By Jodi Torpey
I’ve always enjoyed the convenience of stepping out my backdoor to snip some chives, pick a handful of tomatoes, or snap a cucumber off the vine while preparing supper. There are many summers when my container kitchen garden produces much more than the small vegetable bed in the backyard.
Now it looks like my container garden is part of a growing trend. Small-space vegetable gardening is gaining in popularity with urban dwellers, empty nesters, and anyone who wants to grow their own fresh vegetables and herbs.
If you have a spot on your patio, balcony, or deck that gets between 6 to 8 hours of sun a day, you can have a kitchen garden, too.
It’s easy to plant a container of fancy mixed greens to use raw or toss into a stir-fry dish. Fill a container with potting soil to an inch below the rim, evenly sprinkle a packet of lettuce, arugula, or spinach seeds over the soil, and then cover with a light layer of soil and water gently. Seeds will sprout in just 7–14 days.
Another idea for spring vegetable planting is sowing ‘French Breakfast’ radish seeds. Radishes are one of the fastest growing vegetables, and they can be planted in a shallow container. Keep planting seeds for a continuous crop until the weather gets too warm.
Seed companies and plant breeders are responding to the need of urbanites, downsizers, and new gardeners who want fruit and vegetable varieties that grow in small spaces. Some of these innovations include personal-size melons and sweet corn specially bred to grow in containers.
When shopping for your small-space or container garden, look for varieties that include terms like dwarf, mini, tiny, and bush-type in their names. Plants like ‘Baby Belle’ mini red peppers will grow especially well in a small-space garden.
Garden suppliers are also meeting the needs of small-space gardeners with all kinds of vertical gardening products. Growing vertically saves valuable garden space without compromising quality. Trellises are good for growing any vining crop, such as peas, beans, and cucumbers.
If you’d like to make the most of a small garden bed, try planting a square-foot garden. This method was made popular in the 1980s by Mel Bartholomew, and now an updated version of his best-selling book is inspiring a new crop of small-space gardeners.
What are your top tips for small-space vegetable gardening? Please share your ideas here.