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.