Nothing tastes as delicious as freshly picked vegetables from your own garden. But what if you only have a small space? What if you don’t have a garden at all, but only a balcony? Can you still grow fresh vegetables? The good news is that you can. You’d be amazed at just how much you can grow in a tiny area. Here are ten tips that will help you get the most out of small space vegetable gardening.
1. Plan before you start
If space is at a premium, you want to use every area to its fullest, and the best way to do that is to plan your garden carefully. Measure up, then sketch out your growing area on squared paper. Next, you can begin to plan where you’ll put the different features in your garden, such as raised beds, planters, pots etc. Once you’ve done that, plan where you’ll plant each crop according to the space it needs. It’s really worth taking time to do this so you don’t waste space.
2. Use raised beds
If you have the space, grow at least some of your vegetables in raised beds. Raised beds are great because they retain water much better, and your growing area is clearly defined, so you know exactly how many of each crop you can fit in. Check seed packets or do some online research to find out how to space your plants and to discover any special growing conditions they need.
3. Square-foot beds
Raised beds don’t have to be large. You can use small ones, or you can divide a larger one into a grid of square feet. This works very well, because you can plant different crops in each square and you can see exactly what you’re growing in each area. You might only be able to fit in one larger plant (such as a lettuce) but you could grow several radishes or beets in one square.
4. Vegetable planters
Large vegetable planters are also a good way to grow vegetables. Again, you know precisely how much space you have, and there’s the added advantage of having your crops higher up—this makes them easier to look after. You can also mix lots of different plants in one planter, so that you have a varied crop.
5. Plant pots
It’s amazing how many vegetables you can grow in standard pots. Crops such as salad leaves, chives, carrots and more can all be grown in pots. Tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplants all grow fantastically in large pots. Smaller pots can be used for small crops or herbs—you can even use recycled food cans!
6. Hanging baskets
In a small area, you need to utilize every space. This means it’s smart to plant crops such as cherry tomatoes or alpine strawberries in hanging baskets. It’s essential to keep them well watered—hanging baskets will need watering twice a day in hot dry, weather—and don’t forget to feed your plants too.
7. Grow upwards
Lots of vegetables can be trained to grow up a wall or fence. Fix horizontal wires securely, or use wide-mesh netting, and you can grow cucumbers, climbing beans, and squash very successfully. If you’re lucky enough to live where it’s semi-tropical, you could even grow fruit such as melons.
8. Vegetable bags
Vegetables will also grow beautifully in large bags. Buy commercial bags, or use old shopping bags, and you can grow all kinds of crops. This method is especially good for growing potatoes, which take up a lot of space if grown the traditional way in beds, and it also eliminates the need for “earthing up” (i.e., covering the growing potatoes with earth).
9. Choose your crops carefully
If you are really pushed for space, focus on growing a few smaller crops, or perhaps just raise a couple of bigger plants. Sharing a packet of seeds between friends is a great way to get just a few examples of space-hogging crops.
10. Grow catch crops
Lastly, some crops grow very quickly, so plant them between slower growing vegetables and you can harvest the speedy growers before the others need the space. Radishes and salad leaves are superb catch crops—grow them between tomatoes or bell peppers, and only sow a row at a time (so you don’t have too many crops ripening at once).