Variety is the spice of life – even in the garden!

For me, one of the fun parts of having my own garden is all the variety you can grow, even if you don’t have a lot of room to work with.  You don’t have a plant a bunch of one thing to be successful, in fact, if your garden size is limited, I encourage you not to.  I suggest you can get the most out of a small garden by planting a bunch of different types of things. That way, you don’t end up with a huge surplus of one type of produce that is ready to harvest all at once – unless you want to, of course.  By planting lots of different things, that all ripen at different rates, you can get a steady flow of produce from the garden to your table.  Once the growing season is well underway and things start to be ready for harvest, you can have, at least, one ingredient from the garden at every meal.  And that, my friends, is worth all the digging.

When I say “different types of things,” I mean, not only planting several varieties of something like peppers, but also to plant every kind of fruit and veggie you like, that you can possibly cram into the space you have. Don’t get so focused on growing tomatoes that you miss out on lettuce, and melons, berries…oh goodness, I good add to this list for days.  As I have found in my small space, with a little planning and some creative vertical supports, you can grow an amazing variety of produce.  Don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t feel limited by the selection at the local nursery.  Go online – there are SO many seed stores online that sell, not only seed packets, but also plants.  Grow purple carrots and orange cauliflower.  Try all the different types of kale.  If it’s rated for your zone, go for it!  All the variety is fun…and if you don’t like something, or all your squash gets destroyed by pests or weather, you only lost a tiny portion of the garden.

Not convinced?  Need a little more motivation to put on your gloves, grab a shovel and start digging?  Alrighty then…lets chat for a moment about the kind of variety I know for a fact you can get out of a small garden like mine.  As I mentioned in my earlier post, I have roughly 200 square feet of in-ground garden, two six-foot long sheep troughs, and a three-foot round metal tub for all my planting.  Now I am going to share with you all the variety you can squeeze out of that kind of space.

This year my garden yielded:

Lots of Leaf Lettuces

Leaf LettucesGreens: Kale, Chard, and Beet greens (plus the beets are awesome too)

GreensA wonderful variety of beautiful tomatoes!

TomatoesEggplantEggplantSo many squashes!

Zucchini, Butternut, Spaghetti, and Magda squashesString Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, and Soybeans, oh my!

String BeansSugar Snap Peans and Soybeans

Okra – oh how I love okra

Okra

Melons – Cantaloupe and cucumbers

Cantloupe and Cucumber

Onions

OnionsPeppers, peppers, peppers

Sweet Bell, Poblano, Serrano, and Pepperchini peppersSunflowers – will be harvesting seeds any day now!

Sunflower

A wide variety of herbs – only a few pictured here

Basil, Sage, Oregano, and ChivesAnd last, but certainly not least….berries!

Berries

See what you can do with even a small garden?  Remember, all this came out of roughly 200 square feet of space.  Look out in your backyard and consider where you can squeeze in a garden, or what you can do to make great use of the garden space you already have.  If I can do it, you can do it.  I hope this visual display of all the bounty a home garden can produce has motivated you to grab a pair of gloves and a shovel…and get digging.

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A Lot of Garden in a Little Space

To say that I love to garden is putting it mildly.  Even before I had my very own garden, I knew in my heart that I NEEDED one. I have spoken to so many people who tell me they would like to have a garden, but just don’t have the space.  For folks living in an apartment or a house with no yard at all, that is probably the case.  But if you have a yard, and a burning desire to have a garden, I am here to tell you that, with a little creative thinking, you can find a way.  The reason I am writing this blog is not only to share what I have learned about gardening in general, but also to talk about how to get the most out of a garden in a small space.

I guess the best place to start, is to tell you how my own little garden came to be.

A little over a decade ago, after years of living in apartments with only a plant or two in a pot on the balcony, I moved into my cute little house and set about starting a vegetable garden.  Unfortunately, my backyard is very small and most of it is graded for drainage, and therefore I figured it was not suitable for gardening.  Whatever was a budding gardener to do?  I decided containers were the way to go, so I started with these wonderful sheep troughs I found at a local feed store, a galvanized tub, and a few other random containers.  Image

They served me fine for a few years, and I learned a lot about growing vegetables, but it just wasn’t enough.  Soon my need for a full fledged garden motivated me to find a way to squeeze an in-ground garden into my tiny backyard.  There really was only one option – the area immediately surrounding my back patio.  Five feet wide, and wrapping the approximately fifty feet around the perimeter of the patio, this new garden would give me about two hundred square feet of planting space.  Not the vast garden of my dreams, but it would have to do.  Even with its small size, installing this new garden was a lot of work for me and my Todd.

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After marking off the area, Todd fired up our rented tiller and turned that stretch of grass into a pile of dirt.

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One of the big issues of an in-ground garden in my little patch of Texas, is that the ground is entirely clay: not conducive AT ALL for happy plant growth.

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That meant adding in lots and lots of soil amendments like compost, sand, lava sand and Texas greensand.  The goal in my choice of amendments was to turn the hard clay into a loose, delicious concoction full of nutrients my new plants would love.

We had to go over the area several times to get it nicely mixed in, but we knew the plants were going to appreciate all that tasty stuff.

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Here is what it looked like when we were all done, but before I started planting.  I know it doesn’t look like much, but with creative use of vertical supports, I have turned this small space into a garden that produces plenty for my small household.

In the following two pictures, you can see what my garden looks like today.

(In future posts I will talk in detail about all my vertical supports)

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Growing in this garden right now, I have two kinds of string beans, six kinds of peppers, eggplant, zucchini, okra, nine kinds of tomatoes, sunflowers, cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, madga squash, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, beets, chard, blackberries, strawberries, acorn squash, onions, soybeans, lentils, and all kinds of herbs.  That is a whole lot of produce packed in a tiny garden.

So please trust me…if you only have a tiny space, but you really want a garden, there is a way, you just have to get creative and find it.