Red Romaine Lettuce sowed densly is perfect size for smaller growing areas
Red Romaine Lettuce sowed densly is perfect size for smaller growing areas

Why do we have to supersize everything?We need to start being more innovative and solving our solutions by making things happen with what we have, don’t you think? Sarah Susanka an architect that started the Not so Big house Series  feels that we don’t need “bigger houses” we just need to “rework our space” to pay attention to how we live and what we really “need.”She does design some very expensive homes + some of her “details” are a bit more than most of us can afford, but the idea is basically “attention to detail.” When we approach a project we need to break it down and figure out what are the “needs” and not the “wants.” We don’t really have to “supersize ” everything to achieve our goals. By paying attention to the details, we can get the “right size” for our own sustainable living.

One small Benning's Green Tint Scallop Squash  is enough for small gardens if you keep them picked small...I found if you limit the amount of space devoted + select those that produce prolificly you can get the right size for your family...
One small Benning’s Green Tint Scallop Squash is enough for a small garden and produces a ton!

I think “right size” is better. We need to decide what is best for us and not follow the crowd. I use to think that I needed to go out to the country and purchase acreage to grow food. We too often look at our situation and think “if only I had more money, more space, more education, more time, more this or that or maybe your more is collecting and you just need “one more” to make that collection perfect, etc…When is enough ENOUGH? Well, I believe when you decide it is enough.

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succession planting + incorporating beautiful edibles in the landscape like red veined Sorrel makes city growing right size!

I went to a meeting last night for our local Quad City Urban Farmers and shared seeds. It was great because I heard about all the neat things they are doing in our community. I was really impressed with their growing of the garden that all the food grown was donated to Cafe on Vine which provides “free lunch time meal to the needy of the community 365 days a year.” I donated a few bags of my extra seed + told them I would like to donate extra pepper plants that I am growing out for trials this year for their garden that feeds the needy. I was so thrilled that I found a place to drop off my extra seed and plants, but the best part was I picked up locally grown melon seed from the president of the club, baseball size melons that are the “right size” for vertical growing in an urban potager.

grow vertically + pole beans are the right size for urban growing since they take up little space on a trellis...
grow vertically + pole beans are the right size for urban growing since they take up little space on a trellis…

They had an interesting collection of seeds that were from local farmers, but they were for “super-sized” growing places + the cucumbers/vegetables were just too large for my urban potager. It got me thinking on the ride home that we live in a society that supersize everything, but for urban growing our spaces are smaller. We have to find things that grow vertically and some of the older vegetables that were ‘right sized” for people with large land to grow food are not the best for our smaller growing areas, so over the years I have been trialing older heirlooms that were grown which work better in smaller spaces. We need to start being more innovative and solving our solutions by making things happen with what we have, don’t you think?

Heirloom Lemon squash is a semi-bush type squash that is resistant to pests + would work great in a small are or container since it produces quite a bit of lemons size squashes!
Heirloom Lemon squash is a semi-bush type squash that is resistant to pests + would work great in a small area or container since it produces quite a bit of lemon size squashes!

We just have to be patient and learn to live within our means and we won’t need to “supersize ” since we will find through our own discovery the “right size” for us.

Written by Robbie

M.S. Education, , Organic Gardener, soil + nature lover, former modern dancer

49 comments

  1. What a great organisation that is, Cafe on Vine….what a joyful thing to read about Robbie. and obviously a very inspiring meeting for you, I wish we had groups like that here. We are fortunate to have the room here to grow wildly and size is not an issue but vertical growing would add another dimension we would like to explore.

    Your photos are virtual eye candy Robbie, just beautiful. I do love to visit here!!!!!

    1. 🙂 thank you Wendy, but I have not been able to even start my growing here in the midwest-usa:-(There is no “eye candy” out there right now,but I did get peas started + no one has eaten them yet:-) Yes, isn’t that a good organization. I always grow WAY more peppers + tomatoes than I can fit in my space, so I found a place to take them locally. They have a garden at a church in Davenport that grows out the vegetables with volunteers, and then they drop the fresh produce off at Cafe On the Vine. I was thrilled, my little babies won’t go to waste or trying to get people to take my extra! I have put in more vertical this year, so I opened up another area for a new strawberry patch, more currents, more blueberries + more raspberries! Vertical gets it off the ground and the produce is a bit easier to grow. Plus easier on your back!lol

      1. Easy on the back is good at this age 🙂

        It’s nice to find a place that can use produce or seedlings. We have a soup kitchen kind of place in town that will take any excess people grow and what they can’t use is put out for people to just take, along with bread etc from a local supermarket. They are such worthy places to share in and it’s good to know our excesses can be used.

  2. Yes, to choose the right size is less stressful I think. Good luck with your garden this year.

  3. This is a great post. I think you are part of a wave that is sweeping the land! People are connecting their food with their health, they want fresh/sustainable and are finding they can have it wherever they live. Since 3/4 of the population now live in densely populated areas, their demand for seeds and plants for small area growing will create the market. How sweet that your little extra ‘babies’ are going out to feed the needy – a double blessing!

    1. You are so right! Eliza- you just know how to say it ALL in one great paragraph:-) I agree this is not a trend + I am so glad people are making changes.
      I always feel badly after I plant my garden + my extra tomato + pepper seedlings have no home:-( I start them from seed every year + it makes me feel good when they go to people that really need them or want to use them for food. Makes ALL the work worth it:-)

  4. Right size is my middle name! Well, sort of. 😉 I am in full support of this concept!!! PS, Robbie my arty friend, pls let me know what you think of my video from 4/1/14. 🙂

  5. I really love this post, Robbie. One of the things I encourage organic gardeners to do is to *garden smaller.* Chemical interventions are something invented to make make larger and larger plots possible. The bigger and more sprawling a garden is, the more tempting it is to reach for the spray bottle. Even the “organic” spray bottle. So bravo to your message! Keep fighting the good fight to spread the word!

    1. and you too!!! Good advice about “garden smaller”…that makes sense. In fact I am doing that more this year+ thinking up! Since I am using more vertical I am finding I have “enough” for our family:-)
      I am excited to read about your new additions to your garden this year with your wonderful gift:-) My daffodils are poking through the soil, snow peas + cole crops are out,but waiting for our warm weather of maybe 60 this weekend!!

  6. Really great post! I loved the garden choices for small spaces. I think we waste some of our space (we have so much, it makes it easy to waste, you know?). The part about smaller houses, totally agree. But it reminded me about when I was growing up, our house was so small, the 4 of us kids drove mom crazy. She made us go outside to play all the time because of it. Kids rarely play outside these days. Of course, it helps to live in a climate that makes it possible! We were living in S. California at the time.

    1. Hi Julieanna:-) we are thawing out now, how about you up north:-) I read your post that one day + you were really under the snow! White every where:-)It is muddy out there, but spring is coming! I know we moved closer to work back in the late 90’s, but saved for this home , so we don’t have debt. We just have to live with some of the 70’s decorations + you know pink bathrooms/harvest gold + avocado green are coming back-lol. I know living there and having year round food would be a lot better than how we are all battling this weather this year. I got my snow peas in this week ( seedlings),and so far no one has eaten anthing!!! fingers crossed:-)

  7. Great post, thanks Robbie. I agree we should appreciate what we have and stop trying to “improve” our lives with bigger and better houses and gardens. Ten years ago I downsized my house and I’m ready to do it again. We really don’t need lots of extra space. I love your vegetable garden. You are doing great things. Love to you from Jenna

    1. thank you Jenna:-) It really was an eye-opener for me when I found myself “wanting” more space, when I really did not “need” more space. I thought more land would be what I needed, but I did not need it. I am married to a “packrat”,but I have learned how to just let him be him:-) He is scaling down,too, but in his own way:-) My last child moved out this summer + now it is just a matter of clearing out all the stuff we don’t need anymore. I would like to downsize, but I do work from home, so I need the extra space. I had to give my son my office when he was in high school, so now I have it back! We live in an urban area and as we get older I am enjoying being closer to things that don’t require a car as much or the tank of gas lasts a month or more!

  8. This is a fabulous post! I am so pleased I waited to get home and have time to read it properly!

    You are so inspirational in the subjects you choose to write about and your photographs, as Wendy mentioned, are such pleasing eye candy! I agree with everything you have said – the global [well western anyway] obsession with bigger is better has proven to be such a load of crock that even some of the most dedicated materialists are catching on now too which is most pleasing 🙂

    I have recently had a personal epiphany in realising that I do not have to wait until I get my ‘cottage by the sea’ dream to come true to live the lifestyle I dream of. Here and now is good enough and dreaming of bigger and better is a waste of my daylight hours! Hence my planning for a small, vertical garden which is in no small part thanks to your hope-filled posts and the blogs of Wendy and Fran and Alys – I love our blogging community 🙂

    1. Hi Pauline:-) aww…”eye candy” is easy when the subjects are naturally beautiful:-) USA “McMansions” need to disappear! I like the older neighborhoods that have smaller homes + larger lots. I am so excited about your vertical garden! I am finding that by going vertical, I have more space than ever which means I can squeeze a few more strawberry plants in since the resident raccoon keeps eating most of mine! Vertical is easier on your back + you can squeeze a lot in a smaller space if you go vertical. That is why I decided to just do what I wanted to do where I was..hmmm…hope that makes sense-lol. I live for today + tomorrow is not on my mind that much anymore…create where we are with what we have!

  9. Love this post, Robbie! You are so right, we live in a bigger, bigger, bigger society that it boggle one’s mind. These mega houses with only 2 or 3 people living in them is crazy. I come from a large family and we lived in an average home and did just fine. The powers that be, then transfer this thinking onto gardening by making people think they have to have a large space to grow any kind of food. Hopefully people are catching on. It will not only be good for people to learn to live with less, not to mention ease the load on the earth and environment. And as always….love your pics! 🙂

    1. Hi Annie:-) I get that “boggled feeling ” when I see those magazines that always have people taking “us” on tours of their huge acreage, and tons of gardens that have endless space. I noticed even urban Farm magazine was getting that way,too, so I quit reading that one,too. I quit buying magazines years ago, and I no longer feel that way. I see them on the stands and just walk on by…most of us do not live in places with acreage + we need to start reinventing the smaller garden + let people know we can do it on less land + like you said better for the environment. We can grow food in smaller space, by making our landscape edible! The area I cleared last summer, I decided to put in “top hat” blueberry bushes, ligonberry bushes, more strawberries,currents+ cranberries! By reworking my urban potager and going vertical I have more space! I just had to think outside the box!

  10. A lovely post and such beautiful images :). I have the duck on slug duty at the moment so hopefully some of the seedlings that I planted will struggle through and become winter veggies this year. First winter veggies planted on Serendipity Farm and very exciting. 🙂

    1. aww…I stopped by your blog + remember meeting you through Wendy’s blog. You have a great blog-Serendipidity Farm=great name!You are a writer, but I tend to be a bit shorter with my words + more with the pictures…I am a visual learner. It is my sweet spot!Place I feel best:-), so thank you for enjoying the photos, I am still learning + can’t wait to take more this summer:-) I tried my veggies in pots last winter, but this winter I am going to get into “microgreens”. I have been reading a lot about them and the research confirms the first seedling leaves pack a nutritional punch! My oldest daughter lives in UK right now,but she will be trying them in her apartment since I sent ther the book about them. I am hoping she will post here on her findings on the microgreens. I find them tasty,but for the summer I will grow some to top my salads, however this late winter I will be growing more:-)….They are just to expensive to buy,but so easy to grow inside:-) It is exciting to have veggies inside. I had kale + swiss chard until January + it was a blast to harvest from my south facing room…yum!

      1. Have you ever tried sunflower greens? Delish! I haven’t ever grown micro greens as I eat a LOT of veggies and would need about an acre to give me enough but if they are anything like sprouts they will pack a fair whack of goodness in each mouthful. Steve is from the U.K. and the price of fruit and veggies (fresh) over there is horrendous (depending on where you live). We lived for 6 weeks on frozen food and came back 5kg heavier each! Cheese is cheap over there so we ate frozen foods and as much cheese as we could scoff…not a recipe for healthy bodies 😉

      2. No I have never tried sunflower greens? What are those? I grow sun flowers in the gardens,but that sounds interesting:-) I was only interested in microgreens for fresh eating from January to April since I usually have fresh greens from our own garden/under lights.The interesting thing about microgreens “They found that leaves from almost all of the microgreens had four to six times more nutrients than the mature leaves of the same plant. But there was variation among them – red cabbage was highest in vitamin C, for instance, while the green daikon radish microgreens had the most vitamin E” Here, is the research

        http://agnr.umd.edu/news/mighty-microgreens

        I meant to do a post this past winter, but just got busy starting all my plants, so did not get around to it:-)
        My daughter’s husband is from Sweden, so they will be moving to Stockholm. She is anxious to get away from Uk, but she does get what is called a CSA here in USA. They call it a weekly”veggie box” or something like that. I was talking to her on the phone the other day, and she told me it is a new program that delievers these boxes which are filled with fresh veggies like purple sprouting broccoli, beets etc…
        I love veggies + I must confess cheese is a weakness that I have had to learn to control-lol..yum! You are right too much of that is not a good thing!

      3. Sunflower sprouts/greens are absolutely delicious. The very best flavoured sprout around in my opinion. Easy to grow and very tasty to eat in salads etc. I don’t doubt that your daughter wants to get away from the U.K. it is a very crowded place indeed. We were only there for 6 weeks (that makes the 5kg weight gain a little bit more impressive 😉 ) but when we got back to Western Australia we fell on salads and veggies like mad creatures. We went to the U.K. in their winter and came back at the height of our summer

      4. lol ” 5kg weight gain” in 6 weeks:-) I could manage that with all my “bad habit” eating! Yes, I think they are tired of living there + want to be closer to family. I look forward to visiting them in Sweden someday:-)

  11. This post inspires me so much, Robbie! I may have mentioned I moved from a quarter acre garden to a small burb-size garden. It HAS to be enough. And you make me know that it can be. Vertical is the direction I’m heading 🙂 I’ve been saying I don’t need to grow much because there’s “just the two of us” yet, thinking outside of my own little box–there are plenty “feed the hungry” groups in my area that I’m sure would love my surplus. I can really grow to my hearts content. Thank you for the reminder ♥

    1. I am still learning + have gone even more vertical this summer. It frees up so much space. Here, are two books I have used:-)

      http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/vertical-gardening-derek-fell/1100667287?ean=9781605290836

      http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/garden-up-smart-vertical-gardening-for-small-and-large-spaces-susan-morrison/1112366749?ean=978159

      I am finding that there are a lot of people that find growing food difficult due to health reasons. I have a friend that has MS, so I will be trying a tomato called
      “Rosella Purple Tomato” which is from the dwarf tomato project for people in small spaces. They say it is a full purple/black tomato with great taste that can grow in a container!
      Yes, you can grow till your hearts content + it will make a difference in your life and others:-) Happy Gardening:-) I look forward to reading all about your new vertical adventure:-)

      1. A purple-black tomato. That would add a little interest to some pasta dishes! Where I live in Oregon they tuck small gardens in all over. A lot of elementary schools have garden beds on the grounds for the kids to work in, too. The smaller space gardening will be fun for me . Your book recommendations come at the perfect time–thanks!

      2. Definitely will. Also, we have the famous Powell’s Book Store here and they have incredible inventory in used books 🙂

  12. What an excellent post Robbie. I totally agree with you. Living within a small garden myself I really have to follow your sage advice and do things on a smaller scale. I’d love to plant big redwoods but I definitely don’t have room. That’s why I grow so many dwarfs. And we only have so much space for our veggies so we try our best to fill the space with the things we most like to eat and that do the best for us. I have so much to learn from you about seed collecting and storage. You do such an excellent job of it all. I really enjoy your writing as well as seeing the pictures of your wonderful produce and the food you can grow. You’re my model for a conscientious and skilled pottager gardener. 🙂
    Hoping Spring is coming on well for you now…. The seed swap sounded great!
    Steve

    1. You are too kind:-)Steve you do create a big space within in a small space. I am in awe of how you make it look HUGE as you take people on your tour. Your plants all fit together as if they were there forever!!!You inspire me to think of how I can live a “bigger garden” in my small space. You are my mentor! I was thinking of you this spring as I added some new plants to our landscape. I thought of how you have these curving paths + one just gets a glimpse of what is ahead to invite you to turn a corner. You make it look so natural + I can only hope I can do it half as well as you! It is so great we all have things we can teach one another, and let me tell you that most of what I learn is from my mistakes over the years-lol…much as life in general!

  13. I lived on nearly two acres in Maine and used to think “oh, what a garden I could have had!” but the truth is I enjoy my 1/4 of an acre garden even more because I use the space and it is close to me. It is just the right size but you might catch me saying I need more space every now and then! Ha ha.

    1. Oh that makes me feel sooo much better!! I like your comment ” I use the space and it is close to me”. I never thought of it that way, but you are so right!!!!

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