Growing vegetables in small spaces

growing vegetables in small spacesOne advantage of being a backyardsman over a backwoodsman – it’s easier to grow vegetables in your back yard than it is in the back woods. Even if your yards is small you probably have room to grow some. Growing vegetables in small spaces is easy if you know how. It also doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here are some tips I’ve learned on growing vegetables in small spaces.

Planning a small space vegetable garden

I do lots of reading on urban gardening and small space gardening, and all I can say is most people’s idea of a small garden is huge compared to the space I have. Either that, or they’re talking about a garden that’s mostly ornamental and doesn’t produce a lot of vegetables. That’s not what I want. Gardening is relaxing, but I want more out of it than “just” relaxation. To me, that means fresh produce.

The first thing is to figure out how to get the most production out of your available space. This was hard for me since I don’t want my back yard to be all vegetables. I want to keep my brush pile. I’m planning on putting in a pond, a fire pit, and a shed. I want to have room to pitch a tent or set up a poncho hootch. It needs to keep enough of a natural look to attract wildlife (mainly rabbits and quail). Oh, and it all needs to fit in a yard that’s only 40′ x 60′, with a good chunk of that taken up by a concrete patio.

Raised beds and container gardening

After my experience last year, I’m convinced raised beds and containers are best for growing vegetables in small spaces. The squash plants we had in raised beds out-produced the ones in the ground by at least 3 times. In fact, the winter squash we planted directly in the ground didn’t produce at all. The plants we had in raised beds also took less water, and we didn’t have any problems with weeds. The only downsides to raised beds are that they’re not portable and they can be expensive. We paid $50 each for ours, which was cheaper than I could have bought the lumber and built them myself for.

Not all vegetables need the space of a raised bed though, and container gardening works great for those. The nice thing about container gardening is it’s easy to move your garden around if you need to rearrange your space. Also, containers can be cheap or even free. We grew our pole beans, snap peas, and tomatoes in containers last year. Most of the containers were gotten free from local landscaping companies doing work around the neighborhood (tip – landscaping companies can also be a good source for free grass clippings).

If you’re looking for ideas for containers or beds, check out the Urban Gardening section at Gardener’s Supply. Don’t buy their stuff – it’s too expensive – just check it out for ideas. Then build your own…

Pick the right plants

My dad was an avid gardener. He and my mom had a 1 acre lot that was devoted mostly to a big garden. There was no shady fence surrounding it, so the entire garden got full sun all day. There was s stream for irrigation. With no space constraints, no shade to worry about, and free water, they could pretty much plant whatever they wanted. Well, at least as long as it was suitable for the high desert climate we lived in.

If you’re growing vegetables in small spaces, like an urban garden, you won’t have that luxury. Pick you plants wisely. It’s easy to say just get dwarf varieties but doing that won’t automatically give you big crops from small spaces. When choosing your vegetables, look at how prolific each variety is and not just size of the grown plants. Sometimes the seed sellers will label varieties that do well in containers. The morning and afternoon shade you probably have in your yard seems to have the same effect as a shorter growing season, so favor varieties that have a shorter required growing season. I’m a seed saver, so I try to only use open pollinated seed. If all you care about is production, hybrid seed should be OK.

Finding more space to grow vegetables

Another trend that seems to be popular is Square Foot Gardening. I had the book, read the book, and it’s very interesting. If I had even less space than I do, I would definitely try it. Other ideas to try are vertical gardening, hanging pots, indoor gardening, or guerrilla¬† gardening. Get out and explore your Area of Operation (AO). Unless you live in a very urban environment, chances are good you’ll find at least a couple places to do a little “stealth gardening”.

I plan on writing about this a lot on The Backyardsman, so check back often. I have lots of ideas to try and hopefully lots more tips to pass on. Until next time…

Peace out,

How to be a Backyardsman

how to be a backyardsmanEvery other month I look forward to the latest issue of The Backwoodsman. When I found this magazine it was like a breath of fresh air. Especially Being a “Backyardsman” in the July/August 2017 issue. Scott Siegfried could have been speaking for me. Like him, I wish I lived in a much more rural or even wild environment, but job and family responsibilities keep me in the city. But how can you be a backwoodsman in the city? His writing is full of ideas on living a backwoodsman life in the city – he calls it being a Backyardsman. I liked the idea so much that I decided to start this blog to explore it further. But how to be a backyardsman? How much can you really do in the city? If you think about it, quite a lot…

How to be a Backyardsman???

The first thing I read every time I get the latest issue of The Backwoodsman is read the Reader’s Requests box at the start of the letters section. This gives me an idea of what other people are interested in. Hopefully an idea for something to write about maybe. There are usually lots of good requests, but one in the March/April 2018 issue really surprised me – “How to be a Backyardsman.” Really? Every issue is packed with things you can do without being out in the woods. I got to thinking about it though and I’m guilty of the same kind of thinking sometimes. “Gee, if only I didn’t live in the city…” “Dang, if only I could take a month off from work and forget that I had a family to take care of, bills to pay…”

How to be a Backyardsman

First of all, what is a backyardsman? To quote Scott, “A backyardsman is basically a backwoodsman who sticks closer to home. He enjoys reading about survival, camping, old-timey stuff, self sufficiency, homesteading, etc. Dabbles in some ‘backwoodman-esque’ activities and hobbies. He may have a workshop where he makes…”

Well, you get the idea. Do you need to be living in a cabin or a tent to do any of these things? No. In fact, you could even do most of them in your… back yard. Wasn’t that easy? I’d even say that if you’re new at this, practicing in some skills in your backyard would be better than trying them for the first time in the back woods. For example using a tarp as an emergency shelter in a snow storm. Where would you rather try this for the first time? In your back yard, where failure means you go inside, have a cup of coffee, and think about what went wrong? Or out in the woods after a 10 mile hike, in territory you don’t know too well, where failure could mean that you freeze to death?

But what about??? I can’t…

Of course there are some things you can’t do in your back yard. Unless you’re incredibly fortunate, you probably can’t shoot a gun or hunt in your back yard. Heck, where I live it’s illegal to even shoot a BB gun in my back yard. That doesn’t stop you from building a black powder rifle kit though. Or learning to build an AR-15, refinishing the stock on an old rifle, making a custom set of grip for a handgun, reloading ammo, or studying for a CCW permit.

You probably can’t go fishing in your back yard. That doesn’t stop you from learning how to tie flies, make your own fishing lures, or raising worms to use or sell as bait. It doesn’t stop you from going to the park and learning to cast a fly rod. It doesn’t stop you from finding places to fish that are closer to home than your perfect backwoods fishing spot.

If you’re still doubting, just look through any issue of The Backwoodsman. In the latest issue, you can learn how to use a bow drill to start fires. Discover how to learn about your personal area of operation (AO) by going on micro adventures. Learn about whittling. How to make a quilt. Re-purpose a length of rebar into a walking stick. Make homemade grape wine. Put together a low budget camping kit. There is even a good write up on how to survive an active shooter situation. That’s just one issue, and every single one can be practiced in your own back yard. Heck, some of them don’t even require a back yard – a small bench somewhere is plenty of room.

What was the question?

Oh. “How to be a Backyardsman?” I hope this post answers the question. Being a backwoodsman or a backyardsman is a state of mind. You don’t have to be out in the woods to have that state of mind. You can have it and practice a lot of back woods skills right in your own back yard or abode.

Peace out,