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. You’re a proper smallholding now! Hope you’re both well. xx

  2. casalba

    Do check it out because there is also another aspect to this – I live far away, as you know, and am lucky to have one sister who lives within 5 miles of my parents and another in London. Nevertheless, just knowing that this nice chap pops over every now and then is peace of mind for us all.

  3. Michelle from Oregon

    You know Fiona, you could try upside-down instead. down planters
    It would be a great excuse to build an arbor, and then you could hang them from that.

  4. Hi, Just a thought if you’ve not got rid of all the greenery yet: why not add it to your gateside posies – that way it can pay you back for the effort of cutting it!

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Cookie Girl

    Yes we have revealed a lot of extra space but we’re still clearing up the mess. Thank goodness for the shredder! Thanks for your tips about growing stuff in pots. We are growing quite a lot of veg in pots this year and there will be a lot of homemade grow bags in the front garden now.

    Hi Pamela

    We are worn out but it has really opened up the garden so it was worth it!

    The gate side stand does best at weekends. Not taking loads of cash but just a steady gentle flow. We’re now selling our flowers at the village shop and the future looks promising there!

    Hi Paula

    Wow 7 feet each side is a lot of growing space!

    No I’m not holding out on you, all effort is going into the planting. Still a lot of work to do before we reveal to the world.

    Thanks for the book suggestion. I’d love to do one with Lynn Keddie.

    Hi Toffeapple

    Now it looks much more like the cottage I moved into 18 years ago.

    Hi Fi

    Russian vine can be horrendous. Great that you’ve enough space for your puppies.

    What a brilliant idea about swapping local land for maintenance. Perfect for when I’m a bit fitter.

    Hi Shaz

    I love your living wall! Wanted to leave a comment but the word verification image is not showing.

    Hi Louisa

    Wow thanks for all those ideas. Great lateral thinking.

    Hi Kate UK

    Yes forsythia is a thug. I cut one down in the back garden this spring and it has given us a lot more extra space.

    Hello Cathy
    A creek – how lovely. I’m envious.

    D and I don’t work together in the garden a lot as he’s very busy with indoor projects but its fun tackling a big project together. It’s the first time that I’ve used the chainsaw on my own!

    I think that you have a good point about paths and lawns. The are the backbone of a garden. If they are well trimmed (which are not here ATM) they create a sense of order.

    Hi Magic Cochin

    I did put my feet up for the entire day after!

    Thanks for sharing about the allotment. John strimmed some of my onions ages ago as I hadn’t weeded the bed.

    Hi Pamela

    It did look a bit like that!

    Hello Sue

    Although we’re growing veg in pots in the front garden I hadn’t though of using the fences Duuuh. Thank you!

    Hi Casalba

    Thanks for sharing that. When I’m fully back on my feet again I will investigate!

    Hi Tamar

    Shame that the asparagus bed didn’t work out. I planted one this year using the French intensive method of planting – so we’ve got quite a lot of crowns in a relatively small space.

    I’d rather have space than forsythia any day. But it did look great as our Easter tree!

  6. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    We took a similar step when we pulled out the groundcover in front of the shed to make way for an asparagus bed. Turns it wasn’t big enough and it didn’t get enough sun, but the principle’s the same. Who needs forsythia, anyway?

  7. casalba

    Fi’s advice is excellent. My parents can no longer take care of their garden. A chap in their village comes over, mows the lawn, trims the hedges, etc. (It was already low maintenance as they were growing older – my mum kept taking out annuals and replacing them with perennials.) They pay him for this. Then, one year she decided that she was not going to grow any more vegetables and the gardener asked if he could use that space. He keeps it neat and tidy and gives my parents any produce he can’t use himself – it’s a “win win”. A small ad in a local paper or newsagent window should do the trick.

  8. Sue Weasel

    Well done on extending your garden. Instead of pouches on your new fence, why not take the easy option and let the plants grow up it?
    You can grow sweet peas if you want cut flowers, or runner beans and climbing french beans for veggies. Or if its a sunny wall and you fancy making your own wine, how about a grape vine 🙂

  9. Pamela

    BTW, loved the Sleeping Beauty image!

  10. Magic Cochin

    Golly! Well done for maximizing the area you can cultivate. But I hope you’re not overdoing things – sit down of put your feet up.

    It is the right decision, trying to manage a plot that’s away from your home as well as working your garden, would be more than doubly hard. I once had an allotment which was in a neighbouring village – when life got very busy the lottie suffered and I got stressed feeling guilty about neglecting it. When I went to check it out, the path strimmer guy had strimmed my unweeded onions!!!!


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