Looking forward to a new gardening year, we often think big: We’ll have the biggest vegetable garden ever—grow all the flowers we’ve been meaning to try—or how about starting an herb garden—replacing foundation plantings? While it’s cold and we’re dreaming we can be most ambitious—but also most creative! So consider how thinking small might mean your best gardening year, yet!
Some ways of thinking small
Now is the time to map out your garden projects, buy seeds, start preparing for planting—and the time to consider how to garden smart.
- Rather than starting a whole new garden for vegetables, fruits, or herbs, consider integrating edibles into your existing landscape. A recent North Carolina Extension publication (see references below) provides sample plans for both in-ground and container plantings for a variety of sun/shade conditions.
- Consider using smaller plants as well as smaller gardens.
- Many vegetables and fruit trees come in “dwarf” or “compact” varieties, allowing you to grow more produce in smaller spaces.
- Minigardens/container gardens may use these smaller plants, but also capitalize on closer spacing of plants in the ground or using unused above-ground space on decks, driveways, patios, and porches to grow plants in containers.
- If you have existing gardens, consider replacing overgrown plantings with trees/shrubs/perennials that better fit the space available.
It’s easy to think about great times in your garden when you’re stuck inside, but now is the time to think about the gardening tasks you hate as well as those you love! I share a plot in our local community garden, and it is always sad to see all the number of plots abandoned in midsummer when weeds or insects or diseases overwhelm. Shrubs and trees in many home landscapes look just as abandoned!
Some ways to minimize maintenance:
- Reduce areas you need to water
- Reduce areas you need to weed
- Choose disease-resistant varieties of vegetables and herbs
- Choose shrubs and trees that need little pruning to keep looking good and staying within the space—both horizontal and vertical—that’s allotted
- Avoid plants that need frequent deadheading or cutting back—including lawns
- Mulch unplanted areas
Article by Buncombe County Extension Master GardenerSM Volunteers
For more information:
Growing edibles in the Landscape:
Growing vegetable in minigardens:
Low maintenance landscaping: