Recently, my family moved to a new home and with that home came a new piece of land, smaller than what we had gotten used to. Our old yard was .6 acres and seemed vast compared to our tiny .2 acres. The reality is we spent most of our time working on the inside of the home making it ready for us and for potential renters. We spent just a little bit of time outside, pulling out all manner of plants, from giant 6 ft tall juniper bushes that had overtaken the front yard, to a myriad of weeds and small trees that were growing in the back. By the time late Fall hit our area we had rediscovered a good half of the yard again, and managed to spruce a couple side beds up in the process. In place of those juniper bushes we put down raised beds. The only house on the block to do so, but this is our life and we plan to live it as we want to. We figure grass grows plenty where you don’t want it anyway. Right?
So, do you have a tiny lot and are really hoping to get a homestead out of it? Well, after a few years of gardening, I’ve discovered some pretty effective ways to get things going and stsrt your garden no matter the size of land. Here are 5 great tips to get you started on your gardening and/or homesteading journey and to help you possibly even offset your grocery bill in the process. I bet that got your attention!
1) Use raised beds. Odds are your tiny lot is, well….tiny. Raised beds are a fantastic way to boost production and be efficient with your resources. I could try to list all the amazing qualities of raised beds but there are many resources out on the internet, and Facebook these days that can provide you with a plethora of information. Just be sure to take your time, one baby step at a time.
2) Understand how the sun hits the areas of your property. This really matters in a smaller lot. You have less space to work with, so it is crucial that you know exactly where your full sun areas (6+ hours of full sunlight daily) are in the yard. Then, you map these out. I do this in my head, just mentally noting that an area is getting more sun, but if you need to write it out, do so. Move on to partial sun areas (less than 6 hours of full sunlight daily) and then shade. This will help you know what to plant, and where. If you work all day, be sure to pay attention on the weekends, so that when planting time comes you know. A final note, the sun shifts in the sky from Winter , Spring, Summer and Fall. So where the full sun hits in the Winter is not an accurate snapshot of where full sun will be in the Spring, Summer and Fall.
3) Plan your garden ahead of time. Picking up on the last point, plan your garden in advance. If you want to make the most of your space, then planning ahead is the best chance you have. Know what you want to plant, how much of it, where you want it, how you will water it and tend to it. I mentioned the positioning of the sun and how it changes from season to season. This means, a year ahead, ideally, you will be making notes of the sunny areas in your yard. To that end, keep a journal from year to year of your garden. What crops went well, what failed and why. You’d be amazed at how easy it is to forget what happened just the year before, and then suddenly you are making the same mistakes and wasting your time and money. Never a good feeling!
4) Take baby steps, please. I think I may have touched on this, but here is something that requires more than a mere mention. If you are just starting out, please, go slow. Take your time, build up and learn as you go, taking on too much wastes money, and risks you feeling burnt out. Try a few basic crops like tomatoes and zucchini. You’ll be creating habits that will serve you well now, such as making time for weeding frequently, to making sure you use what you grow, and to amending the soil, one step at time. Eventually you can build upon these habits and skills, by maybe building a compost bin system for your garden, the following year; fresh compost is the best. Or perhaps expanding into new vegetables and fruits that you know you want to eat. Finally, if you reach where we are, you’ll just want to plant all the things, and can all the things for later use and get some animals too. Fact: chickens are a gateway animal to many more. Just fair warning!
5) Have courage to make the change and understand why you are making this change. Now this is just for those of us crazy people who eventually want to take over their entire yard, like we did.
This is big.
Courage changes everything, and understanding, changes it even more. Know why you want to homestead, and have the courage to make it happen. It is hard work, you have to want it, and really see it coming true. Our house will certainly stand out, but we have a huge desire to grow as much of our food as we can, and provide for ourselves. Naturally the smaller grocery bills don’t hurt, but we know why we want this, see it happening and have a plan in place to get there. If you want this change, know it, then do it.
Good luck and share photos of your garden with us!!