This time of year is the Midwestern gardener’s witching hour. Here in Eastern Iowa you can find my seed and chicken catalogs on the nightstand (it screams romance), sketches of our 2015 garden map, and seed trays in the basement.It’s this time of year that gardeners are eagerly anticipating spring so they can put all of those new ideas into practice. If you’re living in a city or have limited space, making the most of the your outdoor areas is essential. We’ve been urban farming for about 3 years, and have a few tips for making the most of your limited outdoor space.
1. Do your research!
Space is limited, so carefully study your areas before digging up gardens or adding edible landscaping.
2. Add a rain barrel or two. Bonus points if you make your own. You pay for water in the city, so why not put your roof and mother nature to work for you when it comes to watering your garden. We have a fleet of 14 rain barrels tucked away at various spots around our homestead, and use each one in the summer.
3. Plant a garden. A garden can be raised beds, like ours, a cherry tomato plant on your patio, or a few herbs in an old ice cream bucket. A garden can also be a blueberry bush tucked into your landscaping around your house.
4. Hanging plants rock. You can plant herbs in them, edible flowers, or even vegetable plants. They can be pretty and functional.
5. Don’t purchase every tool you think you might need. You don’t need a lot of tools or fancy equipment. You do need a strong work ethic. If you find yourself needing a piece of larger equipment, rent it with a neighbor or friend. For years we rented a garden tiller for an afternoon and split the cost with our next door neighbor. We paid just a few bucks and had the tiller for a few hours each!
6. Buy a used compost bin, like we did, or build one from repurposed materials. It doesn’t take much, maybe a broken down pallet and some mesh fencing.
7. Think functionality and beauty. Landscaping should be edible! Do you have any small spaces where you can add flowering garlic, or chives, or a blueberry bush?
8. Create comfortable seating. You are putting all of this energy and effort into your outdoor space, so you deserve a comfortable place to sit and enjoy. Between a picnic table and two reclining lawn chairs in the backyard, a patio set in the ‘middle yard’, and several chairs on our front porch, we are able to enjoy our efforts in comfort.
And watch the chickens.