By now you’re probably conjuring images of lusty tomato plants wearing pasties. Fuck yes. What a pleasant daydream, and also a great business idea (note to self…). So go ahead. Take a moment to really let that image sink in.
Ready to move on? Oh, okay, I’ll give you another minute.
You guys are twisted. I like that.
“Dear BMG, what is the best edible to grow in an alley in a narrow patch alongside a garage?”
Well, first off, this is awesome because she’s now abbreviating “Bad Mama Genny” to “BMG,” which naturally makes me “The Notorious BMG.” At least, I hope it does. ‘Cause I’m kinda diggin’ the street cred that no doubt comes along with such a badass name.
Secondly, it’s awesome because HELLO, misfits, she’s interested in capitalizing on an unused strip of land and homesteading the shit out of it!
And really, that’s what we’re all about here: homesteading the shit out of things.
So after some clarification about the size of the strip and the amount of light it receives, we established that she’s dealing with a 2 foot by 10 foot strip of land on the west side of the alley, which translates to plenty of morning sun exposure.
Misfits, she could do a lot with this space. She could do a hell of a lot with this space.
So after I finished wetting myself at the prospect of additional land to exploit (sexy!), I got to work. Let me show you how you can grow a ton of food in a small space. Here’s what I had to say:
2 feet by 10 feet? Hardly a challenge! You can grow a lot there; things you wouldn’t want to grow include plants that get insanely bushy and spread out, like indeterminate tomatoes, vine-style squash, or conventionally-grown fruit trees. But since it’s morning sun, let’s put your less heat-loving plants there. That way they get everything they need early in the day and can recover in the afternoon and evening if they were overexposed. I’m thinking things like lettuce, cabbages, cauliflower, chard, peas and green beans (both bush and vine type). While you could technically fit some bush-type squash in there, I wouldn’t recommend it. They have spines on the leaves that can irritate your bare skin, so you may get a temporary itchy rash if you brush past them in bare legs.
Other ideas include dwarf blueberry bushes (no thorns, stay nice and compact, gorgeous ornamental coloring), onions, and garlic. Strawberry patches are a great idea, too (why not plant a mix of early-bearing, late-bearing, and everbearing for a continuous harvest?). Grape vines and fruit trees are entirely possible in that space as well–if you grow them espalier style and train them to snake along the wall.
If you think you’ve got the sun to support heat-loving plants (we’re talking at least 6 hours of direct sun per day), peppers and eggplants stay compact and actually produce more when they’re “holding hands,” or packed fairly close together. Another heat-friendly idea–a wall o’ cucumbers.
Let’s think about how some of these things can be executed:
*Cabbages and Cauliflower–Each require about a square foot of space–a 2 x 10 foot space laid out grid style means you can grow 20 cabbages in that strip! Your very own cabbage patch. Plant some anise around it if you want to keep cabbage moths at bay naturally.
*Bok Choy–Each plant require a six inch square…so 40 bok choy!
*Beans and Peas–Depending on the variety, you’ll plant these between 1 and 2 inches apart, with poles or a nylon net strung up for support. That means you’ve got room for A TON of beans and peas! Plus, you’ll be able to say that your “STRIP” is flashing some “SERIOUS LEGUME.” Get it?! Get it?!?! Ahaha, I’m totally killin’ it.
*Fruit Trees–When trained espalier style, these require lots of horizontal spread, but not much depth–let’s say two dwarf pear or peach trees for that 2′ by 10′ space.
*Peppers or Eggplants: Give ’em eighteen inch squares to grow in–so only 1 row, but spaced a foot and a half apart like that, it’s about 6 or 7 eggplant/pepper plants!
*Onions: Sure, spring onions are space-efficient, but bulbs are, too, and even a large, crazy-sexy specimen like Heirloom Red Wethersfields only need 4 inches of space in each direction. A strip as large as yours could accommodate enough onions to braid and hang in your kitchen come fall!
Those are just a few thoughts, and there’s an endless number of combinations you could pull off. How about a pickle garden, with cucumbers trained up the trellis and alternating garlic and dill in front? Or peas and pearl onions, which can and freeze (and cook!) so well together? Or a root vegetable patch, with baby radishes, exotic carrots, and golden and red beets? A kraut garden with cabbages, carrots, and onions? A gourmet salad patch with baby greens, sugar snap peas, cut-and-come-again leaf lettuces, kale, radishes, and edible flowers, like nasturtiums?
Any questions, just ask!
Bad Mama Genny
Well, misfits, I’m not gonna kid myself–I kicked the shit out of that question. But there are so many more ideas out there–really, we’re just grazing the tip of the iceberg. What would you do with that kind of space? What are you considering doing with your teeny strip of unused land? Anything you’d like to try, but you’re not sure if it’s possible? (Hint: it probably is, I’ve probably tried it, and you should probably ask me.)
Much love and big red kisses to every one of you adorable, huggable weirdos!
Bad Mama Genny