You CAN Have a Garden, No Matter How Small
Many people love gardening, even if they weren’t raised in a rural area or in a home surrounded by lawns. For some, the act of gardening is about creating a beautiful space. For others it is about the meditative or rewarding aspects of nourishing something that’s living. For yet others gardening involves maintaining a connection to nature or the act of producing one’s own food. Any or all of these reasons can play into one’s desire to garden. And if you don’t have a large yard or field at your disposal (or if you feel like it’s too late to plant a garden in July), you still don’t have to give up the dream. There are ways to create a beautiful or productive garden even if your space is limited, and even if you start the planning now for next year. For the purposes of this post, we’ve looked into tips for creating a small-space vegetable garden.
If growing vegetables is your passion, there are a number of resources to help you grow what you’d like in a small space. eHow.com suggests using a French method of intensive gardening that involves preparing the soil through rototilling or double digging and working in compost and manure. The goal is to have organic matter in 1/3 of the top 12 inches of soil. Once you’ve created a low mound, raked it, added in organic matter and raked it again, water the mound for two days before planting with seed or starter plants (see the site for more detailed directions).
If your soil isn’t particularly fertile or has an insufficient level of drainage, eHow recommends using raised beds or planters to create your garden (this also will help you avoid too much stooping as you weed). You can make a raised bed yourself, or purchase one through an online or bricks-and-mortar gardening store. Fill the planter with enriched soil until the soil tops off at about 3 inches below the top edge of the planter box.
If you don’t have room for planter boxes, you can also grow vegetables in containers (this works year-round, as containers can be moved indoors). Vegetables such as lettuce, radishes, and carrots will be best for a container garden because they don’t take up much garden space. You can even use a galvanized or plastic pail as a container; just drill holes around the base for drainage.
eHow.com recommends using a garden mix of vermiculite, peat moss and fertilizer before planting, and buying miniature varieties of garden vegetables for your container garden.
The Gardening Channel reminds you to consider your local climate before choosing which vegetables to grow. Each region is inviting to particular types of vegetables that are easier to grow in that climate or that thrive during a specific time of year. In the South, for example, eggplants and peppers will have a wonderful long growing season, while in the North, broccoli, peas and lettuce do well, but tomatoes can be harder to grow successfully. Check with your local garden store to determine which vegetables will have the best chance for success in your local climate and at this time of year.
It’s important to consider how much sun you have, too, and this can vary depending on the location of your home or apartment. The Gardening Channel notes that most vegetables do best if they get at least 6 hours of sunlight every day, although some, such as lettuce and spinach, can tolerate some shade. Plant vegetables that will grow best in the amount of sunlight they will get (the same goes for planting flower gardens).
Recommended vegetables for small garden spaces include: beets, carrots, lettuce, peppers, scallions, and tomatoes (if you have enough sun). The Gardening Channel also recommends staking or caging vegetables that are grown in a small space so that they don’t sprawl and get in each other’s way. If your goal is to start a garden next year, talk to friends whose gardens are doing well and get tips so you can start planning now.
Looking for additional inspiration? theKitchn.com has posted photographs of ten inspiring small food gardens. Whether these gardens are flourishing on a terrace off an apartment house in New York City, grown in pots or lining a deck, these photos will help you realize that even the smallest space can be big enough to make your gardening dreams come true.