The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

How to maximise your space for planting. Take a long hard look and think laterally.


Photo: Cutting down shrubs to create more space for flowers and vegetables

Photo: Cutting down shrubs to create more space for flowers and vegetables

“Danny I’m thinking of renting some more land. We just don’t have enough space for all our projects.”
“I’m sure that you could rent some land very easily around here but let’s wait until we have maximised the space at home first. Our land is free.”
“But we have maximised our space – increased the size of the borders and made the paths quite slim in the kitchen garden.”
“Well the forsythia in the front could go for a start. I’m having problems getting out of my car.”
He’s had it in for the forsythia for months now.

I like the forsythia but he did have a point. So we agreed to chop it virtually to the ground. This would give us some forsythia sprigs in the Spring, as it has plenty of time to throw out new growth. And we could use the extra space.

So for the past few days we have been wielding the chain saw and the long snips in the front garden. Hacking back the forsythia and the ivy that hangs in vast clumps on Next Door’s fence. Taking turns to relieve boredom.

Our shredder has already filled five 75 litre sacks and the piles that you see in the photo are about a third of what we have hacked down.

We discovered a long forgotten border – narrow but serviceable and found that the forsythia had been ten feet deep (it was also about fifteen feet long). Because I liked it I estimated that it would be a maximum of four feet deep. Thank goodness Danny wouldn’t gamble on the revealed depth. Having removed everything over the fence height we now have a lighter and ‘bigger’ front garden. The Sleeping Beauty look has finally gone.

“And of course we don’t really need a lawn.” Danny added as he paused to survey the new land. “We can keep generous sized paths and have space for far more flowers.”
“But I’ve just bought a new lawn mower.”
“Do you like mowing the lawn?”
“Not particularly.”
“Well there you go. And I’ve been looking at some of your gardening books – why aren’t we using the fences for planting in pouches? The fences in the front garden would be perfect for this.”
“What about the watering?”
“Surely you could run something up along the lines of the Drip Watering Kit that we have in the greenhouse.”

He’s right. We need to really stretch and be creative with our land before we even consider renting further afield. And I always thought that I was the practical one!

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  1. Hi All,
    It is amazing the extra 7ft you achieved, well done to both of you.
    Am interested in the ‘French intensive method of planting’,any advice please.
    Would love to try growing asparagus! is it easy to grow?
    Any ideas would be very welcome. Thankyou all at The Cottage Smallholder and everyone that contributes, love reading all the comments.
    Lv to all, Odelle X

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hello Odelle

      Yes we are delighted with the extra space. The forsythia took up 15′ x 7′ – we’ve left a bit in for the Easter tree but all the babies have been hoiked out. We’ve also extended the border – loads more stones to dig out (just 1 square meter a day). Now I have the final 6′ x 5′ to excavate. Have set two hundred Poet’s narciscus and two hundred brighly coloured anemones for a good Spring show. Very excited.

      The French, like a lot of Europeans follow biodynamic principles when it comes to planting. We have been using these principles from January this year with good results. This is the way that our ancestors approched farming before chemical fertilisers were invented. Biodynamic principles invest in the land and allow for intensive planting. We have several posts on the site about this.

      To grow good asparagus you need to prepare the ground very well and be patient. When you plant the crowns they need to mature before you can harvest the spears. We bought one year old crowns this Spring, are advised not to cut them next year and will be eating our first harvest in May/June 2012. A long wait but worth it. Homegrown asparagus is to die for. I planted my crowns using the biodynamic French intensive method. A lot of people grow asparagus in raised beds.

      Hope that this helps.

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