little house cartoon, imageMany people think that they can’t grow food in their back yard unless they have space for a ‘proper’ vegetable garden, but you don’t need a lot of space to grow your own food. You can grow anywhere, including a tiny patio or balcony – as long as you have the most vital ingredient of all: light.

Lack of light can be a real problem, however, if you are surrounded by tall buildings. Fruiting plants like tomatoes, strawberries and peppers need at least four or five hours of direct sunlight every day to do well. Happily most vegetables are not so fussy. Legumes, root vegetables and leafy plants will tolerate partial shade, and some plants like the brassicas will even cope in the shade.

Not having a garden needn’t be a barrier to growing, as the excellent Londonvegetablegarden blog will show you. There is also the National Trust’s 2009 ‘ledgeveg’ campaign, which is fairly glossy but has about a dozen well-written articles on windowbox farming.

Gardening on Pavement, Tables, and Hard SurfacesAssuming you do have a bit of ground space, take stock of what the possibilities are. Concrete and paving can be grubbed up easily enough (although the soil underneath will need work before you can grow in it), and if that’s not happening you can still grow in containers or raised beds laid straight onto the concrete. There’s even a book about doing just that!

For those who are blessed by actual ground space, the odds are that it’s presently grassed over. Not a problem, because this is what sheet mulching was invented for: you grow potatoes as your first-year crop, sidestepping digging and weeding neatly. Take a look at this article and you’ll be ready to go.

The pros

  • The garden is right outside your door, making short trips possible without having to travel
  • Barring conflicts with local planning laws or deeds of covenant, you can do whatever you please
  • No-one can kick you off the land for letting things get away from you
  • Fewer worries with trespass and theft

The cons

  • Can be a lonely existence, with no-one to offer advice or lend a hand
  • No access to bulk deliveries of compost
  • Holidays can be a problem, unless your neighbours grow
  • Buying or even renting property with land attached costs more than running an allotment


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