What if I told you you don’t actually need a backyard to grow enough food for a salad or two a week? It’s totally possible, no matter where you’re living, if you’re willing to get a bit creative.
It can be really frustrating to want to grow your own food when you live in a house with a teeny backyard or in an apartment. But how much space do you really need to grow a few things? Not as much as you might think.
Turn your apartment into a green oasis and your backyard into a mini-farm with these simple space-saving gardening tips — and you’ll be making your own vibrant salads in no time.
Have a small backyard? Maximize your space by adding some terracing to the mix! Think of them like stair gardens. Terracing requires earthworks, but can make it possible to grow in places with extreme slopes, without worrying about the plants (or you) tumbling down all of the time.
This style of gardening can be energy-intensive, but produces beautiful results and gives your plants some vertical space to grow in, while still keeping them in the ground.
If you’re working with an apartment space or a small backyard, climbing plants could be your saving grace. Use trellises, windows, fences — anything you have to support climbing plants and take advantage of vertical growing space.
It doesn’t have to be just peas and beans, either. There are a lot of special climbing varieties of plants that you may have never guessed would leave the ground — even spinach!
Whether you live in a second-story apartment or just have a house with a non-existent backyard, Tower Gardens are pretty much the greatest thing ever.
These neat systems can actually grow food with 90% less space and water, can be put anywhere the plants will grow, and are great for people with back pain that keeps them out of the garden.
You can learn more about Tower Gardens here.
Okay, vocabulary time! Polyculture is the simple concept of growing lots of different varieties in the same space together, for a lot of really sound reasons. It does a wonderful job at inhibiting the spread of pests and disease and creates more resilient plants.
What’s really fantastic about polycultural gardens though, is that they allow you to maximize the production of a smaller space because you can plant shade-loving plants next to taller, sun-loving plants and everyone’s happy.
If you’re not sure how to go about starting one (it does take a little getting to know the plant varieties) the Three Sisters Garden is a tried and true polycultural garden that is an excellent model of effective companion planting.
Take container gardening indoors or out with some window boxes. True, they can be a little spendy to buy, but they’re easy enough to make, and are a great solution for apartment dwellers.
Choose plants that generally have shallow root systems, like greens, and be sure not to overcrowd them. If there isn’t a drainage system at the bottom of the window box you use, put a layer of rocks and sand at the very bottom of them to ensure that your plants’ roots don’t rot in standing water.
You can get some DIY window box plans here.
Somewhat like raised garden beds, hugelkultur beds create an elevated space for plants to grow on, with a crafty little secret.
The issue with growing food in small spaces, aside from not having enough real estate for plants, is often that the nutrients in the soil are very quickly exhausted and it’s hard to keep it watered enough without overwhelming the soil.
Hugelkultur is simple: it’s a garden bed, built on top of a pile of rotting wood. As the wood breaks down, it provides nutrients to the soil and also acts as a sponge, helping to keep the soil moist without constant watering.
Hugelkultur beds can be as shallow or as steep as you’d like them to be, and for this reason are very useful in small spaces because they allow vertical plants to thrive, while more sprawling varieties can overtake the ground level.
You can learn more about how hugelkultur works here.
Okay, I know how exciting is getting into gardening. YOU WANT TO GROW ALL THE THINGS.
Settle down, take a deep breath, and think of the plants first.
In some cases where space and sunlight are limited, you might have to think of gardening seasonally, growing only the plants that are in season that will fit in your space. This takes a fair amount of planning, especially if you want to start from seed, so get a calendar going to ensure that your seedlings get the beginning they need before you rotate your next crop into the mix.
Grow Edible Landscaping
This is one of my all-time favorite ways to maximize your growing space for food-bearing plants — ditch the ornamentals and replace them with something pretty and edible instead. If you rent, you might be at the mercy of your landlord on this one, but if you the have the freedom to choose what grows in your yard, grow what feeds you.
Plant beautiful flowering pear trees in your yard instead of Japanese maples, let the dandelions go crazy, and choose edible flowers — like roses and hibiscus — if you absolutely must have blooms in your garden.
Start a Sprouts Tray
Those bags of sprouts from the grocery store never last long, and starting your own counter top sprouts tray is crazy easy. I’ve had my eye on this little sprouter for ages. Just choose some seeds from your greens of choice, and harvest them a couple of times a week!
You can learn more about how to grow your own sprouts here.
Know What You’re Eating
The most empowering thing about providing food for your family from your own backyard (or windows) is that you truly, really, 100% know what’s in it. You know whether pesticides were used and which ones, and you know exactly how they were grown.
Know what you’re eating and grow the food the way YOU want it to be grown. Backyard gardening brings the power back to the consumer, and provides a chance to try out more sustainable, eco-friendly means of food production.
So, will you give any of these a try? If you do, show us your tiny gardens by tagging us @avocadomattress or with #avocadomattress on Facebook or Instagram.