Monday, April 13, 2015

Nooks & Crannies Gardens

So many people I talk with about growing food have the idea that one has to have a designated garden spot. People will say that they have a 50' by 100' garden, or perhaps a 20' by 40' garden. It's like they couldn't possibly grow anything anywhere else but in that chosen spot. I'm not like that. While my main garden (the community garden) is pretty much a large area dedicated to just food production, I actually have dozens of little gardens tucked here and there around the farm.  

(A banana tree planted in a semi open spot that I haven't had time to clear yet. The tree is fruiting! )

Why scatter the gardens around? OCD gardeners would go crazy. It's not properly organized! Everything's not in one spot! Ah yes, I can hear the complaints now. But there are three factors for the apparent hodgepodge approach.

(More bananas tucked into a space along the driveway.) 

Factor #1
.....I've chosen to do the work myself, as opposed to hiring employees to get the entire farm cleared, weeded, tilled, and planted. Not just employees, but I would need to use some serious big equipment to reach the final farm plan, since in order to open and prepare fields for planting I'd have to remove trees, level the ground, remove rocks, etc. That's lots of work, time, and money. By eliminating the money, I increase the time and work........and the pleasure. This is an adventure for me so I am enjoying creating a homestead farm. No need to rush it. 
Factor #2
.....I'm eager to be growing food now, not years from now when I finally have large spaces cleared and prepared for planting. So as a small spot opens up for whatever reason, I'm apt to plant a few things in it. Like the pipinola vine pictured below. A small 2'x3' area opened, so I dug in some compost and manure, then planted a pipinola. I let the vine climb up some of the existing tangle of vegetation. It's already producing plenty of pipinolas that I'm using for pickles. 

Factor #3 spreading out a crop in small patches here and there, I'm less apt to lose the entire crop to insects or disease. While aphids or stink bugs might find one clump, they may miss the others. I see this sort of thing happening all the time. I'm really happy when I only lose part of a crop and not the whole shebang. 

Above you can see that just a few plants of chard planted in front of a rock wall. I don't pay much attention to them, but I've gotten several servings for meals from those plants. When I planted them the grass hasn't regrown yet. Now it has, so eventually it will slow the chard down, causing me to dig it up and replant the spot. 

Above is a spot beside the tool shed. Just a little open, unused spot. So I planted a few tomato seeds and let them do their thing while I was busy elsewhere. Further back in the photo you can see a couple of small patches of sweet potatoes. The cuttings became available so I just looked for some small spots not being used. Now there are two small patches of sweet potatoes that I can look forward to eating in a couple of months. 

Above is a garden I purposely created by removing part of the lawn. Right now the patch has snap peas growing there. But it's had green beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes and beets so far. Not a huge space, but it's making food. In the upper left background you can see some greenery on the ground running under the edge of the solar panels. That's some sweet potato cuttings I recently planted. The spot was just empty, so now it's not. Cool. 

Any little corner or edge can grow a few plants. Above I put some taro around the base of a small shed on one wall, and some beets along the other wall. 

All around my property I have little micro gardens, sometimes consisting of only one plant. One tomato. One potato. One pepper. One banana. I believe that even one plant growing is better than zero plants growing. 

Face it, it's not a daunting task to make a spot for one potato plant as compared to a whole big bed of them. So psychologically it's easier to garden when it's only one or two plants that need to get started. Plus sometimes the space available can only hold one or two plants. So rather than let it sit empty, I'll plant something. 

With this whole homestead taking up time, I simply don't have time to create a large bed or garden somewhere all at once. So I do it in little increments. Eventually many of these micro gardens start linking up. Then suddenly I look and realize that I have another good sized garden that's producing. Super! 

So you think harvesting would be a nightmare? I suppose it would if I were trying to grow for a farmers market. But if I'm just thinking about dinner with a collection basket hanging from my hand, it's no big deal to harvest a little of this and that as I walk around enjoying visiting my little gardens located in the nooks and crannies. 


  1. I seem to do much the same, ignoring the "rules" about spacing, letting the most vigorous seedling to take over - weaklings get clipped off (or transplanted, if I have another open spot.

  2. A pair of scissors does a fine job for eliminating the weaklings for me. A simple way of making room for the stronger plants.