We’re always looking for ways to grow more food in our small garden, and over the years, we’ve adopted nine strategies for maximizing our growing space. Today I thought I’d share these strategies with you in the form of nine simple tips.
The first tip is to grow in garden beds instead of rows. Growing in beds maximizes the amount of growing space relative to walking space. For example, this 4 x 8 potato bed has 32 square feet of growing space, but if it were planted in single rows with walking spaces in between, we’d only have about 16 square feet. Additional space savings can be achieved with keyhole beds, which allow access to all crops but only have a small inlet or keyhole, in the middle, thereby significantly increasing growing space relative to walking space.
The second tip is to optimize the spacing between beds and plants. We decided to make the center path in our garden only 25 inches wide,which frees up a lot of growing space, but is still wide enough to carry buckets of compost, mulch, and compost tea around the garden. Of course, if you want to use a wheelbarrow, you’ll have to make your path wider. The paths between the beds on either side of the garden are only 18 inches wide. We find this width to be just right. We can still comfortably navigate between the beds, but any narrower would be awkward.
When it comes to plant spacing, we like to plant crops as close as we can without hindering their growth. A great reference for plant spacing is Mel Bartholomew’s book “Square Foot Gardening”. We often follow Mel’s recommendations to the letter. For example, these indeterminate cherry tomatoes each occupy a square foot of space, and we prune the suckers to keep them from getting too crowded.
Tip number 3 is to grow vertically. This may be the best space saving tip of all. If you’ve ever seen a squash or pumpkin plant sprawled out on the ground,you’ll know how much space can be saved by growing vertically. We grow a wide variety of crops on trellises, including tomatoes, peas, pole beans, winter squash pumpkins, and malabar spinach. Growing these vining crops vertically frees up a lot of room for other crops. In the future, we hope to grow some non-vining crops vertically as well,using other vertical growing systems.
The fourth tip is succession planting, which is a great way to keep a bed continually producing. One example of succession planting is here in our potato bed. As the potato plants are starting to die back and the potato harvest draws near, we’re already planning what will take their place. After the harvest, we’ll plant carrots, rutabagas, beets, kale, collards, and swiss chard for a late summer and fall harvest. it’s important to consider crop rotation and not follow one crop with another related crop.
Tip number 5 is interplanting. A recent example of interplanting in our garden was when I planted sunchokes and radishes in the same bed this spring. Even though I had already fully planted the bed with sunchokes,I also planted radishes, hoping they’d mature quickly and be ready to harvest before being completely shaded out by the sunchokes. The plan worked well and the radishes were ready to harvest just as the sunchokes really started to take off.
Tip number 6 is to grow in the shade, or at least partial shade. Even if you already have a garden in full sun,you may be able to grow even more by planting leafy greens, herbs, rhubarb, paw paw trees, mushrooms, and more in partially shaded areas of your yard.
Tip number 7 is to grow food in the front yard. It’s a shame let all that space go to waste! Even if local ordinances forbid front yard vegetable gardens, you can still usually sneak in some attractive edible plants as part of your landscape.
Tip number 8 is to grow microgreens. One of the great things about a lot of leafy greens is that you can plant them much closer together than the recommended spacing on the seed package. As they develop, you can do a cut and come again harvest of microgreens,which gives you a much earlier harvest, as well as a potentially more bountiful one.
And, last but not least, tip number 9 is to grow in pots and containers. The great thing about pots and containers is that they allow you to grow where you otherwise could not. So, you can have a garden on your patio, deck, or in our case, our front steps, where we grow peppers and eggplants. So, there you have it — our nine easy tips for growing more food in a small garden. If you have more tips along these lines, please let me know in a comment and I’ll include them in a list in the description for everyone to benefit from. Well, that’s all for now. Thank you very much for watching,and until next time remember you can change the world one yard at a time.