How to plan a small urban garden

When one has less than 33 square metres with which to scratch the gardening itch, every centimetre counts and so it’s important to ensure that planning is done carefully in advance.

1. Work out what will affect your gardening
As you can see from the initial sketch below, our terraced Victorian house in London has a small typical garden with a very long side return. We’re luckily largely south-facing, but the garden is also so small that our six foot fences mean a lot of shade at the end of the day. Other factors to consider are how wide your doors open, how much space you need to leave for walkways and where you want the brunt of your growing to take place. 

2. Work out who will use the garden, and when
We are expecting a baby at the moment so I wanted to ensure that he’d have an outside space to spend time in. We also like to entertain. Both of these things mean that I’m unable to strew the entire space with pots but that I need room for a table and some comfortable lounger chairs. I’m thinking of compromising with a garden sofa that can be used as a lounger and an extendable table that will double as a potting station. 

3. Prioritise what you want to do with the space
I want to grow as much edible produce as I can, so much so that I intend to replace a large amount of our bought  fruit and vegetables with home-grown produce. But I also want somewhere quiet where we can eat and read and where the baby can nap in the shade.

4. Write everything down and then build a scale model to ensure that everything fits
So here is the final version of my plan. I like to make to-scale drawings on graph paper and then cut out little planters and greenhouses that are to scale to play around with them. It’s much cheaper to experiment with layout this way than with real planters and this helps you get a real feel for how the garden will look once it’s finished. There are also software packages available for this, but I’ve always preferred paper. I can’t wait to see the real thing!

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We farm a three acre smallholding in Hampshire, England, having fled London in pursuit of the good life for our little family. We mess about with an assorted menagerie and try to be as self-sufficient as possible in meat and fruit and vegetables whilst enjoying our plot and an outdoors lifestyle with our son. I am the luckiest person that I know.

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