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Northeast Gardening: Growing Edibles in a Small Space

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Whether you’re downsizing to a smaller yard or just coming up short on gardening space, these tips can help you maximize your harvest of vegetables and herbs.

pepper plant and plant tag

By Jane Milliman

There’s nothing like fresh veggies from your own garden -- they just taste better! But what if you’re short on space? I recently downsized and no longer have room for a “proper” garden, so I’ve been strategizing. Maybe some of my ideas can help you if you lack gardening space.

container vegetable plants on wire rack

For starters, because you have fewer plants, you can budget more for each. Buy big, beefy seedlings that are already well on their way to maturity.

tri-color sage

When choosing what to grow, first go for your favorites. There’s no sense growing tomatillos if you really don’t like them. Also, consider growing edibles that are expensive or just hard to find at the market: mesclun mixes, for instance, or herbs such as the tricolor sage (pictured).

And no matter how cute that little seedling is, keep ultimate size in mind. When space is limited, there’s no point growing zucchini when you can anticipate being offered plenty of it, probably free, come summer.

tomatoes in basket

Scores of tomato varieties are perfectly sized for small spaces, including some that can reach 8 feet tall but stay relatively slim such as ‘Jelly Bean’. They grow just fine, as long as you give them a sturdy trellis for support.

Cherry tomatoes and determinate varieties (those that reach a certain size and stop growing) are well suited to containers. When planting tomatoes in pots, throw a little lime in with the soil. Along with proper watering it helps stave off blossom end rot.

potted fig plant

In a smaller, protected space you can stretch your hardiness zone by simply keeping a bedsheet handy for those early and late frosts. And if you use containers, you can overwinter plants, such as cardoon or fig (pictured), by keeping them in the garage when the weather turns cold. Container plants also offer you the opportunity to garden on a hard surface such as patio, deck, or balcony.

purple hyacinth bean

To maximize productivity, water and feed plants regularly. If you go away, ask a neighbor to take over. Another option is to invest in self-watering containers, which have built-in reservoirs, or a drip irrigation system attached to a timer.

Look around. Is there any way you can garden up? In my neighborhood we aren’t allowed to have anything on our privacy fences. But there is no rule that says I can’t grow purple hyacinth beans (pictured) up some string attached to roof eaves. Trellises and obelisks also offer opportunities for vertical gardening.