Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Future Gardener Seeks Guidance

The Conscious Shopper dreams about her future garden.

This post is basically the exact opposite of Green Bean's post where she included all those amazing pictures of her yard. Here's Green Bean's yard. Here's mine:

We just moved into this house two months ago, and although we're renting, our wonderful landlords said, "Go right ahead," when we asked if we could plant a garden. I'm a serious plan-ahead kind of girl, so okay, okay, I know its months away from Spring, but I've got to be ready!

A Few Things to Consider


Since we're renting, our housing situation is not permanent. We're not planning on moving for at least five years, but there's no guarantee our landlords won't decide to sell the place out from under us. And I can't say for sure that our own plans are set in stone. (Remember, we've already moved six times in seven years.)

So that puts some limits on our landscaping plans. I read a fabulous book called Landscaping with Fruit that suggested using blueberry bushes in a foundation planting (the area in front of a house by the front door). Great idea!...Until I discovered how many years it takes before blueberry bushes produce fruit. I need to stick with fruits and vegetables that produce within a season.


Also because we're renters, we don't want to invest too much money on the landscaping. I admit that because I love landscaping and gardening, we will probably end up spending more on the yard than smart spenders would recommend. But I'm going to try to keep it within reason.


We have the smallest yard in the history of backyards. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but not by far. Our lot is .09 acres, and most of that is taken up by the house. I want to have a pretty sizable garden, but I also need to leave space in the backyard for the boys to play.

The Plan

The top picture is where I plan to put the garden beds because it's the sunniest part of our lot. I'm thinking three beds that measure 2' X 8' - is two feet too narrow? I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but our backyard is a small hill, so the beds will have to be terraced with space between for standing. I can also put in some plants close to the fence, but that spot gets a little less sun because of the shade from the fence.

There's a lot of space on the front steps for some containers, and I could add some hooks to the porch roof for hanging plants. Has anyone tried those Topsy Turvy tomatoes?

I thought this side yard would make a good spot for a fruit bed, but it's a secondary priority to getting the backyard garden in. Our landlords used this spot for extra parking space, so I'm sure the soil needs lots of work.

This is the other side of our backyard. It gets less sun because of two trees in our neighbor's yard that pleasantly shade the house. I'm thinking flowers and grasses around the porch, but this is also less of a priority than the garden beds.

Your Turn

Okay, all you gardeners out there. Please help! If this was your yard, what would you do? What plants would you choose? Where would you put them? How can I make my yard pretty but still functional?

I need your guidance!


The Mom said...

It looks like you could put in a reasonable amount of garden space. First you need beds. Since you want them to be able to move, I would suggest raised beds. They can be built out of wood or cinder blocks. You can certainly have 2 foot beds. A tomato plant will take a 2x2 foot space, more or less.

If it were me, I would build my beds and spend the winter deciding what kind of veggies to plant. Tomatoes and peppers in pots would probably be your best bet. That would leave the beds for things like beans, squashes, peas etc.

Steph @ Greening Families said...

I would suggest checking out Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening or All New Square Foot Gardening. You've got plenty of room for raised beds, as The Mom suggested. The bonus is that 2 foot beds would be shallow enough that your boys could help in the garden while standing outside of the beds. :)

Your front steps look perfect for containers of herbs. I've seen flowerpots listed frequently on our areas Freecycle list so that might be an easy, green way to get the containers.

Have fun!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@The Mom - Thanks for the suggestions!

@Steph - Yes, I plan on using the square foot gardening method. Do you know what's the difference between the old and the new book? And I'll have to check Freecycle for pots. That's a great idea.

Green Bean said...

I'd typically say that starting in ornamental planting beds along fences and in front of the house. As you don't seem to have any of those, I'd agree that raised beds are the way to go. Alternatively, you could pull the grass out of a sunny spot and do the sheet mulch method. That way, as The Mom, suggests, you can let nature do the work for you as you figure out what to plant.

I personally am not a fan of the square foot gardening method. Not that it doesn't seem to be effective and popular. My brain just doesn't work that way. I see that you are planning to use it but only added this just so you don't feel bad if, when you look at the book, you cannot make heads or tails of it. :)

As to what to fruit, try strawberries and watermelon. You could do a grapevine or some cane berries and buy them bareroot over the winter when they are much cheaper. They often take a while to bear fruit but we got lucky with our grape this year (it's first year in the ground!).

Everything else will likely be an annual. Spend the winter figuring out what grows in North Carolina well and you can order your seeds in January. I supplement with organic seedlings as well because I never seem to have much luck growing certain veggies from seeds. Definitely plant pumpkins. Your kids will LOVE them and they'll feed you all winter long.

Oh, one last thing, you might check out Roots Shoots Buckets & Boots by Sharon Lovejoy for fun ideas for kids. We started that way and, before we knew it, had ripped up all the grass.

Have fun!

Pure Mothers said...

Congratulations on settling somewhere for a while. We are up and moving again ourselves - to London! And I still want to garden too.

I think you've got great suggestions here. I have some topsy turvy planters but didn't end up using them. We couldn't hang them from anywhere. I heard they are great for strawberries, as well as tomatoes.

If you are planting straight in the ground on the side of the house, where it used to be a parking spot, I would test the ground for lead.

Happy planning and plotting and planting!

utahlawyer said...

Find the Master Gardener Program website for your state. There are Master Gardener Programs in every state and are usually connected to a University. The program will give you specific information about growing fruits, veggies, and flowers in your area. They are a good place to go to find out what grows well and to find solutions to pests and other growing problems.

Steph @ Greening Families said...

The biggest differences I remember between the two books are that the new one says no tilling is necessary and the boxes are not as deep.

I agree with Pure Mothers about a lead test for the former parking space.

I meant to mention in my previous comment (but was distracted by awakening children) that having herbs by the entrance is lovely because their wonderful smells meet everyone as they come to your door.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Green Bean - Until your post, I had never heard of the lasagna method, but it's a great idea. And thanks for the book suugestion. We're headed to the library right now.

@Pure Mothers - If it tests positive for lead, is there any way to fix it?

@utahlawyer - Great suggestion. I also bought a book called month by month gardening in north Carolina.

@Steph - Love the idea for the herbs on the porch.

Anna (Green Talk) said...


I actually did the lasagna method for next year for beds around my new garden. I love plants that bring in butterflies and bees to help my garden. See here ( Instead of using wood chips, use leaves instead. I did not have that option since there are no leaves in July. I will be throwing more leaves and grass on it in Sept when it is cooler.

As for growing in small spaces, think up as in vertical gardens. You can grow beans and peas on a trellis, cumcumber up a fence, and squash too (make sure the squash is not too heavy.) You have to train the squash.

As for 2 foot beds, I have one that I grow eggplant and pepper since they are smaller plant. You can grow tomatoes too but put them in cages. If you get deep beds such as 7 inches or more, you can grow carrots among the tomatoes. (or grow baby carrots instead.) They don't like the heat and the tomatoes shield them.

I prefer to plant my herbs outside of my beds since they can become invasive. So can strawberries so they have their own place in my garden. Blueberries are a great plant and they are easy to grow.

Just rotate what is in your beds every year so bugs that overwinter don't go looking for the host plant.

You can buy ready made beds at Gardener Supply or make them yourself. Good Luck! I love gardening. said...

As someone who has lived in apts and condos for most of the last 20 years - and moves every 2-3 yrs, I've become a fan of container gardening. It's a great way to garden and take it with you when you go (especially herb gardens). Good luck!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Anna - So many great tips. Thanks!

@Upon-Request - I'm definitely leaning toward herbs in pots due to yours and Steph's recommendations.


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