APRIL
2009

 

 

 

By
B. Rosie Lerner
 
Purdue Extension
Consumer
Horticulturist

 

 

 

 

 

04-16-09

Vegetable Gardening In A Small Space

Many folks would love to grow their own fresh vegetables, but perhaps they are short on space and/or time. If you've got space for a pot of flowers on the patio or balcony, then you too can grow vegetables. Here are some tips for creating and stretching a small garden space.

Preferably, you want to create a garden where conditions are ideal for growing vegetables: full sun, well-drained soil, away from trees and shrubs, close to a source of water, and reasonably level ground. But even if you're lacking in those areas, you can still garden in less-than-ideal settings.

There are several techniques for getting the most production out of a limited amount of space. Most planting charts indicate wide spaces between rows to make maintenance easier, but, instead, you can plant in shorter blocks of wide bands. Interplant a fast growing crop with a slower growing crop, so that by the time the slower grower needs more space, the faster one has been harvested. For example, mix radish and carrot seeds together when planting. Radishes grow quickly, ready to harvest in about 4 weeks, so as you harvest those, the carrots have more room. Look for dwarf varieties when choosing seed or transplants; they may be described as compact, patio, or bush-type plants. Plan to replace early crops like lettuce and radishes with beans or chard in mid summer. Most cool-season spring crops can be planted again in late summer for a fall harvest.

If your soil is too compacted or poorly drained, consider making a raised bed garden. Even raising the soil just a few inches will improve drainage of water. Raised beds also tend to warm up and dry out sooner in spring, allowing for earlier planting. And if you have limited mobility, you can even make the bed tall enough to make it more accessible, so that you don't have to bend to the ground or kneel.

Container gardening is similar to raised beds, but perhaps on a smaller scale. So, even if you have no plot of ground to till, you'll be amazed at what a few containers on the patio or balcony can produce. Container gardens tend to dry out a bit faster than a traditional ground bed, so you'll definitely need to be close to a source of water. Container gardens can be made of almost any material; plastic, clay, wood, cement or even metal. Many household items can be modified for growing plants, including tubs, crates, buckets, bushel baskets, whiskey barrels, tires, wheel barrows or cinder blocks. Your container garden is limited only by your imagination! Just make sure that whatever you use, the bottom of the container has for excess water to drain away from the roots.

If you still want more space, check to see if your local area has a community garden, where, for a reasonable fee, you can rent a small plot. Usually the plot will be tilled for you, and frequently there is a community water source for you to haul water in buckets or possibly run hoses. Community gardens are a great way to share space, resources, knowledge and perhaps even your harvest.

For more information on gardening, take a look at Purdue University Consumer Horticulture Web site at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext.

 

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Writer: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox