Growing Your Own Vegetables in a Backyard Garden

With a simple backyard garden, growing your own vegetables is a sustainable and valuable practice that can keep you healthy and happy.

| March 2014

  • A small backyard garden, even one as compact as 8x16, can be a useful way to conserve food costs and produce sustainable crops.
    Photo courtesy Great River Books
  • "More Food From Small Spaces" by Margaret Park is perfect for city dwellers looking to start a small garden.
    Cover courtesy Great River Books

For urban and suburban folk, finding proper gardening space can seem like an insurmountable task. Margaret Park offers a welcomed solution with More Food From Small Spaces (Great River Books, 2013), with tips to grow healthy, organic vegetables and fruits while maximizing garden space. This excerpt from the preface introduces the reader to the idea that any small amount of space can become a productive backyard garden, and that growing your own vegetables can bring sustenance to the spirit, as well.

More More Food From Small Spaces:
Dehydrating Fruit and Vegetables
How to Make a Solar Food Dryer
Tips for Fruit and Vegetable Storage

A few years ago our family put an addition on the back of our house, and in the course of construction, most of the grass and plantings in our backyard were destroyed. We were faced with the task of designing our backyard from scratch. This was not an unwelcome development. There had not been much aesthetic sense or maturity to the backyard landscaping we’d inherited from the previous owners. Our house is very close to downtown in a good-sized American city. Needless to say, its dimensions are very limited, especially after the addition was completed. I have always loved gardening, and especially loved growing flowers, ornamental plants and creating peaceful outdoor resting spaces. My husband is fond of building rock walls and paths, so our thoughts naturally turned to creating a serene and beautiful oasis in the city. Then in 2008 with economic downturn and the ensuing stagnation, our dreams of a peaceful oasis in the city, turned toward another kind of peace — the greater security of knowing we could grow a lot of our own food.

Now, we are glad we chose this direction. The cost of food has steadily risen and our income has not followed apace. This is a familiar story for many of us. And if you have picked up this book because you’re feeling financially pinched, I want to assure you that even if you have just a small patch of dirt available to you — even as little as 8x16 feet — you can grow a lot of your own vegetables and save money, especially with current food prices and the likely prospect of future price increases.

Using these savings for other purposes every month will seem a great reward for your garden labors. As for a beautiful backyard, we’ve found that vegetable gardening in such a small space demands that order and structure be emphasized. At this scale, our vegetable garden has its own charm and exudes a vibrance and abundance that looks close enough to beautiful for our tastes.

A Renaissance of Backyard Gardens

Over the years, through various moves across the country, I’ve grown vegetables on a number of different properties. My prior vegetable garden in a rural area was 25x30 feet. I’ve now learned how to grow more food in my current 8x24 foot plot than I used to grow in three times this space. Over the last four years I’ve experimented and figured out how to make small space gardening work. And now I think I’ve got it! To express these discoveries in as few words as possible: you have to plant denser, deeper, higher for longer. It’s all about cramming as many plants as possible into an allotted space for a longer part of the year and the vertical supports and soil fertility that enables this tight grouping to flourish.



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