By Jodi Torpey
Don’t let a lack of gardening space stop you from planting your own fresh fruits and vegetables. After years of growing vegetables and herbs in the smallest of spaces, I’ve learned it’s possible to grow edibles just about anywhere.
My small-space vegetable bed is only 40 square feet (5x8 feet), but I harvest bushels of homegrown vegetables every season. Within that small space I can plant six tomato plants, two dozen garlic bulbs, three kinds of squash, two tomatillo plants, and any herbs I desire.
The key to successful vegetable gardening in the Mountain region is to select short-season varieties, plant in the warmest spot in your yard, and give them room to grow. If you want to grow tomatoes, it helps to plant a selection of small and large types, as well as heirlooms and hybrids.
Even though I have a small vegetable bed, I always plant a patio container garden too. Containers are what I call “square-inch gardens” because they can fit into any sunny spot, they’re portable, and they’re easy to plant and maintain.
Anything that holds soil has the potential for planting. Try bushel baskets, window boxes, old metal washtubs, and recycled food-grade plastic buckets. Make sure the opening is at least 12 inches wide, drill drainage holes in the bottom, and match the mature plant’s size to the container. Fill with a good-quality potting soil, sprinkle in a slow-release fertilizer, and water regularly to get the best results.
Another way to make the most of your small-space vegetable garden is succession planting—following one crop with another. An example of succession planting is when I sow peas in early spring and replace them with bush beans after the peas have fizzled out with warmer weather.
If you garden in a raised vegetable bed, start by planting in small blocks. Replant every two weeks for a continuous crop that takes up less space but offers a longer harvest of fresh vegetables.
Another way to take advantage of all available planting space is interplanting, also called intercropping. There aren’t any rules when it comes to mixing and matching fruiting plants with flowering ones. Peppers, chard, cabbage, and herbs complement any flowerbed.
What are some other ways for making the most of your small-space vegetable garden?