What is Small Scale Gardening?
You might be new to gardening, a grizzled veteran of many summers or new to this Small Scale Gardening platform, and you might be asking that very question. After all, what can you really do with a small garden? Can you grow anything in a small garden? What is the point? After all, bigger is ALWAYS better!
Au contraire, my friends!
In this post and episode, I am defining Small Scale Gardening, and I discuss why it could be a game-changer for new gardeners; veteran gardeners; older or physically challenged gardeners; and renters. This post and podcast episode will serve as a framework for future gardening projects, articles, podcast episodes and videos.
The American Myth: Bigger is Better
If you live in America or watch American media, you know that bigger is always better, right? Who wants to have something small, anyway? It permeates our culture, our media, our lifestyles, our careers and even our identities.
It is all around us; we hear it all the time. Chances are, you have heard the following phrases or sayings in you everyday life:
- The bigger, the better
- More is better
- Bigger is better in Texas
- Go big or go home
- It’s never enough
- The Big Game
- Supersize me
This is a myth created by a consumer-driven, throw-away society. We live in a fast-paced, chaotic and turbulent modern age. We can’t seem to sit still for a few minutes, and when we do, we are wolfing down a Triple Decker Whopper with supersized fries and gallon of Diet Coke while watching The Big Game!
We are taught from an early age that bigger is indeed better, and this concept (or meme) is manifest in many parts of our lives. We want a big job with a bigger salary and title, so we can drive a massive SUV and park it in a four-car garage of our mansion. If it is broken, we throw it away and buy the new version. It is too expensive to actually fix that piece of plastic, and you want the new, flashy one, right?
I am stretching it a bit, but you get my point. We want it all, and it is never enough!
What is Small Scale Gardening?
Today, however, I am making a different case to ditch the American Myth that “Bigger is ALWAYS Better.” I am talking about shifting your mindset and bucking the trends of this American society. In fact, I am making a case for completely downsizing your garden.
What is Small Scale Gardening?
Small Scale Gardening is a state of mind. I am marrying minimalism (intentionally living with only the things I really need) with gardening. I am talking about starting small, managing what we have, and doing that small thing VERY well.
Small Scale Gardening is a concept that focuses on enjoying gardening by using available space wisely, maximizing production and minimizing garden maintenance.
Small Scale Gardening includes container gardens, raised bed gardens, Wicking Bed Gardens, Rain Gutter Grow Systems, hydroponic systems and vertical gardens. We use our space wisely, and this concept promotes flexibility and production in a small space. These systems can be used anywhere: in our yard, on our patio, in an allotment, on a deck, or on a driveway!
We can grow a garden anywhere as long as we provide the three elements necessary to grow plants: light, water and nutrients. The beauty is that we manufacture our soil, have a raised bed system of some kind, have a self-watering planter system and use vertical space to our advantage.
Initially, we do not have massive, sprawling gardens in our yards or on our properties. Instead, we have compact and very productive gardens. As you gain knowledge and experience over time, you can expand your garden area as long as you can effectively manage it. The choice to expand is yours; there is no timeline or specific point where you can or should expand. That is up to you!
Who would benefit from Small Scale Gardening?
- When you are new to gardening, you can start right from the start and have success.
- If you are a veteran gardener, I am reaching out to you and showing you how to improve your methods and chances for success.
- You might be an older person or have physical challenges, and this is how to garden successfully while minimizing maintenance.
- When you are a renter or homeowner with a Homeowners Association, there are ways to grow vegetables and herbs successfully!
Does this sound too good to be true?
Perhaps it does, but I can tell you from experience that my success rate gardening is far greater than it used to be once upon a time.
Let’s discuss these different groups of people who would benefit from Small Scale Gardening and why they would benefit from this method of gardening.
I started blogging in 2014 on Small Scale Gardening. I started podcasting in 2015 on Small Scale Life. In the following years, I have had e-mails and questions in my Small Scale Gardening Facebook Group and Small Scale Life Facebook Groups from new gardeners asking about where and how to start. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute and think about it:
- What method of gardening should I use?
- How big should it be?
- Should I till the soil, build a raised bed, or do something different?
- Where do you get your seedlings?
- Where do I get the soil?
- What is Back to Eden Gardening or Mittleider Gardening?
- How often do I need to water these plants?
- Should I plant north-to-south or east-to-west?
- How often do I need to weed?
- Why is my garden looking like a weed patch?
- Why do I have such a Black Thumb and kill all of my plants?
- What is this Rain Gutter Grow System and Wicking Bed Gardening you keep talking about?
- The list goes on and on.
Do these questions sound familiar? Of course they do! I am positively certain that many you have these questions and more, and you might be too overwhelmed to ask!
It’s ok. Really, it is! That’s why I am here.
Look, Small Scale Gardening will help you. The concept is that we are starting small. We don’t need a massive garden and need to grow ALL THE THINGS. We don’t have the space, so that limits the infinite choices of bed types and plants that you will be growing.
After all, infinite choice is no choice at all. It just leads to confusion.
My goal, therefore, is to gently nudge you towards giving gardening, Small Scale Gardening, a try. Start small and build on your success. You don’t need a sprawling garden to start. Chances are very high that you will end up with an unsightly weed patch, lots of money spent and lots of tears shed for minimal return.
Start small. Learn from small gardens, small mistakes and small wins. You don’t have to be big to be productive and happy!
You are the gardener that is a wise veteran of many a sunny summer, many a battle with blight and many a war against pesky weeds. You have had success, but you have to admit you have had many lost battles along the way.
- The hornworm ate your prized tomato plants before harvest.
- The squash borers turned your zucchini plants into sawdust.
- The weeds….oh yes, the weeds. Enough said!
You have been there and done that Thinking about Gardening Season gets you excited this time of year, but then reality sets in and steals your joy.
- Does your rototiller work?
- Do you want to pull weeds in the 100 degree weather?
- Do you worry if the plants have enough water when you go on vacation in July and dog days of August?
- How do you manage that massive cherry tomato plant in your garden?
- You did all this work and get this meager harvest?
These are just some of the questions. These are the issues that steal your joy.
Look, there are no magic bullets for a perfect harvest. There are no special spells to banish pests and stop blight. I am not a perfect gardener. If you have followed me, you know I have fought pests, blight, creatures and my own stupidity.
However, I have to tell you, using a Small Scale Gardening concept will increase your harvest and decrease your workload in the garden. Using Wicking Bed Gardens and Rain Gutter Grow Systems will remove that work and worry about watering.
You don’t have to kill yourself with a massive garden or farm to have a productive and excellent harvest! You can grow a lot of food in a small space, you just need to change your mindset and perspective about it!
Older or Physically Challenged Gardeners
My grandmothers had gardens and canned until they were well into their 80’s. My surviving grandmother stopped gardening a few years ago. It was too much work, and constantly weeding the traditional garden was too hard on her back.
At the same time, it can be treacherous getting around the garden. Vines, plants, hoses, materials, equipment get in the way, and all of these are potential deadly tripping hazards. Having raised beds in the form of Wicking Beds or Rain Gutter Grow Systems reduces the risk of tripping over hoses, vines and plants.
In addition, Older and Physically Challenged Gardeners could benefit from the Small Scale Gardening. Downsizing and using highly productive Wicking Beds or Rain Gutter Grow Systems will almost eliminate the weeds and work associated with traditional gardening. At the same time, but elevating these garden beds or using vertical gardening and trellising, you can bring the plants and their harvest to you. This will eliminate bending over for long periods of time. This will save on the aches and pains after working in your garden!
Gardening in apartment buildings or rental homes can be extremely difficult. As a former renter, I took a lot of liberty and did a lot of work to improve the landowner’s property to install a garden. In retrospect, it was foolish to put that much work and sweat equity into something I didn’t own. I never had permission to clean up “The Wild Area” install the garden, and I always knew that someday I would have to remove the soil and raised beds I built and created. Click on this text to read about clearing “The Wild Area.”
Small Scale Gardening is ideal for renters and for homeowners with a strict Homeowners Association (HOA). You can create incredibly productive gardens on decks, patios and driveways that are aesthetically pleasing. We can build productive gardens that are ready to be moved in case your lease comes up or as the weather changes!
A great example of this is the Rain Gutter Grow Systems I built and used on my driveway at my rental home in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. I grew incredible amounts of produce and herbs on my driveway! I designed these gardens so they could be removed each fall, so we could shovel and store snow in the winter. Each spring, I would reinstall the Rain Gutter Grow Systems on the driveway and begin to grow vegetables and herbs again!
Our Journey Begins….
There are countless ways and methods to garden. As I tell students and people every year:
“You can grow plants anywhere and in anything as long as you provide the three basic elements of light, water and nutrients.”
As we begin on our Small Scale Gardening journey together, I wanted to define what Small Scale Gardening is. It will serve as a framework for future projects, articles, podcast episodes and videos.
My mission is to inspire you to try one or more elements of Small Scale Gardening. You don’t have a black thumb. You can grow where ever you are.
You just need to learn, do, grow and be a little better everyday!