Small-Space Gardening

You have the desire to garden, but not the space. Or do you? There’s no arguing that small garden spaces can present large challenges, but a combination of advance planning, creative thinking, and basic gardening know-how can help you make every inch count.

Pay Attention to the Basics (Soil and Sun)

First things first: no matter how large (or small) your garden space, if the soil in that space is poor, your yields likely will be as well. Expert gardeners agree that healthy roots and high yields start with rich organic soil so always make sure you add ample amounts of compost to your garden. But don’t stop there—adequate sunlight is just as important for plants to thrive, and sunlight can be hard to come by in small spaces. Make time to study the sun patterns of your small garden spot before you map out its contents.

Grow Up, Not Out

No matter how small your garden, you will harvest more by growing plants vertically. And the sky really is the limit if you select climbing plants. The benefits of growing up (and not out) include greater yield, easier harvesting, and the opportunity to “dress up” your garden with ornamental structures that promote climbing. Many vegetables climb naturally—or will reach skyward if so encouraged. Pole beans, climbing peas, and vine tomatoes excel at ascension, as do the ever-popular cucurbits: cucumbers, melons, and squashes, among others. Once you decide which vegetables you want to plant, turn your attention to which supports you will use to grow them. Trellises, arches, fences, cages, stakes, lattices, netting—the possibilities are limited only by your imagination and your tastes. Just be sure the tendrils of your plants can latch onto whatever material you choose.

Invest in Successions

There’s no reason to limit any given space to just one harvest, especially if that space is small. Succession planting allows you to reap even more of what you like from a single area of soil. If you really love a certain crop, plant different varieties with maturity dates that stretch throughout the season. Or if you like to sample a range of crops, try planting different vegetables one after the other: for example, follow an early-season crop like lettuce with a late-season one like eggplant. To get the most from your succession gardening efforts, remember to replenish your soil with nutrient-rich compost between plantings.

Choose High-Yield Plants

Do you really want to devote precious space to a plant that’s stingy come harvest time? If you don’t have much land to work with, prioritize productive varieties to ensure you make the most of your available land. Leaf lettuce, tomatoes (particularly indeterminate varieties), cucumbers, squashes, pepper, peas, beets, radish and pole beans all earn their keep when it comes to productivity.

Think in 3D

Imagine your garden space in three dimensions, not two. You can create more soil surface on any flat landscape by rounding it out (adding a mound and then tapering it down). Make even better use of that space by arranging your plants to maximize the number that fit in it. Avoid square patterns or rows and instead plant in triangles, making sure to adhere to the spacing guidelines and not crowd your plants too tightly.

Consider Containers

Vegetables, flowers, herbs—almost any plant can thrive in a container as long as it has the proper soil and care. When you lack lots of land, container gardening provides a viable alternative for you to maximize the space you do you have. Perhaps even better, containers come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and composition so they’ll help you embellish the nooks and crannies throughout your garden plot.

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