Vegetable Gardening in a Small Space
Who doesn’t love a freshly picked tomato in the summer or a cool head of lettuce in the spring? Fresh vegetables taste great and are good for you. More and more people are looking to grow their own vegetables in order to experience fresh produce.
You might think that a large yard is required for a vegetable garden, but with proper planning you can grow a garden in even the most limited of spaces. It’s an easy process, and you might find yourself surprised with how much you can grow with so little!
Here Comes the Sun
Every garden needs sun. Ideally, you want your plot of land to access sunlight as it crosses the sky along the southern horizon. If you are sun-challenged, there are a few vegetables that can survive in limited sunlight, such as:
- Swiss chard
- Mustard greens
But if you want to grow tomatoes, squash, corn and other common vegetables, they will need hours of daily direct sun.
Supply the Water
Vegetables need a regular supply of water. Drip irrigation is always a possibility, but hand-watering can also adequately tend to a small-space garden with only a few buckets of water. For proper planning, get your water tested to determine the pH and mineral content. That will help you know which plants will thrive.
When growing vegetables in a small space, you must think in three dimensions. As long as they are properly supported, you can grow cucumbers, squash, and other vine-like plants vertically. These plants are strong enough to support the vegetables when they start to grow. A lattice is often the perfect tool for growing vine vegetables vertically, but there are other methods.
Grow Vegetables During the Whole Season
In many climates, you can grow vegetables from March to October. To maximize limited space, grow different crops throughout the season. For example, in the early season you can plant peas and lettuce. During the summer, you can grow tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers. In the fall, you can plant spinach and broccoli. This will produce a harvest of multiple crops during the year and help you get the most of a small garden plot.
It’s possible to increase your yield from a small garden by planting vegetables that compliment each other. You can have shade-tolerant plants be covered by tall plants. Lettuce can be planted almost year-round if it is covered in shade during the warm months. Talk to an expert at your local garden center for advice on plants that might work well together.
Make Sure Soil is Good
Your garden is only as good as the soil, and with a small garden you have a smaller margin for error. Before planting, test the soil so you know what you’re working with. Your local extension office can often provide the service, but there are also soil-testing kits available for purchase. You want to ensure the soil is as nutrient-dense with organic material as possible. Usually, a strong way to start is by mixing manure into the soil, which adds nitrogen. Next, add some sort of composted material like leaves or grass. Sand can help the soil drain better, and cover crops can improve the soil.
Square Foot Garden Book
Mel Bartholomew turned the art of limited-space gardening into a science with his best-selling book, Square Foot Gardening. The book teaches growers how to break down a garden into 12-by-12 plots and maximize the amount of food grown. When done correctly, Bartholomew’s technique requires 20 percent of the space of a traditional row garden and uses 10 percent of the water. For instance, he figured out how to harvest 32 carrots, 12 bunches of leaf lettuce, 18 bunches of spinach, 16 radishes, 16 scallions, nine Japanese turnips, five pounds of peas, four heads of romaine lettuce, one head of cauliflower and one of broccoli in only two months.
“I garden with a salad bowl in mind, not a wheelbarrow,” he once said.