Working in a small space can either be viewed as a challenge, requiring creativity to make the most of what you do have. Or it can be viewed as a reason to whine about what you do not have. This is true whether you are talking about your house or your garden. I choose to view it as a challenge.
Since we live in town and our lot is not a huge one, having a large garden is not something that is possible if I still want to have room for the kids to play. I have tried to make use of spaces tucked here and there, as well as use raised beds. The raised bed garden has done okay the past few years, but I knew that it could be doing better. I was missing something.
With planting season very close at hand, I was looking for some help in taking my garden to the next level. Enter The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden, grow tons of organic vegetables in tiny spaces and containers. I have read books on having small gardens, checked out blogs about small spaces, and looked up tips and tricks. Most have told me things I already knew – go vertical, plant what you like, tuck plants in among your flower beds, etc. Or maybe they mentioned something new, but never in enough detail for me to implement it and work around problems. The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden takes the concept and layout of gardening in a small space further, giving me details that would help a small garden succeed in growing more in that space.
Growing plants pesticide free was not an intentional decision; it came out of not wanting to spend a lot of money on chemicals and learning just how bad they could be for you. For a short time, I even worked for a tree care company, applying chemicals to people’s yards. (I will not being doing that again; it really is not in line with who I am.) One of the things I learned was that a chemical was not always needed, but of course they would not sell you the service of applying soapy water to get rid of your bugs.
Not applying pesticides to my garden has not always meant there were problems. I lost parsley one year to caterpillars before I figured out what was going on. Another time I have had some trouble with squash bugs and lost two of my three zucchini plants. All together though, it has not been a difficult growing without pesticides.
Along with the decrease and final exclusion of pesticides, came the thought about fertilizers and other things added to the garden. “Are they really good for the soil? Should I use them or is there a more natural way to get the same results?” I began looking into other ways to add nutrients back into the soil, ways to garden that did not require chemicals to be added in large amounts.
I have some favorite websites to look up issues on, but often I am left trying to find someone to ask or searching pictures online to see if I can figure it out myself. While reading The Postage Stamp Garden I came across a very useful table – The Soil Nutrient Deficiency table. This will become my quick reference for those times when I am not sure what is going on with the soil. Rather than applying a general fertilizer or adding more compost in hope the issue will disappear on its own, I will be able to focus on what is lacking.
Another surprise was when I came across multiple garden layout ideas. Side notes about how you can use the space once certain plants are gone or as they are growing were even included. What a great way to help those of us who are better visual learners than auditory learners.
The Postage Stamp Garden has several other additions that I really enjoyed:
- The comparison between various animal manures is something that will be helpful, as I am looking for some right now to add to my garden beds. It is not all created equal and if I am going to go to the trouble of finding, hauling and applying it, I would like to know that my effort is resulting in what I am actually looking for.
- When talking about planting, they go beyond cool and warm weather plants and talk about planting with the phases of the moon. They do not do this to encourage you to use this method, but so that you will have the information if you do choose to use this method.
- They also talk about planting zones being on a larger scale, not able to represent all the microclimates that exist in that every garden area. To help compensate, there is a table that gives you clues in nature which you can look for to help pin point even closer when might be a good time to plant. This will help take some of the guess work out of the date ranges often found in planting dates.
- A full 93 pages of information on plants to grow! With each plant there is information included on planting, crop stretching, recommended varieties, typical problems gardeners have with these types of plants, harvesting, storage, and growing tips. I particularly found the crop stretching and typical problem section useful. This is information that I feel I have been missing these past few years to make my small garden work even better than it has been.
- Chapter 8 is titled “Controlling Pests, Diseases, and Critters”. They even cover the soap-and-water treatment I mentioned earlier. I have successfully used this to get rid of scale and was glad to see it included in this book. 6.5 pages were used to create a table helping you find the answer to, “What kind of control do you use for what pests?” No more having to search online in hopes of finding the answer among all the search results.
- The book ends with a listing of 33 various seed companies ranging from small companies to larger ones.
Karen Newcomb has made the most of the 200+ pages in this book. Within those pages she has create a great guide to gardening when you do not have a lot of room for trial and error, but want to make the most of what you do have.
I am very glad that I took the time to read through The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden and will be keeping it within easy reach during my gardening this year. In the next few weeks I hope to get the garden planted. Keeping this guide on hand will help allow me to make better use of all my spaces and to think outside of what has become ‘normal’ for me.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
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