Upon first glance, limited gardening space can seem like an insurmountable obstacle in regards to mass food production, but, with a little creativity, it is far easier than one may imagine to produce reliable crops. These are just a few of the tricks that our family has been using for nearly a decade on 1/16th of an acre to grow healthy and delicious food for our family.
Golden Purslane makes a healthy ground cover.
Companion planting has been instrumental in our success. For example, when we plant our carrot seed we also sprinkle French breakfast radish seeds among the planting. With a maturity rate of about 25 days, the radish is ready for harvest far earlier than the carrot so instead of thinning the carrot patch and dispatching a useless product, we are giving the carrots much needed space while putting a garden-fresh item on our plates. Then later in the season when the carrots are ready for harvest, we plant another group of radishes for a fall harvest thus maximizing our small space.
Border planting with a pea patch and Chamomile.
Another method that works well for us that is similar to companion planting is border planting. In the photograph above, you will notice that there is a healthy plot of snap peas. Along their border we planted a massive amount of chamomile. Since the pea vines greedily reach toward the sun, it allows the shorter chamomile to occupy the same space without interfering with one another.
This method can in turn be intermingled with our next technique, which is to grow vertical. Think of your garden as a city with limited space. The only solution is to build upward. One such planting that we incorporate into our garden is to grow scarlet runner beans on trellises made of old maple branches we find in the woods. At the base of the bean trellises we plant vegetation that will carpet the dirt rather than attempt to occupy the same space. This could include anything from the omega rich succulent golden purslane to the peppery edible flower nasturtium. Poles beans provide a perfect opportunity to grow any item that does not mind a little shade.
Another option for the small property gardener is late season or rotation planting. If you find that you have open space due to a seasonal harvest put another plant in its place. We have the luxury of a sun porch on the back of our home so we keep plants on stand-by for just such a purpose. Lettuce, eggplant and culinary herbs all wait patiently for their turn in the deep rich garden soil.
Scarlet Runner Beans are a great option for vertical growth.
Consider planting edible crops among your front yard flower patch. We have creeping thyme, strawberries and tomatoes growing among the poppies, hollyhock and roses in our small front yard. In the past we have grown cabbage, lettuce and peas out front for the whole neighborhood to admire, if they happen to notice them among the flowers.
Part of maximizing your space is to think outside the box; if you happen to have a small strip of dirt along the foundation of your house, why not place a few strawberry or bush bean plants? A patch of useless concrete could be utilized with self-watering pots. Use your corn and sunflower stalks as natural supports for vertical growth. Build a trellis for your sprawling winter squash and allow your pumpkins to grow 6 feet above the ground using far less space than normally required. Tuck a patch of edible flowers or herbs among the nooks and crannies of your raised beds. Try dwarf fruit tree varieties. The options are endless when you begin to explore the potential of your property regardless of its size.