Small Space Gardening: containers, raised beds or courtyard setting

It's the middle of October... how would I go about starting a small garden right now? 

Well, for starters, it's the middle of spring, we're limited in water use here in Auckland, and the days are getting longer. My first job is to get the soil covered with quick growing drought tolerant plants, and then start planning for the middle of summer. My preference is to start with some good strong plants, and then pop little babies in around them, gradually increasing the density week by week, and planting more in the descending moon phase, while scattering seeds in the ascending moon phase.

When space looks limited, then it's a good idea to build some height into the garden, so a nifty frame or trellis is a good thing to build into the garden. This way you can grow climbing plants (beans, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peas) and as long as you have great soil to grow in, then you'll get lots of food from a small space. 

Here are a few ideas for a plant combinations in a small garden: 

1) Edible/Herbs/Flowers

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Capsicum
  • Courgette
  • Beans
  • Herbs: Coriander, Basil, Dill, Thyme, Sage, Parsley
  • Lettuces
  • Spring Onions
  • Flowers: Cornflower, Sunflowers, Alyssum, Geraniums, Chamomile, Sweet Peas, Calendula, Borage (there are so many flowers to choose from, too many to list here)

2) Just edibles - this is harder for me, as I keep wondering about the bees....

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Chilli, capsicum
  • Corn
  • Beans
  • Herbs: Coriander, Basil, Parsley, Chives
  • Lettuce
  • Spring Onions
  • Pumpkin (even in a small space, it's so much fun to watch a pumpkin travel around the edges, and the leaves keep the soil covered)

Choosing plants for a garden is an ongoing conversation, and I encourage my clients to start a garden journal, to keep lists of what they want to grow, along with records of what grows well each year. As you gain confidence, it'll become a reference to remind you which tasks need doing each month. 

Here are a few photos of the small gardens I tend to give you some ideas:

1. The Auckland Women's Centre: Three raised beds with a mixture of herbs, flowers, and some edibles.

2. The 'Townhouse Edible Garden' in my backyard (3.6m x 1.1m)

Another mix of edibles, flowers and herbs - this combination is a great way to attract bees and feed the soil.

3. Raised beds at a client's house. 

These are mostly edibles, with just the calendula there as an edible flower. I'm getting ready to remove some of the parsley from this bed - to make space for a wider variety of edibles. Something that's a bit of a trap with this sized garden is the way plants are sold in punnets with six all the same together. A garden this size only really needs on or two of each plant. 

4. The three bed experiment in Titirangi

This little garden is made up of three beds each 1m x 1m. I'll be planting them identically but treating them differently. The bed at the bottom has an in ground worm farm, the middle bed will get fortnightly biodynamic CPP (Cow Pat Pit), and then the top bed will get just water. Over the course of the summer I'm hoping to see subtle differences in how an identical set of plants reacts to the three environments. 

Foodscaping Online Course

There are so many ways to plan your garden - I explore some of my favourites in this online course, called Foodscaping. More information here.


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