do well for me in mine!). And, if berries cost anything over there like they do over here, you'll be getting a lot of savings from even a few bushes. Aaaaand, they're perennial, so require less maintenance. You usually have to wait a year or two for the plant to mature enough to give you berries, though (except for strawberries).
As for animals, if you really want them, maybe you could have two laying ducks? They're quieter and cuter than chickens, and don't say "livestock" nearly as much as cute wild life that decided to live in your garden. Some breeds lay as much, if not more, than chickens. They also eat slugs. And, slugs sure do love our moist climates (and our veggies!). Two small Khaki Campbell or Indian Runner ducks combined will lay you about 10 eggs or more a week, and give you fertilizer for your garden, too!
what also might help would be to screw shelves unto your wall and grow microgreens (wheatgrass, pea shoots, leafy greens ... ) in trays. it might help to paint the wall white in that spaces or to add a reflective layer.
That short wall needs a trellis built just in front of it and filled with 3 or 4 espaliered apple trees. You can keep each tree a little narrower than normal and go 4 or 5 cordons high with a semi dwarf rootstock and conceal yourself from the neighbors.
I agree with everyone on sunchokes, berry canes, and vining legumes anywhere you can.
I would find used lorrie tires, cut out the side walls, and make rising potato towers all along the north wall in front of the trees or canes. Each time the potatoes are 12" tall, add another tire, fill with compost or soil/compost blend. I can get up to 50 pounds of potatoes from a 5 high stack of semi truck tires. I plant 8-10 seed potatoes per tire depending on variety. The black rubber will add growing degree days for you. Every fall, add the spent compost to the rest of the garden, and wash/disinfect tires to prevent disease. You could get at least five towers in a row there. Lots of calories.
Screw your urban masters and find a way to keep rabbits. One buck and one doe making just 4 litters of 8 rabbits a year means you can produced 160 pounds of liveweight rabbits, or almost 50% of an adults meat needs of dressed meat a year. All your vegetable culls, peelings, trimmings, prunings, and yard clippings can become meat. You can grow clover as a ground cover/green manure and have free high protein feed for the buns. And you get great manure too!
With an allotment garden next door, could you sneak in a box of bees into your yard?
Many thanks to you all once again for your kind words and suggestions, you’ve given me lots to mull over! I’ve provided a plan of what I am thinking of for the garden, a lot of which has been inspired by this forum. I think on the border between myself and my neighbour I’d really like something that doesn’t require replanting so I think bushes or trees would be better. The idea of cherries was a good one I think; sour Morello cherries are my favourite so something like a Montmorency cherry might be good however reading about the Nanking Cherry it sounds like these are quite a tenacious grower; would I be better sticking with a hardy Nanking in our poor climate? I have seen espaliers online before and they do look beautiful, however how easy are these to create practically? Are there any fruiting bushes that would be suitable?
I love the idea of ducks however it would be a little cruel in my small space, and particularly as I would be working full time. Rabbits wouldn't work for me, being a vegetarian, but as a practical food animal it’s a great suggestion! I've been thinking about bees, going to look into getting an allotment in the set behind me (massive waiting lists though) but if I would like to go down that route in time.
Is there any way I could combine a wormery with a compost pile? I’m a little concerned about the space multiple boxes is going to gobble up.
I have considered potato lifts, thinking of something out a of a box wood as I want the garden to be beautiful as well as productive. Onions are a favourite of mine but I was thinking of cultivating those indoors, maybe using something like a strawberry pot and cutting the shoots as they grow through.
I hand't known that about nanking cherries. I've been looking into them for my own garden, and hadn't run across that information yet. Thanks for the heads up! I also just read that they don't much care for moist soils, so they might not be the best fit for your garden in that manner, either.
As for espalier, I haven't done it myself, but my mother has 10 fruit tress, and while there's quite a bit of pruning of suckers, it doesn't seem too difficult. Also, some nurseriessell trees that are already pruned and shaped for espalier, and those also often have multiple different varieties of fruit on one tree (such as the apple tree having three apple varieties, the pear tree having three pear varieties, etc). That might be a good option for your small space, especially since not all fruit varieties are self-fruitful (a lot of fruit tree varieties require 1+ other fruit tree to help pollinate it, and not all can pollinate each other. Make sure to do your research to make sure that the varieties you plant are self-fruitful, or have multiple grafted varieties that can pollinate each other!)
I don't know about espaliering bushes, but raspberries and blackberries can all be easily trained along a fence or wires.
As for the wormery and compost. I think you should be able to get away with just a worm box, especially since your garden is so small. You can also "compost on site" by chopping and dropping weeds for mulch and even burying your excess food around your perennial trees (you could even just leave them on top of the ground, but that doesn't look as "pretty").
I really like your plan. It seems like you've planned out a really efficient use of space! Make sure to leave room for walking paths along your beds and fruit trees/bushes so that you can walk along and pick without stepping on your plants!
Oh, and, you're might be right about the ducks. You'd have to shave off a 4x4 foot (8 sqft) little house for them (4 sqft per duck), and they'd need at least 15sqft/duck (so a 5x6 foot "run" for both). You could even grow raspberries or blackberries in their run, as those plants like nitrogen and the ducks won't harm them. Of course, you could also let them range about your entire allotment, and they'd love eating your slugs and bugs and weeds...but they'd also enjoy eating your strawberries and lettuce, etc. If you only let them out to the entire allotment for an hour or so a day so they could go after all the bugs and slugs, and then put them back in their "run" once they start on your veggies. You could also fence off your veggies so they don't eat/poo on them, but that's a lot of your space! You can also feed them all the weeds you pull from your garden--they love eating dandelion, as well as grass. They'll also help you not need much of a compost, as they will eat a lot of your fruit and veggie scraps. But, then, you'll have to manage their poo, which makes a great fertilizer but you generally want to compost it before applying it straight to your garden (destroy salmonilla, etc.).
They'd still have a MUCH better life than most any poultry one can by the eggs of at the store, and you'd get some delicious eggs. But, it would be quite a bit of work managing them, changing their bathing water, managing their poo, and herding them in and out of your garden.
Espalier trees are easy as pie. Summer time pruning requires more frequent, less intensive pruning. And if you use cordons on a trellis, it makes all the guess work of shaping out of it. Keeps your eye on the trees for diseases and insects as well. Constant material to add to compost beds with lots of mineralization. I recommend finding the most disease resistant cultivars you can get. As someone above stated, you may need two varieties so you can get pollination. If the French can do it, you know the trees don't put up much of a fight.
If you can get hard wood chips, sawdust, or cereal grain straw, I would learn how to grow the super easy and productive wine cap mushroom. You can produce them in droves in-between fruit trees, fruit canes, or tall vining crops. You can get some quality self-produced protein since you're vegetarian.
If you are going to have beans high on your list, maybe check out scarlet runners. They are perennial and very productive in a small space if trellised. I hear they are very popular in England. Showy too.
"Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labour; & of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system."-Bill Mollison
I don't want to be accused of necroing my own thread (sorry for the delays, quite busy with work at the moment - not even work I enjoy - so I tend to be distracted) just wanted to thank everyone for the kind suggestions, you've all helped me shape my plan either by pointing out things I don't want or that I do, and giving me some optimism that my micro-garden can be a productive and beautiful space. I'm happy with the plan now, its just a matter of selling it to my parents! I am definitely going to be getting some scarlet runners. Anyone have any ideas for good bushes if I don't go down the espalier route or any suggests for wormery/composting?
composting ... dont´t
let nature do it. bury the kitchen scraps directly, so the worms already in your soil can do the composting. bigger stuff can be used for mulching, raised beds, hügel-kultur.
worm bin: there are many designs of flow through bins. it s a box on legs which will have kinda holes in the bottom (or wires or piping with spaces between). you ll add stuff on top. worms will process it, the stuff will fall out at the bottom.
when it s in a sheltered place and big enough it ll compost all your kitchen scraps.
so no need for a traditional compost heap
EDIT: you might set a a few small compost-"cubicles" made from wire mesh and poles (find some tree branches or so). then plant directly into the unfinished compost (maybe add topsoil around the roots). there are some plants which love this (i don t know which ... squash? broccoli?). by setting up a few of these cubes, you ll save space and distribute the compost and nitrogen over more area in your garden than the traditional compost heap would. when the compost is finished, just flatten then cubes into beds or make hügels. or harvest the compost for other uses.
EDIT: did you look into edible flowers? i don t know about it. we ate some calendula flowers last year. tastes good, looks nice, hardy plant. could be usefull for a small garden to stack functions (decoration and food). or get some really pretty decorative cabbage sorts
I have thought of things like marigold flowers and a previous poster (Scott) recommended Scarlet Runners which have edible flowers, they seem rather promising. I'd like the garden to be somewhere beautiful as well as functional; I mean if I had the space i'd be looking at something more large scall involving animals, so edible flowers are the way forward, need to get my researchers cap on and pick some plants though!
Patrick mentioned mushrooms, they are really high on the list; I think indoor may be a good place to begin with these as I have a reasonable amount of indoor space to play with.
hey.... please check out that marigold may apply to calendula (edible flowers) and tagetes (good decorative flower, but smells strongly, i don t think, it s edible). we had both kinds last year. easy to grow. have lots of seed. calendula should self seed, tagetes probably, but i m not sure about it. but it s easy to grow from seed.
i read about scarlett runners. they re climbing beans with nice flowers. i want these.
Some more edible flowers are pansies/violets (buttery sweet flavor), borage (cucumber flavor), nasturtiums (spicy...and tend to self-seed and take over), carnations, lilacs, bee balm, and roses.
"Eat the Weeds" did a long, thorough series on edible flowers. Here's part one: http://www.eattheweeds.com/edible-flowers-part-one/. He mentions a lot of edible flowers off of things that are known edibles (such as squash and oregano flowers), as well as flowers that we tend to think of as ornamentals, such as gladiolas, day lilies, and chrysanthemums.
I just want to thank you all for your replies, ideas and posts; you've all given me lots to work with! The garden is going to be a few months yet, will provide some pictures before, during and after at some point to show you how your advice paid off!
Any one can start a garden. It doesn't take a whole lot of effort to plant a couple of herbs, tomatoes, and lettuce. Plenty of people have learned to grow food without the help of you tube, books, or websites.
The first thing you need to do is get the idea of what a garden should be out of your mind. Just banish the idea out of your head. It doesn't need to be pretty, just able to grow some food. There are plenty of gimmicks out there trying to get your money, but they aren't necessary. Just create some kind of box, and fill it with dirt and seeds.
The second piece of advice would be to start small. You don't need to grow all of your own food all at once. There is a learning curve, so it's better to start simple, go slow. Start with easy things like herbs in a pot outside. Then, add a few more items as you learn.
The last piece of advice I woul have is to do a little planning before you start. Learn what works in your area. Determine where the sun hits your landscape for more than 6-8 hours. Figure out if there are any drainage issues.
Just remember that the most important thing that you can do is to try it. Just get out there and do it! There will be epic failures, but also epic rewards.
For tips on how to get your garden supplies for free, check out my e-book: "Learn how to garden for free" on Amazon.
What are you planning for the front? I would use edible landscaping for both sides of the yard. Mints are a good choice in areas where the roots need to be contained. Edible shrubs can make good hedges. Try to think outside the box.
I'm afraid its a traditional English 'Terrace' so it has no front, its straight onto the street so my growing area is extremely limited.
I've not really posted any update here because, believe it or not, the garden hasn't been started yet! We have been doing the house up on a budget (it is a former rental property we believe; doors kicked in, damp, roof collapsing) so its only just started to take shape these last few months. Incidentally using thrifty permaculture principles has been useful; brought some beautiful furniture from Gumtree and Facebook (solid dining table, chairs, bedframe, coffee table for around £300 total) and repaired some of the original wood floorboards with pallets.
I've reconsidered the order of the garden, I think it would be more logical to have the paved area directly outside the back door of my house; in that way access to and from my door doesn't damage any plants. When it comes to plants the area left remaining will be almost a large raised bed; this will partially shelter my home and also provide an attract visual finish to the garden. My shortlist of plants so far is something like;
Hazelbert - Canopy layer (obviously I don't have the room for really large trees without swamping the garden)
Cranberry - Bushes neighbouring the neighbours property, i'm not sure if these are the most productive or thickest sort of bushes I can get however I know I like the fruits, I did think of Morello cherries but i'm not really sure if an espalier would provide the denseness i'd want.
Scarlet Runners - for the horrible back wall of my property.
I have to admit I had to google English Terrace houses. Some images showed a small piece of dirt between the street and house. Good place for plants that need their roots contained like mints or nettle.
Other images showed no soil at all. I'd put containers there. Window boxes with edible flowers?
Look into reading Square Foot Gardening. Lets you know which plants are space hungry for the amount of yield you'll get.
If you decide to use perennials as a screen, it'll take a few years before they get dense enough for you. I'd interplant with annual vines for a few years.
I feel you have lots of possibility. You should have lots of afternoon sun. Cabbages and beans grow on extended ends of seasons. Carrots and other like crops can be very dense and prolific. be creative. It is easy to rotate early, late and short term crops. Also hot beds and hoops can extend especially in your area the seasons.
Improve your ground. Try some mini chickens or quail. Rabbits. Just a thought. Also containers hanging from your windows.
I have never met a stranger, I have met some strange ones.
It probably wouldn't be things like cabbages so much, even though its a very good suggestion. I was contemplating things like potato boxes but i'm not sure I have the space, I think it could be a good 'condiment garden' so a place to grow some herbs and fruits and things that will enhance my diet but i'm not sure I have enough room for large scale production, been investigate evergreen permaculture plants; there doesn't seem to be many but there are a good number, should be starting on the garden soon.
Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal! And this tiny ad too!
the permaculture bootcamp in winter (plus half-assed holidays)