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Northwest Gardening: Save Space and Eat Fresh with Micro-Farming

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Try these tips for growing more food in less space: Go skinny, plant in gutters, and use hay bales.

red and green vegetables hanging in display
row of skinny trees at Floriade

By Marianne Binetti

Big ideas for small spaces were sprouting up all over at Europe’s biggest garden festival, Floriade, last year. Outdoor space may be limited for many Europeans, but the demand for high-quality, fresh food and creative ways to save space just keeps on growing. We took home a bushel of new ideas, but here are three that are easy to adapt in your own home garden.

two trees espaliered in spring garden

Get skinny. Eating fresh fruits and homegrown vegetables will help you stay thin. But you’ll also save space if you train and trim your trees and harvest from a form that is very narrow. Espalier is training a tree or shrub to grow in a flat space. You can espalier large trees like these we saw at Floriade. Or for more fruit in less space, train apple and pear trees to grow along wires or bamboo poles like this example from the Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

All espaliered or “skinny trees” will require pruning several times a year, but just imagine all that wasted space you can now turn into your own personal orchard.

strawberry plants in hay bales

Let them eat hay! The European strawberries shown here thrive in raised beds made from year-old hay bales. As the hay decays over the summer, it helps feed the plants, and when the season is over any remaining hay can become compost or mulch. You could even build these raised beds right on top of a concrete patio or driveway. You’ve heard of rich farmland turned into parking lots? Now you can be the home farmer that gets revenge -- turn parking lots (or just your driveway) back into farmland.

gutters hanging from shed roof with lettuce

Grow greens in gutters. Shallow-rooted edibles such as lettuce, arugula, and mustard greens can thrive in rain gutters re-purposed as hanging gardens. Be sure to drill drainage holes into the bottom of the gutters and check the soil daily because shallow planters dry out quickly. Water a stack of gutters by starting at the top. Then let the water drain into the lettuce-filled gutters below. You aren’t just recycling old gutters, you’ll be recycling water as well.

Check out this gutter garden from Lowe’s.