Friday, February 22, 2013

Secrets of Getting the Most from a Small Garden

Knox Cellars is dedicated to discovering how to do intensive gardening on city lots. They grow dozens of fruit trees by the espalier method and pollinate them with their own colonies of Orchard Mason bees. Their website,, features the most recent issue and several back issues of Urban Farmer. Most people pay their way onto the mailing list by buying something from them: bees, a book, or audiotape. They write an Urban Farmer from time to time, when the mood strikes, sharing interesting things they have learned about bees, bugs, or gardening.

  1. Make use of semi-shaded areas unsuitable for tomatoes or root vegetables by growing leafy vegetables like lettuce, chard, mustard, or endive there.
  2. Don't over plant herbs. Two parsley or chive plants can quite likely produce all you need unless your family is large.
  3. Avoid sprawling varieties. You can plant 6 rows of carrots, beets, or onions in the same square footage that one row of squash would take because squash simply will spread out all over the place, but root vegetables don't. So limit or refuse summer squash, winter squash, cucumbers, watermelons, muskmelons, cantaloupes, and corn, because they take more space than they're worth. Or use the recently developed compact "bush" kinds of melons, squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins.
  4. Consider interplanting so that fast-maturing vegetables use the space between slower-maturing ones that will later spread; for instance, plant radishes or lettuce between vine plants like squash or pumpkin. They mature so fast that you get a crop before the vines need that space.
  5. Give preference to continuously bearing vegetables; for instance, choose chard over spinach, because spinach has a brief period of productivity but then is done for the whole summer. Chard will keep making harvest for you until frost kills it. Other continuous bearers are tomatoes, broccoli, kale, lima beans, squash of all sorts, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, chard, and brussels sprouts.
  6.  Use wide-row and succession planting methods to give you the most vegetable productivity per square foot. For instance, peas have a relatively brief production season, but they produce heavily while they are at it, and then you can till up the ground they were in and plant something else. Succession planting works best with a long growing season, but in most places peas, lettuce, radishes, beets, and carrots mature quickly enough that you have time for a second crop if you plant as soon as the first is harvested.
  7. Harvest daily in season. Broccoli, cucumbers, summer squash, beans, and chard, for example, will stop producing if they aren't harvested. But if you keep them faithfully and regularly harvested, then they keep producing and you maximize their production.
  8. Encourage your garden to grow up rather than across: Try climbing beans (pole or runners) or cucumbers trained to grow up something. Use a big vine such as runner beans, kiwi, or grapes to screen out an ugly area, make shade, or hang from a basket.
  9. Plant tall crops such as corn or sunflowers on the north end of the garden so they don't shade other plants.
  10.  Practice deep watering; it allows you to plant closer together because the roots will go down instead of spreading sideways.

[Excerpt from The Encyclopedia of Country Living, Chapter 2: Introduction to Plants.  Other topics include Laying Out the Garden, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones, and Garden & Farm Philosophies.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for share...

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