When I think of a suburban vegetable garden, I immediately think of a rectangle of land in the back yard. In my imagination it is a separate, utilitarian area that sacrifices aesthetics for practicality. It provides a lot of benefits through fresh, healthy food and reducing the family’s carbon footprint, but at the cost of a play space and relaxation area.
It has taken us over a year, but we’ve finally finished building the garden beds for our home. Our block is 632 square metres, and the vegetable garden takes up just over 100 square metres in addition to the fruit trees in the lawn. Instead of being that dedicated rectangle behind the house, our garden has become a key design element, something that enhances the available space.
We’ve been able to spread the vegetable garden out over the block because the house is positioned so that garden beds can wrap around it. There is a deep bed against the front wall in the north, beds along the fence in the east, and a series of beds in the west. On the south side the garden beds run along the fence where they aren’t shaded from the sun.
Our garden is an interesting space to move through. When we started I was worried that we would be removing most of the children’s play area. I always believed that children need large open spaces to run around and ride bikes. It turns out that if we leave the paths wide enough they can still do those things. Thanks to the wildlife attracted to our garden, they can also chase butterflies, hunt caterpillars, or watch bees collect pollen. Adults are also drawn to our garden, and almost everyone who visits for the first time comments on our use of space.
The area that I am most pleased with is the narrow strip of land between the house and the eastern fence. In most homes this would be an unusable part of the garden, overgrown and considered too small to do anything with. It gets a lot of shade, and several people told me that it would be impossible to get anything to grow out there. It’s currently planted with corn and squash, all of which are doing well.
By having so much space available for food crops, we can potentially become self sufficient for certain types of vegetables. Growing everything that we need would completely eliminate our food miles for those vegetables. This aspiration is very much a work in progress, but we’re hopeful that we can learn how to make it work.
If you’re playing along at home…
… do you have a space where you could tuck a vegetable garden? Please share in the comments below the best or smallest places at your home that you’ve found for growing your own food.