Can you grow £1,000 food ($1,200) in a concrete front yard?

Blank canvass for a container garden

Is it possible to grow £1,000 of food in containers in twelve months? That’s the challenge I’ve set myself to find out this year.

In the past I’ve measured harvests from a London balcony and a rented backyard in Newcastle. Now, five years and another house move later, I’m getting the scales out again.

The challenge I’ve set myself is to try and grow over £1,000 of food in twelve months from 1 May 2019. I’ll be including harvests from my north facing concrete front yard (pictured) and south facing (and somewhat overshadowed) patio. I grow in Newcastle, UK, 300 miles north of London, UK.

The front yard filled with containers growing food and flowers.
The front yard this year filled with food and flowers in containers.

Why weigh harvests?

The main aim is to highlight how much food it’s possible to grow in containers in a small concrete space.

I hope this will offer inspiration that you don’t need a large garden or an allotment to grow lots to eat!

Measuring harvests can also have other benefits as I’ve discovered. It can:

  • Help you find out which are the best crops to grow in a small space – and which are less suitable.
  • Highlight how harvests vary from month to month – providing useful info to help planning for next year.

Measuring also inspires me to try and grow more – and make the most of everything we grow. The rule is: I can only weigh what we actually eat!

Weighing a potato harvest on the trusty kitchen scales.
Weighing a potato harvest on the trusty kitchen scales.

Is it possible to grow a lot of food anywhere?

How much you can grow does, of course, depend on the size of the space you have and how suitable it is for growing (like how much sun it has). The good news is that the less space you have, the more intensively you can grow. Excellent harvests ARE possible from even very small spaces.

My current growing space is relatively large (it’s all relative – I’ve seen people on TV talking about “small” back gardens that seem huge to me!).

My patio - where I grow mainly herbs and tomatoes.
My patio – where I grow mainly herbs and tomatoes.

 

However, I’ve also grown plenty of food in much smaller spaces like a small balcony. I also know people who grow productively with just a couple of window sills.

A productive windowsill garden.
My windowsill garden in London.

Don’t you need horticultural qualifications to grow a lot?

You definitely don’t need to be highly trained to grow food at home successfully. All it takes is a willingness to give it a go, a bit of trial and error, and learning as you go. Theses balcony harvests were achieved in just my second year of proper growing – and without any formal horticultural qualifications.

Progress Updates

I am recording all the harvests in a diary. I’ll move these on to a spreadsheet in September or October to give you an interim update. Watch this space!

Your Turn

If you’ve ever weighed or quantified your growing from a small space – or would like to – I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Can you grow £1,000 food ($1,200) in a concrete front yard?”

  1. I did an experiment last year on our back garden (soil, not pots), where I was using 1 square metre to try and grow four successive crops.

    The crops were:
    1. Radish – harvested 14th-21st May.
    2. Beetroot – harvested 14-21st July.
    3. Spring Onions – harvested 3rd September.
    4. Valdor Winter Lettuce – harvested late March and early April 2021.

    Obviously, you can choose to include the leaves of radish and beetroot if you use them in either cooking or stock/soup making, but I harvested 34lb without the leaves from those four crops in one season.

    This year I am repeating the experiment but starting earlier to allow the lettuce to be mature by November. The radish harvest was 6lb before the end of April (lower yield, higher quality due to less pests) and the beetroots are now growing very well (29 plants – one was pulled out by a bird) after transplanting the day after the radish harvest.

    A few years ago, I grew 7.5lb of Sweet Candle carrots in one 17 litre polypot bag – these were competition quality in the main and there were 11 roots in the bag. The area taken up by one of those polypot bags is 0.25sqm.

    In terms of growing in very small areas, you can put 25 clumps of spring onions grown in modules into a 0.25sqm area of soil and get a daily clump of spring onions for nearly a month as a result. You can also put four chard plants in 0.25sqm area and harvest for at least two months, just picking whenever you feel like it. It’s enough for a household unless you are seriously vegan and a chard fanatic.

    Using a Quadgrow tomato growing set up (which takes up around 1sqm of space but needs a wall to support plants generally), you can easily harvest 20lb+ in a season, even if you are growing tomatoes for competition as I do using that set up.

    And if you want really, really early 1st early potatoes, you can plant them in a 10 litre pot in the middle of February, keep them indoors until they emerge (usually late March) and then harvest potatoes from mid May through to mid June (maybe 2 weeks later in Newcastle vs London) (1 pot a week) getting up to 3lb from one small pot (the yield increases each week, because judging the perfect time of mature harvest is always an inexact science with the weather being different each year).

  2. Your front garden looks so colourful and joyful! I set up 4 raised beds on my gravelled front garden this year, and although I haven’t really been weighing what I’ve picked, I know I’ve had loads of food and I’m really happy with it (and the neighbours have been making lots of ‘good life’ jokes!)

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