Thursday, 7 May 2009

Creating an edible garden in a small suburban space

It might seem like I've been in hiding this week and in truth I have. In fact, I've been busy focusing on the garden, trying to make the most of our space to grow a plethora of vegetables this year.

I know it doesn't look much like a vegetable garden and indeed until now, our little piece of land has operated as a simple "snacking garden" with some rhubarb, blackberries, redcurrants, a pot of potatoes and a couple of pots of tomatoes as well as a few herb plants that have matured into shrubs, such as rosemary, lavender and sage.

But behind the scenes - or should I say behind the bushes - the Almost Average household has been busy greening up our green fingers.

Here's a brief tour revealing how we've managed to fit some growing space into our already-established and multi-functional back yard and to set the scene, here's another photo taken from the back of the garden towards the house.

Bet you can't see much action eh! But trust me, there's a lot happening compared to this time last year. So come and see.

Behind the children's play den, we've reinstated a small veg-patch.

As well as celery, spring cabbage and carrot seedlings taking root under the home-made polytunnel, we've also planted some runner beans and peas, plus a couple of potato and tomato plants growing in pots. It's also encouraging to see the raspberry canes starting to grow. Hopefully soon they will cover the side of the playden. They should have a great start as they've been planted in soil that includes home-made compost from all of our kitchen and bokashi'd waste that was created last year.

Against the wall of the house, we are gradually adding a range of wall hanging containers for cherry tomatoes plus a window box for herbs including marjoram, basil, coriander and oregano.

And on the other side of the kitchen door is our little growhouse, which is currently protecting more tomato seedlings and peppers. It's wonderful to see that the watering trays are now made from recycled plastic, as Mr A announced one day on his return from a visit to Wyevale.

If you look carefully in the border that runs alongside our pergola, you'll see three potato sacks, planted up with a few second-early spuds as well as some main-crop, using most of the smelly old compost handed out by the council last weekend.

As well as planting up the garden, we've also been putting some old things to good use. Here are some runner beans planted up in one of our old tub trugs, seen resting on an old tyre (formerly used as a sandpit when the boys were small). The tub is camouflaged by geraniums which have been planted in the tyre.

And here we have a tray of lettuce and rocket as well as some scattered "cut-and-come again" seeds, planted in an old nectarine box, which I picked up whilst shopping in the market last winter. There are also some annual flower seeds planted alongside the edge of the outer tray, which I can't wait to see blossom and surround the greens with pretty blooms.

All we have to ensure now is that we keep our plants safe from the likes of this little lady, one of our three chickens who are intent on scratching at surfaces, whether planted up or not.

We're so excited with our progress that we've decided to extend further and have also given up some of our front garden to even more fruit and vegetables.

Just behind our fence we've tucked in some more beans, peas, carrots, spring cabbage and broccoli. By now, we'd run out of our own compost so used a bag full of New Horizon, which is made from composted garden waste.

We've also got some blueberries hiding in pots behind the bushes... well as some strawberries and swiss chard tucked into the border.

And there's some delicious Pak Choi and more rocket, growing under our front window.

And I mustn't forget that we've got even more potatoes - some Anyas - planted in an old spare recycling tub, which we brought with us from Hemel Hempstead when we moved about 6 years ago (shhh, don't tell 'em will you, but it's made a fantastic container for growing spuds these last few years).

It's amazing what you can grow in a small space but there's still lots more to do. I'd like some more hanging baskets on the pergola and make even better use of the border alongside it.

We did have an initial outlay, including the new greenhouse cover, but at least we reused the old one as a polytunnel. We'd also run out of old toilet rolls inners for seedlings (a top tip from Mrs G) so we needed to get some more seeding pots, all of which worked a treat to create most of what you've seen in the photos. And although we've spent a fair few pounds on the fruit-bearing plants, the broccoli, some herbs and beans and peas, most of the plants have been grown from seed or seedlings passed on from friends or through my LETS group, which is always a great source for such things. I'd especially like to thank blog reader Mel for kindly sending in some of her spare seeds, which we have already used and have more plans for them over the next couple of months.

Of course with such a lot of plants in containers, I must now ensure they are watered carefully and are nurtured into full production. And with that in mind, we've decided to buy a second water butt, which will be conveniently placed in the front garden.

It's just a shame it arrived with so much plastic wrap, which made me blush like a strawberry and which will probably undo all that plastic we will have saved by growing our own. Aaaarrrgh! But eh ho! I suppose we live and learn and at least we won't have to suffer the same next year. And of course I can take it along with the compost bags to the local recycling centre and then drop off the plastic pots at Wyevale when I'm next passing.

Right, so no rest for the wicked. I'm off to put the kettle on so I can enjoy a cup of tea while watering the plants and planting up more seeds.

And while I'm busy beavering in the garden, don't forget it's still Compost Awareness Week, so if you are inspired to join in the gardening fever and start making your own compost, there's lots of advice over at CompostWoman's Compost Bin blog as well as a whole range of tips and problem-solving ideas at Mrs Green's MyZeroWaste.


Sam said...

I love being nosy, so thanks for sharing your garden :-) You've given me lots of ideas for my container gardening.

I'm a bit sad that my timid little seedlings are so tiny, while yours are romping away.
Still, we have salad leaves, strawberries, basil, peppers and tomatoes. Not bad - as long as they keep growing!

Karin said...

Great to see you're making such good use of your garden and being so imaginative in squeezing it a bit extra here and there.

All that gardening does make it hard to find the time to blog, though, doesn't it. I'm hoping to report on our garden soon, once I've sorted out lettuce, tomatoes, courgette, cucumber and a few flowers I've bought not to mention tidied up the front garden.

Catharine Withenay said...

Your garden looks fantastic - thank you for sharing that with us. Fingers crossed for our new house that we are able to make anything grow (although the children's sunflowers are doing well in their pots on the kitchen windowsill!)

Compostwoman said...

Thanks for the plug ;-)

re the plastic wrap from the water butt...what about using it to make a cloche over a frame or a cold frame cover? ideal stuff I would say :-)

Nice plants btw and a good use of limited space. A surprising amount of stuff can be grown in an urban garden especially in pots and bags!

I use old growing medium bags, folded down, to grow spuds, really good especially for earlies/early maincrops!

dandaworld said...

What a very good work you've done!
At a first glance it doesn't seems a garden with so many vegetables... you've been very creative in using every little space for growing all these kind of vegs!
Also you preserved space for relaxing and enjoyng life in open air! Good!

My garden is very different. It extends almost two metres all around the building and it's shared with the other tenants, our relatives. Everyone has planted different kinds of green. There's a great chaos and it's very hard to grow vegs. So this year we are trying to grow only cherry tomatoes and rocket in pots with other herbs.

The next one, following your example, we hope to grow more vegetables, even if our trusty greengrocer – the one who's supporting the use of personal reusable shopping bags – will noticed it and be angry with us! LOL

John Costigane said...

Hi Mrs A,

As Mr Punch would say : Thas tha waaay ta doo at!"

I have a wash-out of weather just now so indoor window pots are the vogue. Basil, lettuce and kale are the first efforts, with planting in raised beds later.

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

It all looks wonderful Mrs A - I'm full of admiration. You've certainly made the most of your garden. Your boys will learn a lot from it all as well. A x

PS - love the photo of your chicken.

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Sam - that sounds fab. I think this year is most definitely the year for growing. And am glad to be in good company. :-D

Hi Karin - yes I know it really is tricky to multi-task but I am enjoying the balance (even if I do have twitchy fingers to get back on the PC). Am looking forward to seeing your garden too :-D

Hi Catharine - lovely to see you over here and thank you for your kind comments. Good luck with your new house and the sunflowers. We're hoping to transplant ours soon. They are really going some on our windowsill. But they look quite leggy so I'm a bit concerned. Have also planted a few seeds directly outside. :-D

Hi Compostwoman - no probs about the plug. I hope some people came and popped over. Great tip about the plastic. I'll keep hold of it for a while and see what I can do with it. And next time Mr A gets a bag of compost, I will suggest that he opens it at the top instead of slitting it right across the middle so we can make better use of it :-D

Thanks Danda - Sounds like you've got yourself a challenge there. And I hope that your tomatoes are fab. Fingers crossed your greengrocer will understand. If you get lots you can sell them back to him LOL :-D

Hi John - love the Punch quote. :-D. It must be more challenging in your neck of the woods, but it sounds like you're doing a fab job with the resources to hand. Have you got a greenhouse too? I really wish we had space for a proper one. :-D

Hi Anne - thank you and yes the boys are really enjoying their gardening experience. Little T is particularly keen on seeing the strawberries blossom. We're going to have some competition there. :-D

John Costigane said...

Hi Again Mrs A,

The back garden is too small for a greenhouse. I plan to bring on as much as possible inside, using the hopefully many hours of direct sunshine, and indoor heat. Planting outside later when the weather improves.

I enjoy working the soil but the large pots could be a useful addition next year. Your experience this year will be of great value for future efforts.

Insect life, the beneficial type, is another interest with bees enjoying some of my flowering bushes.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

I love your repurposed planters!

mamakin said...

I wanted to tell you that I accidentally fell upon your site from Ravelry, my knitting site! I'm so glad I did. You're an inspiration to us all and I love what you're doing with your garden. I have over an acre of property and a large section set aside-I call it my nursery- for trying out new plants and for veggies. I'd been in a car accident in 2000 and from then to 2005 had 5 surgeries. I was doing well til I had another accident 2 yrs ago in Aug. So I haven't been able to plant and without me, my husband isn't into it, so I've got some lilacs, asparagus that keeps coming, and whatever other 'volunteer' plants come up. After I have surgery for the implant that's supposed to work like a remote control pain killer, I'm going to try again,. But for now, I'm sending the troops off for seeds & seedlings & planting them-with family help- in pots on the deck...because of you. I do have a word of warning about the raspberries though. I had a blackberry bush in the very back of the property when I bought the house. The next year I noticed a couple more in the same area - I thought I just missed them. They are now in the raised perennial bed nearest my back porch, taking over everything,almost impossible to get rid of, and I've also found them in the nursery!!! All I can think of is birds dropping the seeds or even dropping them through their droppings so to speak. I think the end is nowhere in sight. My son loves them, as do we all, but I'd be happier if they were not taking over the place. Seedlings are showing up through the lawn now, so maybe they spread underground, I have no idea. I do know that one little bush becomes a yard of bushes that never go away.*sigh* I'd love to know if they end up in different places if you have them in planters. Best of luck with your crops!

Margaret's Ramblings said...

Well done you, your garden looks great. I'm lucky in that I have quite a large garden but when I had a small garden I was amazed at how much you can produce. Potatos grow great in the compost bags as long as I can rescue them before Fiona cuts them the wrong way, LOl.
Look forward to your next pics.


the book arrived safely thank you, I'm taking it to Wales next week for a holiday read.

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi John - It's great to bring on things indoors. I wish we had more space. The tomatoes have taken over out kitchen until recently when we transferred them to the growhouse. I completely agree with it being such a good learning experience too. Good luck with your growing antics :-D

Hi Condo Blues...why thank you. I'm getting there with my repurposing...slowly but surely :-D

Hi Mamakin and welcome to the blog. Thank you so much for dropping by and joining in the gathering. Thanks for the top tip about the raspberries. I'll have to look out particularly with such small amount of space in that area. I hope things work out on the mobility front and that even working with pots and containers get things back in the growth zone again. I can't imagine how it must feel to have enjoyed such a plentiful vegetable garden but it sounds that you've got the drive and spirit to see it through. It's great that the voluntary plants keep pushing on each year too. Thanks again for popping by and I look forward to hearing about your developments. :-D

Hi Margaret - I should thank you for the inspiration. It's good to have bloggers out there who bubble away with enthusiasm and can inspire novice gardeners like me to get digging. Hope you have a lovely time in Wales and that you enjoy the book. Dare I ask which bit of Cymru are you heading to? :-D

Mrs Green said...

Just had a lovely stroll around your garden this morning, Mrs A - it was just the thing after my busy day yesterday. It's amazing how you can transform a small space with a bit of creativity.

I was thinking all that plastic would make another polytunnel!

Well done; it's looking utterly fabulous; you must be really proud. Thanks for the link to our site :)

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Mrs G - glad you enjoyed the tour. It would be great to show you around properly but then again, it would only take 5 minutes. :-D

I've been holding onto that plastic thinking we could put it to good use. I think I might have to find an allotment owner who might want to take it off my hands. Hope your gardening's going well. Might pop by when we're next passing. :-D

Indoor grow lights said...

Cool! Good blog! I'll mention it in my next blogpost and it'll turn up on my new blogroll.

mens incontinence products said...

If a person has a heart and passion for greener environment, no matter how urbanized an area he or she lives in, that person can create garden like this!

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