Lucinda Dyer, author of Eco-Horsekeeping: Over 100 Budget-Friendly Ways You and Your Horse Can Save the Planet, shares these great tips for transforming barnside gardens and containers into beautiful, edible, organic crops.

Instead of planting flowers around the barn this spring, consider something that’s both colorful and edible…vegetables and melons. Gone are the days when gardens demanded a quarter acre and a plow. These days, you can raise a bumper crop of great organic produce–everything from tomatoes and snap beans to radishes and squash–in a few square feet of soil or even a container.

There is now a literal truck load of books on the market about how to create a mini-garden, but these are two of my favorites: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space by the elder statesman of small space gardening, Mel Bartholomew; and The Bountiful Container by Rose Marie Nichols McGee and Maggie Stuckey.

The best melons I’ve ever eaten were grown in my friend Michelle’s compost piles. Okay, so she is English and we know they can garden anywhere, but as melons are fertilizer and water hogs, a compost pile is the ideal place to grow everything from cantaloupes to watermelon. Here’s how:

Select a spot that gets lots of sun and not a lot of wind–melons don’t like being chilly.

Create 2 to 3 foot “mounds” of approximately 50% soil and 50% aged compost (it must be ripe aged compost or the melons will feel like they’re in a deep fryer) and site the mounds 4 to 6 feet apart.

Plant your melon seeds 1 inch deep. Thin the seedlings so you have two plants per mound.

Give each mound 1 to 2 inches of water a week, especially while the fruit is maturing.

Since planting times and variety of melon you can grow will vary from region to region, consult your local Extension Office or garden center if you have any questions.

Check out Lucinda's book!

Eco Note: To make your gardening even greener, recycle gently used muck buckets (just remember to put holes in the bottom for drainage) as containers and instead of dumping your water buckets in the driveway, use that water on your veggies and melons. I cover all this as well as provide detailed plans for starting and maintaining compost in my book Eco-Horsekeeping.

Thanks for the tip, Lucinda! Seems like the perfect way to find the time to grow your own garden–weeding, watering, and tending in between riding lessons and grooming sessions. Watch this blog for more eco-tips from Lucinda in the months to come.