Are you longing for the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables? Is your only outdoor space a patio or balcony? If you answered yes to both questions, know there is a way you can enjoy fresh produce from your small space. This article has some great gardening ideas for these types of spaces and hopefully after reading you’ll have the confidence to grow your own small space veggies
Container and small space gardening are becoming more common as people are wanting to grow their own food. It used to be that only those with farms, acreages or big yards could grow a garden, but that has changed dramatically in the last decade. There have always been people who grew tomatoes in pots or strawberries in hanging baskets, but now practically anything that is grown in the ground can be grown in a container.
There are a few key elements to keep in mind when planning a container garden:
- Adequate light – most fruits and vegetables need at least six hours of full sun to grow properly
- Water – rainwater is best for plants, but tap water will suffice if necessary
- Temperature – soil temperature and air temperature ideally should be above 60 degrees Fahrenheit
- Soil – a good potting mix is ideal for container plants
- Container size – ensure containers are deep enough for the plants that will be in them
- Placement – taller plants should be placed behind shorter ones so all get proper light
- Drainage – container plants need proper drainage, as does the area they are placed
- Weight – check weight restrictions if your garden will be on a rooftop or balcony
If gardening is new to you, start with easy-to-grow fruits and vegetables. Strawberries, radishes, lettuce, beans, peas, carrots and potatoes are just a few that don’t need a lot of attention. Some do require deeper containers than others. In order to determine how much growing space each variety needs, read the information on the back of a seed package or flip through a seed catalog (online or print). For example, potatoes will need a fairly deep container (such as a barrel or deep planter), while radishes and lettuce will do quite well in a container as little as six inches deep. Also there are an endless number of book today that are filled with gardening ideas that will fit any gardener’s needs.
In order to conserve water and promote healthy plant growth, it is ideal to use a larger container as opposed to several small ones if needed. Small containers dry out quickly, and may need to be watered several times a day during hot periods. The benefit to using a larger container is you can make the most of the soil. Planting root crops (carrots, beets, radishes, turnips) with above-ground crops (peas, beans, spinach, lettuce) will utilize both your space and soil. Planting early crops with later crops will also make the most of your small garden. When harvesting one crop, adding compost to the soil before planting another will replace the depleted nutrients.
Adding a trellis to the backside of your planter will allow for even more space to be utilized. Peas and cucumbers love to climb, as do pole beans. Depending on your container/planter size, a trellis as high as four to six feet is ideal. Not only does a trellis add growing space, it also acts as a privacy screen from neighbors. A planter that is four feet long by two feet wide by 2-3 feet deep will provide enough fresh produce for a small family.
If a large planter is not an option, using containers at least 12” across will work as well. Tomatoes and peppers do well in containers, as do cucumbers (as long as they have somewhere to climb). Some varieties of apples, plums, oranges and other tree fruits do well in containers as well. Dwarf varieties are the option of choice, as they will not require deep soil or a large growing area.
With a little ingenuity and perhaps some trial-and-error, you will figure out what works best for you. If one method doesn’t go as planned, don’t get discouraged. There are many ways to garden, and finding the right balance can take more than one season. Outside elements may also have an effect on your garden, such as weather conditions. Storms do arise, and even the most protected gardens occasionally get damaged. Do not let it dissuade you from trying again, because there is nothing like eating fresh-picked fruits and vegetables.
With spring just around the corner, there is no better time than now to start planning a small-space garden. If you have a window that faces south, why not try a container with lettuce and radishes now? It will give you a feel for container gardening, and you can have home-grown salad in a few weeks. Another way to keep you plants the perfect size and not to big is to keep them pruned. Learn more about pruning and how to do it in our next article.
We would love to hear about your small space gardening ideas. Please share below, and tell us what small space vegetables have worked for you?