When my kids were little we had a sandbox in the corner of the yard for them. As they got older they spent less time in the sandbox so I converted it into a garden. I don’t recall the exact measurements but I want to say about twelve feet by twelve feet.
I utilized the Square Foot Gardening Method (by Mel Bartholomew) in it and had fantastic results. I was amazed at how much I was able to grow in that little space. The only thing I wish I could have changed was its location in the yard. We built the sandbox under a big tree so the kids would have shade, but the shade wasn’t exactly welcomed by some of the vegetables.
After trimming a few branches I was able to provide enough morning and early afternoon sun to keep the garden happy. The tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers were grown in my greenhouse which had more exposure to the sun, not to mention protection from the elements.
Jump ahead a divorce, several years, and a few gardens later. When I had a traditional garden the soil was mostly clay, which made it difficult to grow. Plus the weeds always got a foothold which was more discouraging. When we had wet summers it would be days before I could venture into the garden, so I ended up losing some of my produce.
My first raised bed garden experience was a success. Although we had the space for a traditional garden I decided I wanted to try raised beds instead. I made three of them four feet by four feet, which gave me sixteen square feet of growing space each. The others I made two feet wide by eight feet long. They were easy to plant, easy to weed, and easy to harvest.
One thing I didn’t do was leave enough space between the beds. (Mistake #1.) I couldn’t easily get my lawnmower or a wheelbarrow between them, which made my maintaining the pathways harder. I suggest three feet between the beds along the long side, and two feet between them on the short side. And don’t get all fancy and make a design with them: straight lines and longer rows are easier to navigate and maintain. (Mistake #2.)
When I do my beds this year I am going to keep all of the things I listed in mind. Plus I’ll be using mulch in between them instead of having grass. That’s also going to make maintenance easier. Sometimes one doesn’t know how it’s going to work out unless you try it, and when I made my first ones I really had no idea how to do them. I found some old lumber, got some nails, and started building.
When making your raised bed, which is ideal for small space gardening, be sure to make it no wider than four feet if you have access all the way around it. If it’s going to be along a wall or fence, cut the width in half. You want to be able to stretch across it comfortably to maintain it. Plus when it comes time to harvest, you will want to get every last pea pod, carrot, or tomato.
If you don’t have the means to build a raised bed, you can still garden in your small space. Utilizing large containers which can be moved if necessary will also yield some good results. The key is to have good soil in them and proper drainage. A friend of mine (and co-contributor) has made and used self-watering containers. I have asked him for an article on how he made them, so will hopefully be posting that in the not-too-distant-future. It’s not something I have made, so I only feel it’s fair to get the right information from someone who has done it.
Now that our snow is finally melting I can begin construction on my greenhouse. I’ll be posting updates on it as well, so stay tuned. You can also like my Facebook Page for more updates, photos, and progress.
Have you tried Square Foot or container gardening? Let me know in the comments below. If you have questions feel free to contact me and I’ll answer in a post or my FAQ page. (FYI, my FAQ page is looking a little bare. Let me know what you’d like to know about small space gardening so I can add to it. Thanks!)
p.s. If any of the links in this (or any other) post don’t work, please contact me so I can fix them.