Erin Doman on March 25, 2016 2 Comments Tiny living takes some creativity, and gardening in a tiny space is no different. Just as there is no one-size-fits-all way to build a tiny home, fit your family into a 400 sq. ft. space, or manage a harmonious lifestyle in said space without losing your mind, you can’t simply find a perfect blueprint for your tiny garden somewhere on eBay. It takes flexibility, perseverance, and a whole lot of planning. But with this tiny house gardening guide, you can avoid some common pitfalls that many first-time tiny gardeners make and get your own garden off to a solid start this spring. 1. Start Small If this is your first garden ever, don’t expect to grow enough food to cut your grocery bill in half this first year. Pick three or four types of vegetables that your family already eats in abundance, and keep your dreams of gardening grandeur in check until you have experienced at least one gardening season. No matter how many eBooks you have read that say you can feed an army in a 100 sq. ft. plot, don’t expect it to happen at first. Keeping your expectations realistic now will keep you from burning out halfway through the summer, or ending up with a yard full of wilted lettuce, crispy tomatoes, and moldy beans. 2. Research Tiny House Gardening Planning is key to the success of any gardening project, but this is especially true for a tiny garden, where every bit of space counts. Before you ever pick up a shovel or a spade, head to your local library and research the plants that you want to grow. You will also want to study the area where you will be growing, both by observing your surroundings and by talking to neighboring gardeners. Although research is a tedious business for the vast majority of us, you will feel much more sure of yourself when it comes time to break ground if you take the time to learn now. As you start your research, here are some questions that you will need answers to: What are the water, soil, temperature, and sunlight requirements for each plant? What are some popular companion plants, and which plants should be placed far apart? What pests commonly attack the plants you hope to grow? Are there any homemade or store-bought organic pest control options for them? Are there plenty of pollinators in your area? How well does your soil drain, and is it too acidic or alkaline? Observing the grasses and weeds that already grow in your gardening space can help you decide where to plant what. Dandelions, for example, are nitrogen-fixers, so if you have lots of dandelions then your soil probably has plenty of nitrogen. If you are a composter, you know that nitrogen is a very important element in any garden. Curly dock and goldenrod are common wet soil plants, so veggies that need good drainage probably won’t grow well if your yard sports these weeds. But don’t start yanking them out just yet–many of these soil indicators also have medicinal properties, so you may want to consider an alternative type of garden and keep your weeds where they are. 3. Consider Alternative Types of Gardens While there’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned garden plot, many tiny house gardeners are turning to less traditional methods to make the most of their limited gardening space. An alternative garden design may cost a little bit more at the start, but it will pay off when your plants grow the way they are supposed to and you don’t have to spend hours battling fungus, pests, and soil-bourne diseases. Potted gardens are extremely popular. Vegetables like tomatoes often perform well in a grow box where they are allowed to grow down, rather than having to stake them up, while climbing plants like pole beans will twist around twine if you don’t happen to have a trellis handy. Note that sprawling plants, such as squash or cucumbers, may not perform as well in pots. Raised beds, cinder block gardens, and even gardens grown in straw bales are some other choices that could be perfect for your growing needs. 4. Don’t Hesitate, Don’t Jump the Gun Finally, it’s time to start planting! After thoroughly researching all the veggies you hope to plant, determining what style of garden is best for your space, and getting your seeds and other necessities safely to your home, you should have a pretty good idea of what you are doing. However, improper timing can ruin all of your efforts. If your soil or growing medium is too cold, your seeds may not germinate, so for the majority of your plants you will want to wait until after the last frost to put them in the ground. If you wait too long, however, your crop may not be quite ready come harvest time. You might also consider planting by the moon’s phases. If so, it is a good idea to invest in a farmer’s almanac–it will take a lot of the guesswork out of when to plant what. 5. Start a Tiny House Gardening Notebook As the season progresses, you may want to start a gardening notebook to record your experiences and to help keep you on track. Have a page–or three!–for each plant that you grow, and write down anything that you think you’ll want to remember next year. The types of fertilizers and soil additives you used, the pests and diseases that attacked your luscious veggies, the pest and disease control methods that worked (and those that didn’t), are all just a few of the things that you may want to write down. After your first summer of tiny house gardening, you will come out on the other end better prepared for next year’s adventures and ready to start adding more plants. In fact, with the right combination of determination, patience, research, and planning, in just a few more summers you’ll be a tiny house gardening veteran, helping someone else get their first garden off to a healthy and wholesome start. In the meantime, remember that like life, gardening is a process, so make sure to enjoy the process while you can.