My experimental container garden (and front yard larder!)
What can you grow to eat in containers on a concrete, north facing (and windy) front yard?
I’ll be finding out at my new (ish) home, in Newcastle, North England. And blogging here about what grows (and what doesn’t), how me and my family eat it, the rewards and challenges - and how it changes the way we eat and live in the city.
Here is the front yard container garden - not finished but on its way:
This is the same space 18 months ago, soon after we moved in. Lots of concrete and not much else - typical of many front yards in cities these days.
The space is a lot bigger than my old London balcony. This gives more room to experiment - so I can try different vegetable varieties to see which do best in containers, test different ways to feed, different soil mixes, and different ways of making wormeries and containers with reservoirs. Let the trials begin!
I’m building most (but not all) of the container garden with recycled materials. The wood is mostly pallet slats, from the local wood recycling project (a convenient way to find recycled wood in the size you need, as well as supporting a super, local project). The containers include upcycled buckets, bags, tins and crates. Amongst the food crops I’ll also be growing a few flowers to attract bees and insects, as well as to add colour and cheer to the concrete. Veg gardens at home should look good, too!
Making the most of small spaces
Within the space I’ll be creating a variety of ‘elements’. If you’re growing at home in a city, space (or lack of it) is likely to be one of your biggest challenges. The idea of the ‘elements’ is to show a variety of simple, easy ways to grow more in a limited space. They include a herb ladder, a salad ladder, a Wall of Veg, a micro green shelf, and a fruit pallet.
Choosing what to grow
The climate here in Newcastle is cooler than London (being 300 miles further north) and some of the yard doesn’t get a lot of sun, particularly in winter (I've spent some time observing the space to see how much sun different bits get). So I’ll need to chose carefully what to grow. It’s too cold for chillies, aubergines and basil to do well. But many herbs, salads, leafy veg (like kale and chard), root vegetables, and woodland fruits (like blackberry, blueberry and raspberry) should be OK. With careful selection, I should still have lots of choice.
My other experimental areas...
In another post, I'll tell you about my sunny, south facing patio on the other side of the house - where I’m mainly growing different herbs and tomatoes. And about my trials with containers in a polytunnel on my allotment. Like many people who love growing, I keep finding more space to grow!
Inspiration for the future....
By growing some of your own food at home you get fresher, healthier and tastier food, right on your doorstep - AND the joy and fulfilment of growing it. Wonderful.
But what also inspires my work with Vertical Veg, is how container growing (even in a tiny space) can open doors to bigger changes - like supporting major change in diet, or bringing people feeling isolated in a communnity together, or contributing to a less wasteful way of living. I’ll be exploring and writing about this more in the coming months.
If there is anything you'd like to find out from my experimental container growing, please let me know in the comments below.