Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Niche gardening

When something fails on a consistent basis, no matter how hard you try - it's time for a complete rethink. This is how I feel about garden beds for growing food. They may work in other places with reliable rainfall or money spent on irrigation, but I've never had much luck with them. Even when I've had a rare year of ideal rainfall, as soon as I'm needed elsewhere, everything bolts to seed or gets infested with overgrowth. For me, garden beds are too much work which I cannot always be available for.

I still keep some garden beds though, because I like the dedicated space for experimentation - but its not something I can keep going for long periods of time. It's not rare for them to become overgrown for over 12 months.

I finally realised recently, nature had been building inexpensive growing systems for millennia - I just had to change how I thought about growing my own food, and more importantly: where!

I have more to share about niche planting in my own garden (in another post) but for now, here is a video sharing the same exploits I've been applying in place of traditional growing areas.

Plays for around 15 minutes

I thought it was filled with some really good ideas, and ultimately utilising a resource which was already there - the forest. I don't think you have to actually own a forest to get something out of the video, but it follows the lines of what I was already thinking about niche gardening. Find a niche with whatever you already have growing naturally, and exploit it. The forest provides canopy and products to sell, but buildings can also provide canopy to be exploited, without having to erect anything new. It's just a matter of observing where on that building, it gets the most sunlight or the least, then decide what might grow best in those locations.

I wonder if pumpkin vines would do well, planted just underneath a raised house? So long as they weren't planted near stairs or any other access point to the house, the pumpkin vines could virtually be ignored until it was time for harvest. The coolness under the house would stop evaporation during summer. I wonder how well watermelon would do in those growing conditions too, as they seem to be particularly fussy about moisture? If I had a raised house, I'd be experimenting with what I could grow underneath it.

Our house is built on a concrete slab instead, so I grow stuff around it - utilising the micro climate of the concrete. Really, the possibilities are limitless though. I like the thought of utilising what's already there, and seeing what a humble little plant can do to transform that space.

If you have any magic growing areas outside the traditional garden bed, please do share.


  1. I think that the most important take away from this video is the recommendation to do research on any given crop. I don't think we have a magic area that I have yet discovered anyway. I have noticed our soil varies quite a bit from spot to spot-more clay in some areas than others so I think that in our climate that is the key to success. I see where plants don't thrive as well as they could for example. I have to transplant my golden seal to another area but where it stands, the comfrey and nettles just love it.

  2. Something is up with blogger. I replied to this yesterday, and its now disappeared. I said I hope your golden seal transplants well, and if you manage to propagate any new plants from it, you could try it at different locations around the yard too. I was really happy with how well our propagation attempts went during summer. The trick was to provide heat while ensuring they didn't lose moisture.

  3. I know something is going on at my end too with Blogger. Just little quirks here and there.
    I think that the Golden Seal needs to be moved actually but it needs a lot of shade and I am trying to find an ideal location for it where I can watch it closely. I was just given a bunch of plants by my neighbor who is thinning out perennials so I am going to be busy with other things until I do find that magic spot. It doesn't seem to mind where its at but its also doesn't seem to be thriving. Just surviving.

  4. Thank you for sharing this link. I have been learning about permaculture - it just makes so much sense.

    1. Hi Tonya

      I'm glad you enjoyed the link, it gives much food for thought. I was wondering if you knew about Ben Falk, who gardens in Vermont and follows permaculture design.

      When I watched this link: I thought of you, because he often described the conditions of living in Vermont and how he struggled to grow stuff on his land. The youtube video goes for nearly 11 minutes. He has some longer ones, going over an hour, but didn't think they'd be too forgiving on dial-up.


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