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Have you ever found yourself slightly jealous of those who have space to garden? Perhaps caught yourself wishing for a plot of your own where you could raise a full crop of veggies? If so, allow me to throw a few rays of hope your way! Today, you’re going to learn how to raise a garden when you don’t have the space!
How to Raise a Garden When You Don’t Have Space
The answer to your problem is simple. In fact, it may have passed before your eyes a time or two, unnoticed. Perhaps when you were visiting a friend? Or the time you walked through a new part of the neighborhood?
The secret to raising a garden when you don’t have space is this: you can’t be afraid to look outside of your own resources!
Know of someone with a neglected garden in their back yard? Ask about using it this year!
Maybe you have a friend who, due to a busy life schedule, has used only a section of their growing soil? If so, inquire about the possibilities!
It’s not a common practice in today’s individualistic society, but it’s a wonderful option if you truly wish to raise your own vegetables!
Before You Move Ahead
Wonderful as this option is, there are several things you should know and consider before moving ahead!
Choose a Garden Close to Home
A garden requires upkeep! On average, you’ll have to tend to it 2x per week. Try to find one within a 10 minute drive of your home. Why? Because fuel for travel slowly adds up! The less driving you have to do, the more cost (and time) efficient your garden will be.
If you can’t find someone within a 10 minute drive, I suggest gardening with a nearby friend. Offer to help in exchange for produce. Sometimes, this is the best option for your time and pocketbook!
Discuss Expectations and Boundaries
When you are gardening on someone else’s property, make certain you know (and respect) the owner’s stipulations. Before committing to anything, be sure to thoroughly discuss the following:
- do the land owners expect a notification before you show up to garden?
- how will you reimburse them for an increased water bill? Do they want cash, produce or something else?
- what types of soil amendment and mulch are they ‘ok’ with?
- if a garden fence is necessary, who covers the cost? Is there concern about aesthetics?
- are you allowed to bring friends or your dog with you?
- is there a particular way in which they want the garden to be kept (in a tidy manner)?
By outlining the expectations of both parties, you create a safety net for everyone!
Recognize You’ll Have to Meet Your Own Garden Needs
While a friend or neighbor may have garden space, this doesn’t mean they have (or will let you) use their equipment. Neither should you expect it.
Whether you use a rototiller, a shovel or hoe to work the soil, expect to purchase (or rent) the equipment. You’ll also have to provide your own watering supplies (hose and sprinkler), just as you would if gardening on your own land.
Amending the Soil
Poor soil yields poor crops. If the garden space has sat unattended for several years, you may want to add composted steer or sheep manure to the earth. Your local greenhouse should carry both!
Before applying composted manure, I advise working the garden soil and outlining your planting rows. Save yourself some money by applying compost to planting rows only, leaving walkways as they are.
Plant in Wide Rows
Instead of planting vegetable seeds in a single line, sow several lines side by side (pictured below) until you have a long row of vegetables that is approximately 16 inches wide.
Wide row planting not only allows you to grow more veggies per square foot, but their foliage will crowd out the weeds and help retain moisture.
Mulch Heavily With Organic Matter
Mulch comes in various forms: leaves, hay, straw and grass clippings. I’ve even added cardboard to the walkways of unkempt gardens, then piled mulch on top!
The reason to use mulch is threefold. As with wide row planting, mulching helps with weed control. It also keeps the soil moist. And over time, your mulch will slowly decompose and enrich the earth.
In our gardens, we like to use grass clippings from the lawn. It’s free and does the job well! If you want to learn more, check out this post on preparing grass clippings for the vegetable garden.
Be sure to follow up with it’s sequel: How to Mulch with Grass Clippings!
Use a Water Timer
Also known as a ‘sprinkler timer,’ this is a programmable device that attaches to an outdoor water faucet. Garden hoses thread onto the bottom and a built-in timer controls the water flow.
For those of us who garden away from home, this device is a garden saver! It ensures that our vegetables get the water they need, even if we haven’t been around for a week!
Here is the Nelson model I like and use on our away-from-home gardens (affiliate link). Thus far, both my man and I have been very pleased with it! The dual outlet is particularly nice to have. Because we often raise a large garden, it’s nice to be able to attach two hoses and run two sprinklers from one system.
Make a Mental Checklist
When gardening away from home, there will always be more that you could do! Every time you drive out to tend your veggies, make a mental check-list of what must be accomplished that day. Always do these things first. Then, if there’s extra time, begin projects of secondary importance.
If you stick to this simple technique, you should have a successful harvest year…even if the weeds weren’t 100% controlled at all times!
While there’s nothing quite like having a garden outside your back door, using someone’s property is the next best thing. For those of us who are determined to grow our own food, it’s a satisfying solution to our problem.
And remember: this whole thing is unlikely to happen unless you take initiative and pursue options. So get yourself started!