What I Have Learnt So Far About Growing My Own In a Small Garden

potatoes and radishes on an outdoor table

When we moved into our home the garden was my one compromise. The house was ideal in all other ways – price, location, space for a growing family – but the garden just felt so, so small. I mean, it’s not like I knew much about gardening back then but I’d always longed for a bigger garden where I could begin to learn more about plants and growing my own. However, we went for it regardless of the garden size and 12 years down the line we are still here. After years of not doing much with this outdoor space, failing with the poor soil and killing far too many flowers, something during lockdown just clicked and I began looking at our garden in a different light.

Seeing as we were stuck at home I thought I might as well give growing my own a whirl and I had success with some small things such as strawberries, peppers, spinach, rocket and purple sprouting broccoli. The following year I went for it again and found myself really starting to enjoy this new hobby and also my garden (at long last!) By 2022, we had built a raised bed, we’d bought more pots for growing veg in, I bought a small portable greenhouse and was regularly checking online and in books for tips and ideas.

me watering a plant next to my small greenhouse

Now here we are into 2023 and we’re still trying to squeeze more into our small garden to truly make use of every space we can, and even though some things do fail, it is all a learning curve and very rewarding as well as fun! And so I just wanted to share with you today what I have learnt about growing my own in a small garden as a newbie gardener…

All Gardens Are Different

This is so important to remember, firstly because you will repeatedly be told things like “oh xxx is so easy to grow” or “Anyone can grow this” and when you find that you can’t because of particular conditions in your garden you can end up feeling pretty deflated. The thing about small gardens, especially newer build ones is that they heat up, a lot! They are small, sometimes walled, are surrounded by many other houses and of course, most greenery has been cleared to make way for them. Even though my house is now 16 years old, it is still in its infancy and surrounding green areas are only just coming into their own. Add climate change on top – if we take this year for example, it feels as though we skipped spring altogether. We went from a long cold period to sudden heat in a short space of time which is a shock for plants and has meant that starting off seedlings has been a slower process. So, I found the best thing I could do was take others’ advice, say thank you very much and then get on and experiment with what worked in our garden. And gardening really is that, isn’t it? A constant experiment.

Utilise The Space You Have

When you have a small garden it can make it far harder to visualise how to use the space to the max (this took me years to realise). I found that the best way to plan a garden like ours was to use sectioning in order to make full use of every bit of space available i.e. think about an area for you, somewhere for children to play, space for wildlife, room to grow your own. Our small garden used to be so sparse but now we have all of these:

  • Patio for sitting and relaxing on (obviously surrounded by pots!)
  • A water butt (also on the patio)
  • Hanging baskets
  • Window boxes
  • A pond made out of a planter
  • A small greenhouse which sits nicely near the outdoor tap and storage box (keeping everything to hand)
  • A compost bin
  • Children’s sandpit and mud kitchen play area
  • Wildlife pond
  • Flower/plant beds
  • Raised bed for growing our own and this also has an arch for growing vertically
  • Raised bed that was originally a kid’s play garden but is now (you’ve guessed it) used for growing our own
  • A pallet planter on the wall
  • And we have started to add planters to the top of the wall to encourage more pollinators

It is now a part of the home that is being used every day and it is a place I want to come to rather than being a place I ignore.

Use Space-Saving Growing Solutions

There are so many great ways in which you can grow your own in a small garden, it’s just a case of learning what is out there and what will work for you. If you’d told me 10 years ago that I could grow potatoes in my tiny back garden I would have laughed but we are on our second year of using potato growing sacks and they work amazingly!

Some top space-saving growing solutions include:

  • Growing sacks – there are a wide variety of sizes and materials so you can choose what is best for the veg you want to grow. We have used ours for tomatoes, courgettes and potatoes.
  • Hanging baskets – ideal for strawberries, herbs and even tomatoes; just hang them upside down!
  • Window boxes – great for herbs, strawberries, peppers etc.
  • Pots – use as many pots as possible to grow what you want. These are also perfect for those plants that need to be moved around in order to prevent scorching or overheating.
  • Vertical growing – use bamboo canes, archways, and trellises to grow up rather than out across the ground.
  • Vertical grow bags/planters – use products that you can attach to a wall, perfect for growing herbs.
  • Windowsills – you don’t have to grow your fruit and veg outside, a windowsill can be the ideal place for some foods.
seed potatoes going into a potato sack

Everything is a Learning Curve

And lastly, I have really had to change my mindset when things go wrong and not see it as a failure but as a learning curve.

I think we can be so quick to give up when things don’t go well and even more so when we are inundated with beautiful/dreamy images of gardens on social media but nobody’s garden can be perfect all the time and, going forward with changes in our weather and seasons, we will all be adapting the way in which we all grow and that will come with failing and then hopefully succeeding in different ways.

So, if you have a small garden and you want to grow your own but never thought you could, why not give it a try? I wish I had done so sooner.

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