For the last couple of years – and probably for the next 2-4 years – I’ve had a tiny garden. This is a change from big gardens most of my life. When I was in highschool and worked for a landscaping business I had a flower garden that would make people stop to exclaim over it. I don’t foresee that happening again – I simply don’t have that kind of time and I was being paid in plants back then!
That being said, I know that I could do more with the space I have. My constraints are much more about time. I have none. Well, very little, and certainly not at the times of year when I’d ordinarily be prepping beds and planting. Which means I’m buying all my plants – I tried starting a few this spring, but lost what germinated when I tried to harden them off and got caught by frost. I’m out of the habit of checking the weather religiously. That’s ok, because it’s not a large garden. I don’t need a dozen each tomatoes, peppers, squash, and so on.
In the three years I’ve been here, I’ve established a permanent bed along the front of the house and slowly filled it with herbs and perennial flowers. They mix well, produce a lot of handy kitchen herbs, and look pretty. I’m about to slightly enlarge that bed and put in a handful of vegetables along with annual flowers to keep the ‘flower garden’ look rather than kitchen garden, although that’s effectively what I plan. I’m not really worried about pilferage, we do have people walking by in front of the house but the chances of them deciding to take my veggies is… slim.
When you’re choosing plants for a small, low-maintenance garden, you want to focus on the plants that will give you what you want – colorful flowers, herbs for the kitchen, or fruits – but won’t need tending more than once or twice a year. With some planning, you can have flowers all season, and harvest as much as you want from the herbs. I’m focusing more on herbs since I don’t have space for berries and most veg need plenty of care.
Last year I put the veggies and herbs in pots in the backyard. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough sun, so while I got a handful of peppers and a ton of herbs, the tomatoes languished. So I put them out front, on the south side, this year. I have to enlarge the bed – the irises Dorothy-Mom gave me are expanding by leaps and bounds, and my tiny 4″ pot of oregano is the green blob that ate… well, everything. It will be mad with bees later in the summer when it starts blooming.
My point in this post is to say that even with limited space you can grow things. Herbs are by far the best option, as veggies can be had cheaply. Herbs aren’t as cheap and it’s so nice to grab what you need for the recipe and walk back to the kitchen. Dried just isn’t as good! Which reminds me – my thyme didn’t winter over in a container, I need to pick up a new plant of that!
I miss having berries, but they take more space than I have. And since we’re likely to move soon, I didn’t want to establish them and abandon them. Most people wouldn’t have any idea what to do with them, and would rip them out to put in more boring grass. I’ve sold my First Reader on letting me expand the garden by pointing out it’s a little less mowing for him.
I may not have the time to spend in my garden I’d like, but the moments I take to tend it or just look at it and harvest are good ones. It’s not perfect, there are always weeds even when I’ve tackled them the week before. That’s ok. If I worried too much about how it looked I’d not have one. Instead I’ll enjoy it, keep choosing plants that require no care from me once they are established, and sadly bid it farewell when I go, knowing that I’ll get to do this all over again when we settle down in a new place. Wherever that is. Because for me, a garden is a constant friend, even if it’s only in a few pots.