The compact garden

Blog Post created by foxglove on Jul 14, 2014

Some 10 years ago, Lady Foxglove and I moved from a rural, 10-acre homestead to a suburban, 1-acre lot in a nice neighborhood carved out of an urban forest. When we were living "out in the country," we had a 1,600-square-foot garden -- 16 deep beds, each 5 feet by 20 feet -- in which we grew and canned all the vegetables we ate, as well as strawberries, figs, gourds and cutting flowers. At the time, I was teaching high school, so I had most of the summer off, and maintaining a garden that size wasn't a problem. In our new environment, however, gardening space is limited, as is gardening time, the result of a 12-month teaching appointment.


Over the years, we've attended a number of workshops and short courses about intensive gardening. So our small, backyard garden gives us the opportunity to put to use the lessons learned. The first two years were spent creating the landscaping that would become our garden spot. We built a stacked-stone wall that would form one border of the garden; then we built two terraced beds above the wall, each 5 feet by 25 feet. Intensive planting requires deep soil, so our beds are each two feet deep. Our tomato plants are spaced at 18 inches, about half the normally recommended distance. With the deep soil and frequent additions of compost, the plants race up their cages, effectively limiting weed growth because the plants' shade limits sunlight on the garden floor. Shorter plants, such as bush beans, squash, peppers and flowers, are planted along the outside edges of the garden for maximum sunlight exposure. The tomatoes form the interior of the garden. The following pictures show the terracing and the general layout of the garden, taken in early May after planting. Walking on the boards limits soil compaction when planting or working in the garden.

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Below: The controlled chaos of the intensively planted garden, taken in early July. The flowers attract pollinators. Bird feeders attract birds to the garden, which then act a biological control agents for pests.

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Container plantings surround the deck.

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Squash blossoms are edible and delicious. Herbed-cheese-stuffed squash blossom tempura is a fave.

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A perfect zinnia:

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Last year, our 250-square-foot garden yielded 44 quarts of canned tomatoes and all the snap beans, squash, peppers and eggplant we could eat. What we can't eat, we give away. The photo below is of yesterday's pickaround. The large thing that looks like a beef kidney (next to the Black Beauty eggplant) is an heirloom tomato variety, Cherokee Purple, and it weighed in at 1 pound, 10 ounces. The aptly named Casper eggplants have snow-white flesh.

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Happy gardening!