As many of you out there have discovered, you can still grow your own food even if you have little space or soil. UME Master Gardener Pat Lynch, in Montgomery Village, Maryland, lives in a townhouse with a 792-square foot paved backyard, and enough covenant restrictions to choke a horse (short answer: no food plants in the front yard. And it isn’t very big anyway).
Nevertheless, her little brick garden is full of vegetables, herbs and ornamentals in pots and raised beds, growing enough to supplement meals for herself and her husband while still leaving room for wide pathways and a place to sit and enjoy the garden. “You do have to choose,” Pat says. She likes to try “one of everything” but even with lots of trellising and other vertical growing strategies, and careful choice of plants to suit the conditions, some space-hogging plants aren’t on the list, and she often has to store a harvest in the fridge until there’s enough to prepare.
But there’s nothing like growing your own fingerling potatoes, and Pat’s looking forward to a good harvest from this fabric container.
The plants do need plenty of watering, but it’s easy to keep track of any insect and disease problems. Deer (common in the neighborhood) don’t jump the wall, but some small animals do get in. In the last year Pat has played host to a chipmunk that liked eggplant fruits, and a rabbit that likes eggplant foliage. Flea beetles are less of a problem!
Sun exposure, use of warm microclimates (such as by a brick wall), spacing and aesthetics are considerations in a small-space garden. Pat’s tomatoes are all grown on “ladders” that keep the plants from flopping into other plants’ space. Squash varieties have to be bush-type, not vining. Spring plants can get a head start in the warmest areas, but those spots can be hot and dry in the summer.
Pat swears this combination of variegated sage, Pretty in Purple pepper, thyme, and Vardaman sweet potato was accidental. I think it looks great! The sweet potatoes are also grown in a fabric bag – which she hopes will accommodate the growing tubers!
Pat also wanted me to share this photo of her trellised Malabar spinach which has tied itself in a knot – no human intervention!
(Photos by Sam Korper)