FROM the intimate potager gardens of the monastic period to the rolling acres of the 18th and 19th centuries and back again to the small plots of land that we now call our modern gardens, history has a strange habit of repeating itself and so we are having to find ways to manage our ever smaller gardens for family, flowers and food production.

With this thought in mind, I have offered a number of ideas for you to consider as ways of maximising whatever small space you have so that you can satisfy the three core factors of your garden – family, flowers and food – in whichever priority order you choose.

Vertical space is often not used to its full potential in gardens, whether against the house, a shed or other outbuilding or the garden boundary walls, fences or even hedges.

As each vertical surface will, by definition, face only one direction, careful choice of what might thrive in any one orientation is essential – a fan trained red currant on a shady side of a garden shed or a number of cordon trained apples on a west facing fence would be productive use of the space, but a little research of each plants requirements is required to get it right.

Shrubs and trees are often planted as specimens or as a component in a border but are seldom used as climbing frames for other plants – instead, we plant clematis up an alien house wall, often with poor results.

Plant a rambling rose at the base of any medium to large garden tree and see the effect in a few years time.

Plant a spring flowering clematis through any decent sized deciduous shrub and the effect can be stunning. Ensure that the climber is not too vigorous so that the tree or shrub is not buried under the excessive growth – careful research again is required to get this right.

In very small gardens the lawn is probably more trouble than it is worth and removing it can open up all sorts of possibilities for food production, patios, flower beds and gravel gardens, removing that weekly nightmare of mowing and the expense of fertilisers, moss killers, weedkillers, scarifiers and a whole lot more.

Storage can be a problem in smaller properties and gardening equipment is often the largest of all the DIY tools.

Consider making wooden seats in the garden underneath which are storage boxes for all those long handled tools, pots, bags of compost, garden and other bulky items.

The storage can be locked for security and all those bits and bobs will be easily accessible when required in the garden.

With modern designs for tall, narrow glasshouses and cold frames, additional protected growing areas do not have to take up lots of space and can help you to use the productive parts of the garden much better.

Check out or call 01246 451077 for a catalogue – you will be amazed at what is available.

Raised beds have become popular for vegetable growing in recent years but if you raise them up to 750mm – 900mm (2.5 – 3ins) they become extra seating as well as being more useful for small trees, fruit bushes, larger vegetables, herbs and more flowers.

They can be used as dividers in the garden and can have taller upright corner posts for climbers if you choose.

If you have devised your own ideas to manage your small piece of England, why not write to me at Graham’s small gardens, big ideas, Features Office, Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Queen Street South, Huddersfield, HD1 3DU.