Get the most out of your small garden

Private Property South Africa
Jackie Gray-Parker

In line with increasing property, construction and living costs in general, the average size of properties and gardens in South Africa is slowly but surely shrinking. Today, many home-owners find themselves faced with trying to get the most out of a small garden which, although challenging, can be rewarding.

One of the challenges which small gardens present is the fact that, by and large, the entire garden can be viewed at a glance. As such, it will be seen as a complete composition, thereby forcing you to pay attention to detail. You will also have to come to terms with the fact that you won’t be able to plant every plant or tree you would like to, and that every plant will need to serve a purpose.

In terms of colour, gardening experts explain that colour should be toned down somewhat in small gardens which lends itself to greater cohesion and makes small gardens appear larger. As for the ‘pros’ working in favour of small gardens, it is infinitely easier to design small gardens; it takes fewer plants to create a dramatic effect; they are easier to maintain and re-work and can be easily enclosed.

Those seeking to grow their own vegetables need not despair. Typically, vegetable seeds are cheap and for those seeking ways to cut back on food costs and become more environmentally friendly, planting edibles is a smart way to get the most out of any garden. Chances are you’ll be surprised at just how much such plants will add to a small space and how much your garden will yield come ‘harvest time’.

Indeed, all it takes is a sunny window sill, patio or balcony to cultivate edible plants. Window boxes and containers are amongst the most effective ‘tools’ in a gardener’s arsenal when it comes to growing veggies in small spaces. Herbs and trailing edibles such as strawberries take particularly well to containers and groups of containers featuring plants of complementary textures, colours and tastes can be easily created. Self-watering containers have proven popular in recent years as they are cost-effective and practically hassle-free. You can also maximise your small garden space by going vertical. Vine plants such as squash or cherry tomato thrive when trained up a trellis or similar vertical structure. Large cool drink bottles, cinder blocks, coconut shells and shipping pallets all have one thing in common: they all make for space saving, economical planters.

Cool drink bottles can be hung up or arranged in tight corners and are great for growing herbs. Cinder blocks can be arranged separately or as a small ‘wall’, filled with soil and planted with shallow root herbs and vegetables. Coconut shells are easy to clean out and drill holes into and all you have to do to a shipping pallet is nail some cool drink bottles to it to create your own mini herb garden.

Lastly, don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to set aside a specific portion of your already limited garden space for vegetables and the like. You can incorporate some edible plants which are just as aesthetically pleasing as ornamental plants into your garden. Peppers, cilantro, coriander, basil, rosemary and thyme are just a few examples of edible plants which can be incorporated with ease.

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