Not all backyard gardens are flat. There are many unique backyard types. Here are some excellent homestead tips to keep in mind for your backyard, if it is sloped, if it is too small, or even if you don’t have one.
Homestead Tips For Unique Backyard Types
In this short appendix, we will be addressing specific issues for backyard types which are not the typical flat yard. The goal of this manual is to help all types of gardens and gardeners succeed, so let’s look at some special scenarios and their potential solutions.
The first and most obvious obstacle to gardening would be if you live in a place that has no yard, and this is the case for many Americans. Condos, apartments, and townhomes frequently lack any access to your own space to make a garden. But this doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy the same benefits of gardening—only that you will need to adapt to your environment!
2×2 square foot garden boxes can easily fit in the corner of most patios or balconies, and your potential to stack them means you can still customize their look and yield to your needs. It is also very simple to purchase patio tables or even card playing tables on which to hold a smaller box. Think of creative solutions—milk crates, palates, cinder blocks—to build UP and not OUT, and maximize your garden efficiency. Using the vertical garden method can be very ideal for a porch or balcony situation.
If you live in a region of the country that is very wooded, you may have an entirely different problem: plenty of space, except that it is being “rented” by your large, wild neighbors from the forest. Aside from completely clearing your yard of trees—something that may certainly be unreasonable or impossible—your options for a garden will certainly be limited, but not removed. Locate the area of your yard that receives the most sunlight despite the trees, and make sure to build your square foot garden boxes in that area. Use vertical and stacking techniques to, again, make the most of the space you have. If you lack even a single area in your yard that gets direct sunlight for 6-8 hours daily, you may need to look into shade gardening only, and will unfortunately be limited in your choice of crops to grow. Sadly, sunlight is really the only thing the square foot garden can’t improve on!
For some families, the problem may come from a “different angle”—maybe they have the space for a garden, but the yard isn’t flat. How you deal with this problem will depend on exactly how hilly your yard is, and in what direction the fill is. If you have a south-facing hill, this guide recommends such a place to build your garden—it will receive the ideal amount of sunlight, and you can build your square foot boxes according to the needs of the land. To fit your garden to hilly landscape, you will need to cut into the hillside wide enough for whatever size garden you choose to build. We call this the “cut and fill” method.
- Decide where on your slope you want to build your square foot garden box
- Dig out the section to fit the size of box you’ve chosen, and move that dirt to the foot of the hill slope. This will create a stabilizing base.
- After you’ve removed the dirt from the slope and moved it to the base, you should end up with an area of level ground big enough to place your box frame. Proceed with the normal square foot garden method to get your garden going.
Before you commit to this method, be sure you do your homework. Figure out what kind of time and money you will need to spend to get the space dug out of the hill. Think about whether the hill in question is too steep to make the gardening easy.
If you are one of the millions of American families living in an apartment or condo, chances are you probably have access to some kind of small deck or balcony. You can certainly build a garden in this area, but you will need to take special considerations. After all, unless you live on the ground floor, you’ll need to think about the families on the decks below you, who definitely wouldn’t want a shower of optimized soil or water to ruin their restful evening on the deck! The optimized soil mix will, again, help prevent overwatering; this will also help reduce the chance that your garden box drips through the deck below. But you can also take other precautions. Do not drill drainage holes in the plywood bottom of your square foot garden, except in a single corner. Then take the effort to slope the box slightly towards that corner, and use a bucket or drain pan to catch any extra water that may leak out. This should prevent any unfortunate issues with your neighbors.
Many balconies and decks may also have sturdy railings that provide room for a garden. This will certainly depend on the type of railing. Some may not be thick or sturdy enough to reliably support a garden, so check yours out before you make any decisions—and be honest with yourself about whether it is truly stable! If your railings are large, wide, and flat, you can build a small square foot garden box to fit it. Just be sure you secure the box somehow, by bolting it to the railing, to prevent any hazardous situations. Even the smallest garden box could cause devastating injury when toppled from the height of a second story balcony— to say nothing of higher floors. Home improvement stores should also sell a wide variety of holders and fasteners to help secure such boxes to your railing. Play it safe—if you don’t feel like you can properly secure whatever boxes you use to your railing, you should keep them on the floor of your deck to prevent injury.
That was Chapter 9: The Square Foot Garden from our Homestead Handbook: How to Grow All The Food You Need In Your Own Backyard