One of the biggest misconceptions about growing food is that you need acres of land to feed your family. This can be true if you are trying to grow 100% of your families food, but that can be unrealistic for a lot of families without considerable planning and life arranging. If definitely can be done, but a lot of people have small plots to grow in. It is said that you need 4,000 square feet (371 square meters) of growing space and another 4,000 square feet for accessibility, pathways, storage, etc per person for someone who is vegetarian to grow 100% of their food for a year. This is a lot of space and not ideal for most people who are either in the city or suburbs with smaller plots of garden space if any. It is also not ideal for people who do not have the want or time to take on growing 100% of their families food. Some people only want to grow just enough of their favorites, we all come to growing food for our own deeply personal reasons. Some people have windows or balconies as their only growing space, others have small yards, but it is completely possible to grow some of your own food whether it’s your favorite staple vegetables/fruits or main herbs. My yard is average sized for a small city/suburban home, I am able to grow a lot of my families food with creative planning. I am sharing tips with what has worked for me personally to get more food out of a smaller growing space.
Tips for growing in small spaces:
- Grow vertically, utilizing the vertical space you have means you can grow more in a smaller area. Think about a single squash or watermelon plant, they can spread and sprawl, taking up a lot of growing space. If grown vertically they will take up less room on the ground with growth focused on moving up a trellis or other support.
- Intensively planting will allow for more crops to be grown per square foot of growing space versus row gardens. (Plant spacing on seed packets are for row gardens and not intensive planting.)
- Use every space you have by thinking about using your space in a multifunctional way. Grow edibles in your front yard (using edibles/herbs instead of ornamental plants), add containers along stairways, hanging baskets can grow many different vegetables, Greenstalk garden towers allow for a lot of growing space in one small area, balcony railings and fences can hold containers, add pots and containers wherever there is enough sunlight to grow food crops.
- Focus on soil health. Soil health is important in any sized garden, but it is even more crucial when growing intensively or when using containers. Having a lot of plants in such a small space can deplete soil nutrients faster than spaced out plants. Add organic matter like finished compost at the start of every growing season and side dress throughout the season as needed.
- Utilize shade loving/tolerant edibles for those shady spots you have to maximize your growing area. Many greens and herbs can handle lower light areas.
- Grow your essentials, especially what your family loves to eat. By focusing on growing what you love, you won’t waste space growing something that you won’t end up eating. Definitely experiment and try new things, but focus on those edibles your family loves.
- Interplant/Companion plant to maximize growth and harmony on the garden.
- Grow fast growing crops around the base of longer/slower growing plants. The smaller faster growing plants will be done and out of the way before the larger, slower growing plants take over.
- Successively sow seeds so that you always have fresh new plants to add into any open pockets that come up throughout the season. It also helps lesson the July/August rush of an overflowing garden. There are many benefits to succession planting.
- Grow cut and come again or high yield crops in the space you have. This will allow many harvests from the same spot of garden space.
- Grow flowers to welcome pollinators. Whether it’s inside your raised beds or in containers nearby, growing flowers for pollinators helps bring them to your garden and supports their needs. (Especially when you focus on native plants.)
- If you only have a window to grow on, focus on your favorite culinary herbs. You can also set up indoor grow lights and shelving to grow salad greens if you want to grow more. Don’t forget that sprouts can easily be done in any kitchen space.
I hope these tips give you some inspiration to grow in the space you have. Growing any amount of food for your family is beneficial beyond words! I would love to see the growing space you have and hear your tips for growing in a small area.
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