This has been a frightening year for many of us. Things have changed almost beyond recognition. For many people jobs, expectations and plans have shifted in alarming ways. My husband and I realized that we needed to make some drastic economies in our budget and to begin to think about growing at least some of our own food.
This was all very well as an idea but we had little space and little money to spend on infrastructure. We went out and looked at the possible space – and very gloomy and unappetizing it looked!
It was obvious that we could only use the left-hand side of the area shown in the picture because the sun never gets to the right-hand side. So we were talking about a ground space of about 14 feet by 10 feet (if we lifted the paving stones). It made sense, therefore, to think in terms of going upwards, so that we could pack more into the space.
So then we had a look at the area my husband calls the storeroom (and I call the junk heap) to see what materials we had that might be useful in constructing “shelves” of some sort. There were all sorts of possible and maybes – and then I saw an old, metal, kids’ jungle gym that had been used to hold shelves. I knew it was just what I needed to hold my vegetable shelves. The shelves could be made with frames from old, wooden poles (of which we had a large supply).
We removed the invasive creeper on the fence of the area we planned to rehabilitate, lifted paving stones and constructed the new shelves in situ. Here is the result. (The black plastic sheet is to keep the irrigation water we planned to spray on the shelves rather than into the neighbors’ yard.)
We imported compost and prepared a veggie bed in the ground below the shelves.
Now we needed containers to populate the shelves above. It turns out I had a large collection of old plastic buckets and basins with broken rims and splits but good enough to hold some soil and be useful plant containers. Many of them needed to have drain holes burn into their bottoms to prevent water-logging.
Heated kebab skewers proved to be ideal for making these holes.
There followed that semi-frustrating, semi-exciting period of growing various seeds to fill the containers!
Nearly three months after we had set off the shelves looked like this and we were happily harvesting salad leaves for every meal. The hanging bottles (with scoops cut in them to hold plants) that I had thought were such a good idea for conserving space proved to be a bad idea. Somehow they always seemed to be facing in the wrong direction to receive water and they seemed to cramp the plants. I had sweet potatoes planted in the tire stack to the left but they took ages to show up. (The two paving stones on the ground are for planting your feet on when you are attending to the stuff on the shelves – so that you don’t accidentally stand on something that is trying to grow at ground level.)
Now the bottom level is coming along well with lettuces and tomatoes going strong. The garlic, ginger and turmeric plants around the edges have not really shown up yet but the sweet potatoes are loving their tire stack.
We still have a long way to go and are daily working out better ways of managing things. But I just want to remind you what this exact spot looked like about 4 months ago!