Finding Growing Spaces in the Garden: Hidden in Plain Sight

I’m always looking for more space in my yard to plant something edible. I have a big yard with lots of open space, but I also park cars in my yard during the local county fair and for a big three-day music festival that happens in July.

The conundrum

I’m torn. Do I sacrifice a car spot for more tomatoes? Do I tell someone “Sorry we are full,” just for some extra plums? No, I can’t take a parking spot for a fruiting tree or another raised bed. Financially, that wouldn’t make sense. But there are plenty of spots I can find to tuck in another blueberry bush or even a trellis. The challenge is finding those spots without creating other problems.

The inspiration

For years, I lived in the congested city of New Bedford, Massachusetts. If you are unfamiliar, New Bedford is the setting of Herman Melville’s classic, “Moby Dick.” 

Residents were disappointed when a film maker changed a line in the movie from, “New Bedforders” to “Nantucketers,” effectively stealing the spotlight from New Bedford.

Anyway, within a short time of moving there, I was struck by how much my neighbors could grow in a tiny yard of a triple decker. Sometimes I would pass a house and see only 2-square feet of ground. It would be filled with flourishing plants.

One day, I looked out my 3rd story window and saw a neighbor digging in his backyard, which was a very small space. I thought, “What in the world is he doing?” He was digging up potatoes! I had never seen a potato plant or anyone digging them up. I was fascinated.  He was flipping potatoes out of the ground like a Japanese chef flipping shrimp on a table side grill. Since that time, I often recall the resourcefulness and creativity of that community.


I always hesitate just a little bit when getting ready to commit to a new planting project. Afterall, there is a lot on the line.

  • Will this planting impede access to a part of the yard I need access to?
  • Will this planting block the sun from other plants or sun hungry windows?
  • Will the fruit this plant yields be worth my time and money?
  • Of all the hundreds of plants I can plant in this space, is this the one I most desire?
  • Can I reach this planting with the hose or a wheelbarrow?

Of all the considerations I contemplate, two rise to the top. Will I be hindering any infrastructure of my house or barn and will this addition add to the view or take away from the view?

I have been careful to know where my septic tank is, so as not to build on or near it. I know where my water pipes are so I won’t be planting any trees with deep roots where pipes run underground. And of utmost importance to me, my view takes top priority. I’m striving for Eden here. I am careful to strike a balance between production and beauty.

Examples of hidden spaces

When I started my garden, I built 12 beds. I wanted more.

I had an old, overgrown flower garden that was kind of hidden from view. I converted the garden space into one long, 30-foot raised bed for veggies! I have a property line of 150 feet between me and my neighbors. For years, a friend encouraged me to build a fence. I had to consider all the options. I kept coming back to the idea of something edible. I finally asked my neighbor if he would mind if I planted 30 blueberry bushes a couple feet from his mow line. Luckily, he approved.

Recently, I wanted another edible fence. It is coming along nicely. I used three long raised beds, in which I planted half-high blueberry bushes. I also planted strawberry plants around these new blueberry bushes to make use of the growing space the beds afford me. By all means, more strawberries! I just received two Carmine Jewel, dwarf cherry trees. These will bookend the new beds and offer a little shade and privacy.

 A little help from a friend

Recently, a friend sent me a picture and said, “Do this!”  It was a picture of a beautiful arched trellis covered in the cutest little baby pumpkins. It looked like it was straight out of a fairy tale.

I thought and I thought, for days. Where was a spot I could put a trellis? I certainly hadn’t thought of putting another one anywhere, but, after sitting with the idea for some time, I can see the spot, hiding in plain sight. It will be at one end of a brick walkway that leads to my barn.

Expanding boundaries in small spaces

Perhaps your yard is smaller than mine. No problem. There are ways to grow more.

A couple years after I built my beds, I was longing for a place to grow grapes. The previous owner had planted a few Concord grape vines on a back fence. After much neglect, most are high up on tree tops, out of reach.

The author's grapes growing on an arched trellis

After surveying the yard, I concluded, “Ah! Easy!” I bought 4 arched Trellis’ and installed them in between my original beds. Perfect! Up is obviously the way to go, the way to grow! Add a tee-pee, a tomato cage, a trellis for peas or squash to any part of the yard or garden to gain some vertical real estate.

You can throw some containers on your deck, your front porch or back porch. You can grow in a window box or along the side of your shed, garage, or your house. The possibilities are endless when we open our minds and open our eyes. Even hanging plants work!

Eden it is!

The author's rock garden; barn in the background

Giving careful thought to the layout of your property and taking into consideration all the factors that play a role in planting, begin to design your vision. Include all the obvious places first, but don’t neglect all the hidden spaces in plain sight and the wealth of benefits these hidden spaces offer.


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