How self sufficient can you be with only a small courtyard garden in the UK? | My urban homestead life

 If you've been following my blog or Youtube channel for a while now you'll be aware that though I dream of one day having acres of land. In reality I only have a small courtyard garden in the South West of the UK. We are in the coastal town of Seaton in Devon just a short walk from the beach. 

I have no ground space in the courtyard, only space for planters and pots. I'm often asked how I manage to grow so much food for the family in such a small space. The answer is, I don't grow it all at home. I'm lucky enough to have small half size allotment plot in addition to my small courtyard garden so I grow 75% of what we grow there and 25% of it at home. 

If the garden was a private one then I would dedicate the whole space to growing food for the family but it isn't it is on public view year round due to it being adjoined to my shop rather than our maisonette. This means that I want it to look inviting to customers browsing the shop at the same time as feeding the family and being as ecologically and nature friendly as possible. That is a lot of demands for a small space. I'm always thinking about new ways to make the space more productive, I'd love to be able to have chickens in the courtyard for example but practically I don't think it would work. Though there would be space for two chickens they wouldn't have as much freedom to roam as I would like so I've opted to wait until we move into our dream small holding before getting any chickens. In the meantime I'm focusing on growing as much food for the family as possible, to eat fresh and to preserve. 

When it comes to being self sufficient we are a long way off but there are some things that this year we've made great progress on. 

One of the things it is pretty easy to become self sufficient in quickly is herbs. We grow a fantastic selection of herbs in the garden in one raised planter and a couple of large pots. We only grow herbs that we like to eat. We use them fresh when in season and I dry them to store and use through the winter too. 

Peppermint tea is also something easy to become self sufficient in. I use Applemint which grows in abundance in the herb planter. I use it fresh when in season and then dry some for winter use. 

Basil has been a great success this year, I've grown two varieties which taste fantastic with our homegrown tomatoes. 

I usually have around 8 to 12 tomato plants growing in the garden each year. This provides a good crop between July and September but doesn't give us enough to preserve. I have an additional 15 tomato plants at the allotment and they help to keep us going in fresh tomatoes (we eat a lot of salad) To be fully self sufficient in tomatoes all year round we'd need to grow even more for preserving. 

Cucumbers we grow for two main uses, fresh in salads and to pickle for use as gherkins. There are two plants in the garden which provide a brilliant crop, enough to pickle for use for around 12 months which takes us on to the following season that we can grow them. The plants at the allotment then provide us with enough to use between July and September in salads. Unfortunately we do rely on store bought cucumbers when out of season though we do try to use alternatives instead of salad during the winter months. 

In early July the salad lettuce was doing really well, unfortunately we've used it all up and the follow up sowing of lettuce seeds haven't done as well so we've not been very self sufficient in lettuce. I'm going to work harder next year to keep on top of the succession sowing so we have a longer period of lettuce to crop. 

We are self sufficient in raspberries thanks to some really heavy cropping plants at the allotment and one in the garden. I refuse to pay the over inflated prices of store bought raspberries so we freeze the crop and take out the berries as and when we needs them. 

We are also self sufficient in blackcurrants, again because I refuse to buy them through the year. We have two current bushes on the allotment plot which we harvest and freeze. 

Our plum tree hasn't been doing too well in the past few years suffering with some sort of illness which means the majority of the plums go bad. I think there is some sort of bug effecting them. In the years before we were getting a great harvest to use fresh, freeze and make jams with. 

This year I purchased a pear, apple, fig and cherry tree so that hopefully in the coming years we can be more self sufficient with fruits. I would love to have nuts trees too one day. Each of them are dwarf varieties so that they can grow in large planters in the garden. Hopefully by the time they get too big we'll have our small holding! 

In terms of water collecting to water the garden we have two water buts which through most of the year is all we need to keep everything healthy however in July and August, when we get barely any rain, we do have to use mains water (which I hate doing, it is quite expensive) so we are not in any way self sufficient with water yet. 

We are not yet very self sufficient here but we are trying and we are working towards more improvements each year and that is what matters. I know that if we had more money and space we would be able to do much more, quicker, but I'm grateful for what we have now. 


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