We may have dreams of living on acres of land and growing enough food from our gardens to feed our family for the whole year, but more often than not, we are gardening in small spaces and life is pulling us in different directions. Knowing how to maximize your growing space, whatever it’s size, will allow you to grow more food for your family.
Soil Health – Focus on soil health, it is the foundation of a thriving garden. When your soil is healthy the plants you grow in that soil will be healthy and nutrient rich. You can increase soil health by adding 2-3 inches of organic matter to the top of your soil before each season or new planting. I follow and teach no dig methods of gardening for ultimate soil health. This includes top dressing/mulching my gardens with organic, finished compost from a quality source. I do not make enough compost to reliably/consistently use only compost from my garden, so I buy compost from trusted sources. (This will be changing soon.) Finding a quality source for compost is a must, don’t be afraid to ask questions about where it is sourced from and make sure it is organic. When we focus on soil health versus just feeding the plants it’s like if we were to eat whole food, organic meals instead of only eating junk foods that don’t sustain us for the plants. Thriving soil = thriving plants = thriving people.
Grow Vertically – Install trellises where you can, keeping in mind where sunlight will land. You do not want to block smaller or shorter plants from getting enough sunlight throughout the day. When growing vertically, choose plants that love to grow up a trellis. Think about peas, pole beans and indeterminate varieties of tomatoes, etc. You can grow cucumbers up a trellis as well as squash. Keep in mind some squash varieties or melons will need some support when the fruit gets large. (There are many DIY options for this.) I use cattle panels for my trellises as well as wood sticks/poles meant for gardening. You can also try your hand at growing the three sisters: corn, pole beans and squash to help maximize space. Some plants will need a guiding hand to grow up a trellis and others will naturally climb. All you have to do is help them get established then start to weave them through the trellis as they grow.
Grow Intensively – Utilizing intensive planting whether it is square foot gardening methods or another version of intensive planting will help you get the most from your growing space. I have used square foot gardening (SGF) spacing guidelines for years in my garden to get the most amount of plants into my garden. Sometimes I switch it up from growing in squares to growing in rows, depending on how I am feeling when I create my garden plan. It also helps keep me excited when I change things up, but either way I always use SFG spacing guidelines. With growing intensively, you must harvest often to keep plants happy and healthy. Harvesting often also signals plants to keep producing.
Succession Sow – Along with intensive planting, succession sowing will help keep the harvests coming. Having fresh newly started plants to replace older plants is incredibly beneficial when you have a small space for your garden. Not only does it keep harvests coming, but the new plants are better able to fend off any disease or pest pressure than older plants. You can do this in a couple of different ways: sowing seeds for a specific variety at staggered times (every 2 weeks, etc.) or sowing different varieties that have different days to maturity (smaller, quick growing tomatoes all the way through to bigger varieties that take longer, or squash that matures faster versus another variety that takes longer, the same goes for peppers.) When you stagger plantings of the same variety, go into it knowing that you will have open/bare spaces in your garden until you plant/sow the succession plants there. I suggest you try succession sowing by mapping out days to maturity for your favorite varieties as well as spacing the sowing of seeds from the same variety.
Choose High Yield Varieties – Whether you utilize any of the above suggestions, choosing high yield foods to grow will have a big impact on the amount of food you can harvest form your garden. I love growing things that are cut and come again for greens of any kind, salad greens, chard, kale, collards, etc. Always harvest from the bottom up/outside in and only take about a third of the plant at a time to allow it to keep growing. Select indeterminate/pole varieties as they will produce all season versus determinate varieties that generally give you a flush of food at once. Grow plants that give you multiple vegetables or fruits versus single vegetables or fruits. You can also grow fast maturing things like beets because their days to maturity is pretty quick, plus you will usually get more than one beet per seed sown. Something like cabbage that will give you a singular head and takes a while to grow may be best purchased at your local farmers market instead of taking up valuable space in your small garden. When choosing high yield varieties, you will really be making the most of your growing space.
You can make the most of small spaces by utilizing these gardening tips and methods. If you have other methods to make the most of your small garden space, please share in the comments. We can always learn from each other! If you need 1:1 guidance about growing in your garden, book a garden coaching session: Garden Coaching