You’d love to live the good life, growing your own produce and feasting on the fruits of your labours. There’s only one problem: your garden’s the size of a postage stamp. Here’s how to live the dream – our guide to making even the smallest of outside spaces productive.
Rotate crops, be imaginative with planting!
Keep the crops coming throughout the growing season by thinking differently about what you plant, and how and when you plant it. Forget the traditional idea of neat rows of monocrops – you can be more creative than that.
Got a small garden? Downsize your choices to match. You’ll still have plenty of delicious fresh fruit and veg to eat, it just won’t be very big. But size isn’t everything. Why would you dedicate your entire growing area to potatoes when you can buy them cheaply at the supermarket?
Instead, go for produce that commands a premium at the shops, but takes up little room. Herbs are an obvious choice; you can grow them in a window box if necessary. Rosemary, thyme and sage prefer well drained soil and plenty of sunlight, but there are plenty of herbs that thrive in the shade too: chives, mint, parsley and fennel are just a few.
Garlic, spring onions, chillies, shallots and cherry tomatoes take up little space but pack a flavour punch. And don’t forget beetroot, a great choice for small scale gardeners because you can eat the greens first, then later in the season, tuck into the beets.
Fast growing plants
The quicker your plants grow, the more crop seasons you’ll be able to harvest from the same plot of land. Radishes, for example, are ready to eat in just 45 days and can be sown throughout the growing season.
Early season croppers are another option because they’ll be ready for harvest in the spring, giving you plenty of time to get another crop in for the summer. Plant early potatoes then replace with runner beans or mangetout. You can grow these vertically to save even more space and they add nitrogen to the soil, feeding it ready for your next crop.
Plants that keep producing
Sowing salad greens, spinach, chard and kale is a great use of precious space, because as long as you’re careful not to over trim, you can keep harvesting leaves from the same plant all season long.
The same goes for brassicas like purple sprouting broccoli – the perfect option for a small veg patch because it’s so expensive to buy, and will be ready to pick during the early spring when little else is ready.
Also consider other long-cropping plants like peas and beans, and don’t forget fruit trees which you can train up walls or plant in containers. Dwarf varieties are ideal for planting in tubs – they take up little space and yet will keep you in sweet, tasty, full-sized fruit all summer long.
Go high, go low
Plant your beds so that taller sun loving plants like tomatoes, sweet corn and cane fruits like raspberries and blackcurrants can enjoy the sunshine while shade loving plants like salads, rocket, onions and Swiss chard thrive in the shadows.
And don’t forget to use the space between plants that won’t crop immediately. Brussels sprouts, cabbages, kale and broccoli are sown in the spring and early summer and overwintered for harvest early the following year.
Put your plug plants in, and once established, fill the spaces in between with salad leaves which will be long gone by the time your broccoli needs the space.
Vertical spaces are a growing opportunity not to be missed. Canes, trellises, walls – even doors can be hung with plant pockets for growing your own delicious strawberries, salad leaves and herbs. Pergolas are a great way to support heavier climbing plants, or invest in a pergola arbour seat and train climbing fruit and veg up and over the top.
If you feel adventurous, consider crops like cucumber, squashes, and even pumpkins. Plant them in a large container of rich soil, train them onto a trellis, and remember to support the growing fruit with nets – you don’t want to fall foul of a falling gourd.
If you lack space on the ground, make like a Babylonian and hang your garden from the walls. Great varieties of fruit and veg for hanging baskets include strawberries and herbs like parsley, thyme and mint. Salad leaves make great infill, and don’t forget tumbling cherry tomato varieties which grow very well in baskets. The added bonus - it’s much harder for slugs to reach.
Want to brighten up your summer salads? How about adding edible flowers to your hanging baskets? Try nasturtiums whose petals provide a delicious peppery kick.
Do remember that any crops grown in containers, window boxes or hanging baskets will need adequate watering and regular feeding.
Do you have any tips to share on making a small garden super productive? If you do, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch via our Facebook page.
Lead image: WildStrawberry