Small Space Gardens

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.

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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.

The view of our yard from the middle of the driveway.

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!)

Happy gardening,


p.s. If any of the links in this (or any other) post don’t work, please contact me so I can fix them.

Peace Amid the Chaos

To start, I hope everyone is doing well. We are dealing with an unusual situation; one most of us have never had to experience before.

It has taken me a bit to wrap my head around the whole thing and I have decided to take advantage of the down time. Well, the little down time I will actually have that is.

My part-time job as a library assistant is still there, although we are no longer allowed to have our doors open to the public. We will still be proceeding with cleaning of shelves, weeding of books, getting craft kits ready, and doing inventory. Yes, I think we will be busy for awhile yet.

As spring is finally here (well, the calendar says it is) it’s time to start thinking about the garden. Keeping a supply of fresh fruit and veggies on hand will be easier when we are able to grow our own. I’m impatiently waiting for the snow to melt so I can start building my greenhouse, build some raised beds, and mark out the areas for the fire pit, arbors, and flower gardens.

There’s just something about working out in the garden. No matter what is going on in the world around us, the garden offers peace and tranquility. I am fortunate to live in an area with few people around. I consider us blessed to have the peace and quiet so many others only dream of.

Whether you live in the country or the city, now is the time to start getting your garden ready. If it is still covered in snow, there are still things you can do. One of them is to go to your local grocery or hardware store and buy your seeds, some potting soil and containers to plant your seeds in. I did a one-stop shop at our local hardware store yesterday and spent almost $100.00 on seeds, soil, mini greenhouses, and peat packs.

Image Copyright Diane Ziomek 2020

I know it may seem like a lot, but when I don’t have to go into town for fresh fruit and vegetables, I will have recouped the cost in food and fuel. And saving money is why many people start a garden in the first place.

This has been an unusual year to say the least. More people are working from home, simply because they don’t have a choice. I think that’s not a bad thing for most, as there are more opportunities to take small breaks to stretch, get some water, and have a healthy snack.

Whether you live out in the country or in an apartment, you can still take advantage of the benefits of gardening. Fresh produce, being more active, and just enjoying the process of growing your own food amid the chaos of our current situation.

It is even more important at this time to stay healthy. Get plenty of rest, utilize the technology available to stay in touch with family and friends (physical distancing), drink plenty of water, keep active, and eat as much homegrown fruit and vegetables as possible. Plus, don’t forget to take the mental break needed as well. We should all come out of this with better habits and healthier bodies if we make the changes necessary at this point.

As I get ready for gardening season, I will be counting my blessings. No matter what’s going on in the world I have my garden to offer peace and tranquility. I’ll be posting pictures as the weeks go on of my progress in my gardening journey, and I would love for you to do the same. I now have a Facebook Page where you are free to post pictures of your seedlings, plants, gardens, and even your houseplants. With physical distancing in force it’s even more important to remain in contact with others via texting, video messaging or the telephone.

Lets all do our part in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and find peace amid the chaos.

What are you doing to stay healthy and safe?

Composting for a Better Garden

What is composting?

It’s an inexpensive way to add nutrients to your garden, while keeping your household trash at a minimum.


Anyone who has been reading the papers, watching TV or hasn’t had their head buried in the sand have heard about compost. And do you know what? People used to compost when composting wasn’t “cool”.

The main reason a gardener should consider building a compost bin is to create better soil for the plants.

There’s the traditional pile hidden out of site close to the traditional garden that most people think about when they hear the words compost pile.

Types of Composting Methods

There are also other alternatives available for those of you who garden on a smaller scale, such as an apartment or urban setting. In this post I’m going to talk a bit about your options, and you can decide which best suits your situation.

  • Traditional pile. I have had a traditional compost pile over the years, with some hard lessons learned to go with it. For starters it’s a bad thing to let it dry out too much, or the ants move right in. Something else I learned was snakes like to hang out on them when it’s hot. Ants I can handle. Snakes not so much.
Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay
  • Commercially designed composter for smaller yards. This one has a lid with a door (to add the materials in without disturbing the pile) and a door at the bottom for scooping out the finished compost. It’s a great concept, but don’t let the advertisements fool you into thinking you’ll have compost within a few weeks. Trust me; that doesn’t happen. It takes time, perseverance and a lot of patience.
Photo from Canva
  • Worm bin. Now this is something I haven’t tried yet, but it is on my list. When my kids were in grade school one of the teachers had worm bins in his classroom. He used them as an educational tool plus he was rewarded with vermicompost for the plants he also had in his classroom. While picking up my son from school one day the topic of the worm bins came up so Mr. H showed me what he used, how he added the bedding, and the best things to feed the worms. It was an educational visit for me as well.
Photo from Canva

Materials: Good and Bad

Now when it comes to composting, you can’t just throw anything and everything in it. Some items are a no-no, while others must be added in moderation.

First, we’ll go with the no-no’s:

  • Meat
  • Sugar
  • Oils
  • Dairy products

Next, we’ll talk about the rest:

  • Eggshells – these do best if they’re rinsed and crushed. It takes a lot longer for a large piece of eggshell to break down than a small one.
  • Citrusy pulp and peels – these are okay for a large pile or bin in moderation, but do not add them to your worm bin.
  • Vegetable/fruit scraps, leaves and stems – the smaller the pieces the quicker they’ll break down, and the quicker they break down the sooner you’ll have a healthy addition to your soil.
  • Grass clippings and pulled weeds – these are considered “green matter” which should not be dumped into the pile all at once. If too much green is put in it will become compact and the air will not circulate. You will most likely be left with a stinky, sludgy mess.
  • Straw, pine straw, fallen leaves and wood chips (just not from treated wood) – these are considered “brown matter” and aid in providing air circulation and balance. If you’re going to add green matter, be sure to add an equal amount of brown matter.
  • Coffee grounds, shredded paper, natural fibers and small twigs and branches may also be added. Bear in mind the size so the contents break down at relatively the same speed.
  • Animal manure – chickens, rabbits, alpacas, sheep, goats, llamas, cows and horses all provide ideal manure for your compost pile. I do advise against adding too much at once, especially cow manure. Some manures are better left for the fields.

You’ll need to monitor the amount of moisture in your pile because you don’t want it so wet it’s soggy, nor do you want it so dry other creatures decide to make it their home. Introducing some earthworms into your pile will help you get a feel for how much moisture it needs. If the worms are at the top, it’s much too wet. If they’re non-existent it’s too dry. Finding worms several inches down is ideal.

It will take several weeks for a pile to break down and become a viable soil additive. To speed up the process you can turn the compost with a fork (if you have a traditional pile) or roll your container to mix the contents. The latter is ideal for small space gardening. (Watch for an article on how to make your own mini compost tumbler.)

Photo from Canva


It will take some trial and error to get your mix just right. Any problems can generally be fixed with the addition of water or brown/green matter. I have a pile out in my garden that I’m anxious to get into when spring gets here, provided I got the mix right. Winter can be a forgiving season when it comes to compost though, and I may just have the ideal mix when I dig into it.

If you’re a seasoned composter, which technique do you use the most? Post your reply in the comments section.

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