One way to garden as a resident of a tiny house without land, is to lay a bag of potting soil on its side, and cut out a rectangle in the top surface, leaving the edges intact to create a “box” with which to contain the soil. Shallow rooted vegetables, such as lettuce, do quite well.
Vegetables with longer roots, can be planted in an upcycled container, with a bit more depth. As long as it is non-toxic, can hold soil, and drains adequately, almost any container is suitable. Grouped together, containers of growing vegetables can form an attractive edible and portable landscaping, around your tiny house.
Stood upright and opened at the top, a bag of potting soil is suitable for planting a single tomato plant. It may be helpful to know if the tomato is a determinate variety, meaning the tomato plant will grow to a certain size and stop, or an indeterminate, meaning that tomato plant will continue to grow.
In my own garden, indeterminate tomatoes grow to over 6 feet in height, requiring that they be staked. If you must stake a tomato plant, it is best to do it at the time of planting, so as not to disturb the growing roots, as they grow. Strips of recycled pantyhose work well to tie the vines to the stake. Don’t forget to poke small drainage holes at the bottom of the bag to prevent soggy roots.
My favorite method for growing a tiny house garden is using the Square Foot Garden method in a raised bed. The Square Foot Garden method was developed by an engineer named Mel Bartholomew. Dividing a raised bed into a grid pattern of one-foot squares, allows seeds or starter plants to be spaced according to the expected size of the adult plant. For instance, carrots and radishes can be planted more densely than cabbages.
Unlike my grandfather’s gardens, which were plowed with farm equipment and maintained with a tiller, the Square Foot Garden method is an easy way to grow highly productive vegetable garden outside your tiny house. Climbing vegetables, such a cucumbers and squash, can be trained to grow vertically in a Square Foot Garden, thereby saving precious horizontal space. As planting and harvest times vary, it is easy to rotate your crops using the Square Foot Garden method, to maximize productivity.
Furthermore, the Square Foot Garden method makes very efficient use of water, for those living where conservation is essential. Added mulch can enhance water conversation and discourage the growth of weeds. As well, weeds find it difficult to grow where plants are tightly spaced and shade the soil.
The best part about the Square Foot Garden method is that there is no expensive equipment to purchase and maintain. Simple hand tools such as a spade, a rake, and a trowel may be the only tools that are required.
For individuals with mobility issues, such as kneeling or bending, a Square Foot Salad Table may be a solution. This works well for people with arthritis and wheelchair bound individuals. This method also works well for the rest of us where one must completely contain the soil. The University of Maryland offers free instruction plans to download from their website.
I might add a note of caution against using railroad ties, or other types of treated wood, such as landscaping timbers or recycled pallets raised beds, as toxins may leach into the soil, which plants will ultimately uptake through their roots.
Mel Bartholomew developed a recipe, called Mel’s Mix, that many people use for their Square Foot Garden beds. Mix equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite, and compost. It is recommended to use several kinds of compost to provide a wide range of nutrients for the plants, such as worm castings, poultry manure, cow manure, and mushroom compost. Peat moss and vermiculite help retain water.
Mel’s Mix can be easily mixed on a tarp and transferred to the raised bed itself. At the time of purchase, peat moss is compressed into a bale. You will need to break it up, so that it is light and fluffy. Your local garden center may recommend that you amend the Mel’s Mix with oyster shell calcium and azomite trace mineral fertilizer. Remember, what nourishes the plants will ultimately nourish you!
Hopefully, I have eliminated any excuses to growing a tiny house garden, even if you have no land. Now is the time to dig out those garden seed catalogs and start planning for the season ahead. Even if your tiny house is on wheels, your tiny house garden can be as portable as your residence.
Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com