Fruit, Veg & Wildlife in a Smaller Garden

Our garden is not very big, and we have three different priorities for it: fruit and veg growing; wildlife; somewhere to sit and entertain. So, we’ve had to be creative with space.


To highlight 2021 Open Food Gardens summer programme this blog is about growing food at home by local gardeners, Nigel Harvey and Clare Hobba. They paint a picture of what food is possible to grow in a small garden when approached with a love of nature and a desire to #GrowYourOwn.  


Re-imagining the front garden #growyourown

For most people, a front garden is an area that we keep neat for the sake of others, but don’t get much benefit from. 

We use our front garden for growing fruit and veg

However, we use our front garden for growing fruit and veg at home.  Paths and low walls add structure, so it doesn’t look untidy. Bright flowers and shrubs grow round the edge and attract insects.    

Artichokes, gooseberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants and whitecurrants grow on one side; kale (curly, and black), beetroot, garlic and courgettes on the other. Not to mention dwarf versions of pear, apple and plum trees.  We kept a small cotoneaster tree which was in the garden before we arrived and it provides nectar for bees in summer and berries for redwing in winter.  All of that, just in the front!

“to save space we like anything that climbs upwards”

Gardening at the back

At the back, another patch yields kohl rabi, French beans, lettuce and chard.  In the little greenhouse, Nigel grows chilli and bell peppers, aubergines, cucumbers and three varieties of tomatoes, On the patio we also have physalis and cucamelons.  Patio pots also hold a great variety of culinary herbs.  

Vertical Growing

To save space, we like anything that climbs upwards and are experimenting with ivy gourd, tayberry and even a kiwi fruit vine. 

Watering, compost and fertilising

The plants are watered mostly from four large water butts which collect rain from the roof.  We make compost in a bin tucked behind the greenhouse and supplement it with llama poo from a local farm.

Gardening for nature

“the small pond attracts newts and frogs”

Insects are attracted by profusely flowering plants such as the hot-lips salvia. Bug and bee hotels offer them the chance to stay and to hibernate. Similarly, the small pond attracts newts and frogs. Nearby a pile of old wood and tiles gives them somewhere to over-winter.  All manner of birds arrive for the birdbath and squirrel-proofed feeders.  And we still have enough space for some seating from which to watch them!

Clare Hobba

Bug Hotel at the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust Wild Garden in St Albans

Want to know more?

How to Build a Bug Hotel

Pollinator Plants for insects

Recycled Wood for Garden Projects in St Albans

Vertical Veg Growing

Open Food Gardens Summer Programme 2021

Want to visit more food gardens?  Sustainable St Albans runs a summer programme of Open Food Gardens. It is like Open Gardens but with food growing too! These aren’t perfect show gardens, they are real gardens, owned and shared by real people, all of whom share a love of growing their own fruit and veg.  You can drop in for ten minutes or stay for two hours.  Find the dates of this year’s open gardens plus a range of videos on our website.

See the 2020 video tour of this garden below – but why not visit it on Sunday 20 June to see how it’s doing for this year – and talk to the gardeners yourself.

Open Food Gardens programme 2021

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