Growing Your Own Food On One Square Yard Of Land


Richard Moore


March 18, 2009

Growing Your Own Food On One Square Yard Of Land

By The Naib

I grew up in the mid-west. Lots and lots of flat, open never ending flat. We industrious human have cut down just about anything and replaced it with endless acres of corn, wheat, soy, and umm…corn, wheat and soy. I grew up with a father than had a personal farm of a quarter acre, goats, chickens, pigs etc. I have always loved growing things, especially things you can eat.

My little urban garden
I have always wanted a garden of my very own, when I moved to Boston I faced a unique problem. I live in a tiny little apartment, my front yard is a road, my back yard…I don’t have a back yard. There was however a small, pathetic, and rocky square of soil tucked next to the paved street, and the concrete sidewalk. It was roughly a square yard (around a square meter). The soil was…not there. Even the weeds were having a hard time growing, it was full of rocks, and god knows what else (anyone ever change oil onto this soil, lead, mercury, who knows).

green onions
I didn’t give up, the first thing I did was go get some seeds. I started my seedlings months before it was nice enough to plant stuff outside. I laid out some shelves near a nice big bay window (who am I kidding, the ONLY window in my place), and kept them well watered. They were sitting on top of a big radiator, so that kept them warm during the cold cold night. They shot up like rockets. I planted green onions, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes. The food I eat the most.

green tomatos
Once it got a little warmer out I took a hammer (I didn’t have any garden tools) to the soil to see what was under the surface. It wasn’t good, rocks, glass, and more rocks. Raised beds were my only hope. Down the street I found an abandoned wood pallet. The planks from that pallet made a nice little border to hold the dirt I purchased from the garden center. I was not comfortable eating food that grew in nasty soil so I put a good 7 inches of soil down on top of the nasty rocky soil. I have no idea if this will keep me safe from soil nasties, but if I wanted anything to grow I would need some better soil.

zucchini through the fence
Once it got a bit nicer (no more frost danger) I took my tiny baby plants outside and gently planted them in my square yard. I immediately had a problem, too many plants, not enough space. How to solve my problem? I just planted them all right next to each other. I had no idea what that would do to my yields, but hey this was an experiment right?

zucchini flower
To my great surprise not only did my plants like their new home, they started to grow like crazy! Eventually I was forced to “thin the flock” by plucking a few of the plants, they were shading each other out. For the most part, however, I was able to get away with a very very high density of planting. A huge ass zucchini became many many muffins

And so it went, the tomatoes, and squash constantly were fighting over space. Next year I will be sure to have some sort of rack for the tomatoes to grow on, they grew up and over everything in there path. Surprisingly this did little to the other plants, they stubbornly grew up through any space not covered with tomato. The peppers and green onions especially seemed to like the slightly shadier environs.

Today’s harvest
And now as summer slowly fades into fall the best part of my little experiment has come to fruition. FRESH GARDEN PRODUCE EVERY FREAKING DAY! I come home every day to the MOST DELICIOUS tomatoes, peppers, squash and green onions. Seriously, the best tomato you have ever tasted at the store, is crap, compared to anything you grow yourself. Picking a ripe red tomato out of the warm sun, wash, sprinkle a little salt on it and prepare for a party in your mouth. Sooooo goooood.

Man thats some good food
I have made zucchini muffins, a bunch of dishes with the tomatoes, used the green onions to season a bunch of meals, and am going to make salsa from the peppers. I have started giving away tomatoes to friends. Like crack, once they have a taste they all come back for more. The best part about this garden is that the damn thing keeps pooping out food. I am going to get another couple pounds of tomatoes out of it, and a lot more peppers and green onions (the zucchini got some sort of fungus and dies this week, but not before kicking out a bunch of food).

a beautiful garden
This garden is so small that just about anyone could find this much space. I spent about 30 dollars on the whole thing, and have gotten about 10 pounds of squash, a bazzilion tomatoes, bunches of green onions, and a bushel of peppers. More than paying back my investment. I used no fertilizer, or pesticides. If you live in a concrete jungle, and have not even a small little square of land, you could do this same project in some large pots and get probably an even better yield.

[[Imagine how many seeds you could save!]]

[[Now that would be a problem for Monsanto, wouldn’t it Linn-Cole?]]