This post is a "little" off my normal topics, but I simply love growing my own fruits and vegetables. Making the most out of your yard is trickier than it looks. Excuses like "I don't have enough space“ or "My soil isn't good enough“ are fairly common among novices, yet an experienced gardener can turn a foot-by-foot piece of rough soil into a small oasis. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but you can definitely make do with a small garden, or one that could use soil of a better quality and with less pests. The trick is often having a plan and sticking to it.
Raised bed gardens – the break that your yard needs?
Having raised beds in your garden means deviating from the norm a little bit. A lot of people don't really find these worth considering for one reason alone – aesthetics. The primary purpose of many gardens is looking good and, let's face it: raised garden beds aren't much in the looks department. Their utility, however, is undeniable.
So, raised beds are perfect for planting vegetables of all kinds, as well as flowers that you intend to move elsewhere later on. Alternatively, you might also be unconcerned with the opinion of others and may simply want to see your flowers doing well – if so, these are great for any type of yard work. Regardless of the reasons behind erecting them, raised beds provide pest protection, keep weeds away, offer improved drainage and protect your soil during heavy rains. But, how exactly do you build them?
- Decide on the exact width and height before getting any materials. Raised beds should be long and not wide so that you are never forced to step on the soil to reach the plants. Therefore, try not to exceed a width of 4 feet – the length can be anything you like, depending on the space available. As for height, it can vary between 10-30 inches and above, but keep in mind – while a taller bed will make gardening easier, more soil will add pressure to the sides, meaning you'll have to reinforce them.
- Don't just use any wood you can get your hands on. The wood used for the walls should be completely rot-resistant or it won't last very long. Redwood and cedar are some of the most popular options, as they can create beds that last for over a decade.
- When assembling the beds, consider using corner braces. These are an additional expense, but will make your garden bed sturdier and prevent it from becoming loose over time.
What if my garden doesn't have enough room?
You don't need a mansion-sized lawn to have an impressive garden. In fact, a smaller space will often allow you to apply your vision with much less effort and money spent. Limited space gardens shine because the gardener can tailor every inch of the place to his or her liking.
Interestingly enough, smaller gardens sometimes make people go overboard with adding plant life, in turn making a small piece of one's yard look like a tropical rainforest. Finding a balance is one of the most important things when dealing with less space – we know you'd like to fill your small garden with every flower, plant and lamp you can think of (and a pond would surely look lovely too...), but try to go easy on the details. A simplistic design often beats out a complex one.
When considering the design of your garden, keep in mind that you're best off capitalizing on the coziness of the area. You'll almost certainly want to add a nice-looking table and some chairs for yourself and your visitors – perhaps even a bench, if space permits it.
The greenhouse effect – growing awesome fruits and vegetables in your back yard
While a greenhouse can be used to grow pretty much any plant out there, they're most often utilized for edible ones – with a bit of work put in, your salad and tomatoes will blow anything you could get in a store out of the water.
Greenhouses can get a bit expensive, so don't overestimate the amount of money in your greenhouse fund (we just made that up). These structures are all about controlling the environment around your plants to achieve best results – part of the appeal is the ability to grow anything off-season, even during the winter. This, however, requires equipment that might be too expensive for some, including a specifically-designed structure and a solar collector. Keep in mind, not everyone can use a solar-powered greenhouse due to the position of their yard.
While exceedingly effective, electricity-powered greenhouses are also very expensive. Home owners mostly use them to grow a targeted plant in a specific period of time, when outside conditions might not permit it – even this, however, can prove costly. Ventilation is another important consideration – many greenhouses use a mechanical vent system that will put more strain on your energy bill.
Still, if you'd like to grow stuff in your back yard without being at the mercy of the elements, there's no reason not to try out a greenhouse – start small, and expand if you deem it necessary.