Small Space, Big Reward
How to reap fresh herbs and vegetables or garden plants out of a small space or urban area.
You don’t have to have a bright green thumb or acres of garden space to grow your own pesticide-free foods without the hefty price tag of major retailers. All you need is a little creativity, some basic tools and knowledge, and the desire to eat right.
Jewelweed flowers are perfect for small areas.
Daffodils make great flowers for container gardening.
Not all plants require the same amount of H20. Some, however, are more prone to drying out than others. Vegetables, like all other forms of vegetation, get their energy to grow through a process called photosynthesis – they harness power from the sun. Since sunlight causes evaporation, plants that have large leaves, like eggplant, squash, tomato, and pepper, need to be watered almost daily in dry weather. Keep watch on your garden. When leaves begin to wilt, a good soaking may be in order. Some online nursery grower has quality veggies at low prices.
Your garden will require proper soil to keep growing plants healthy. Garden soil should be properly oxygenated and contain ample amounts of organic matter. If you live in a drought-prone region, a thick layer of mulch helps retain soil’s moisture content.
You already know that plants need sun, but some plants need less energy to grow than others. Root vegetables can thrive in just four to five hours of sun exposure per day.
Best shade herbs and vegetables:
- Mustard greens
- Peas and beans
- Asian greens
Sun-loving fruits and vegetables
Newly formed buds on most vegetable plants can be pruned to promote further growth. Though it may sound counter-productive, pinching the first sprouts of the season helps the plant funnel energy more effectively. As well, plants with a high volume of non-producing leaves can benefit from thinning. Lessening the number of weak buds a plant must support allows a higher yield of healthy produce – and a crop that you’ll be proud of.
Though most plants are asexual – meaning they have both male (stamen) and female (pistil) organs, others require pollination from outside sources. Radishes and cabbage require pollen from unrelated plants. Asparagus, some cucumber varieties, and spinach are cross pollinators. For the most part, you won’t need to do much in the garden to ensure pollination; however, many fruit-bearing varieties need purposeful breeding. Blueberries and arctic kiwi, for example, need to be arranged with a specific ratio of male-to-female flowers in order to yield succulent fruit.
Now that you understand some of the basic needs of your intended garden, take some time and evaluate your space. You might have more room to grow than you realize.
If you have a fence or an east-facing wall, you can plant vertically. A well-built, raised garden can accommodate small to medium-sized plants like greens, trellis-loving beans, and virtually all herbs. Tomatoes do well in vertical gardens, which can be bought at home and garden shops or online. If you have room for at least a four square foot bed, consider building it in levels using cinderblocks or railroad ties. Each stepped section can accommodate plants with varying water and soil needs while keeping the root systems separate.
Find unusual spaces
If you are set on a garden but are truly out of empty land (or fence) space, start looking at the rest of your property with a different attitude. Do you have one car but a three-car-length driveway? Use the twenty feet closest to your house for a container garden and park nearer to the road. If you live in the city, some apartment buildings allow residents to maintain rooftop gardens. Don’t overlook the top of your doghouse or shed, either. Walkways built of individual stone pavers often have enough room between tiles to accommodate low-lying veggies. Beets and leafy greens grow well in tight spaces.
Let your décor work for you
Many herbs produce stunning flowers in the spring through summer. These can pull double duty as both décor and a delicious addition to your culinary endeavors. Consider:
- Thai basil – A thin purple bloom that smells like licorice
- Dill – Yellow blossoms which add a distinct flavor to meats and vegetable dishes
- Rosemary – Thin branches that resemble pine needles filled with purple blooms
- Spearmint – An invasive but refreshing herb highlighted by lilac bell-shaped flowers
- Pineapple sage – Long scarlet flowers smell like fresh pineapple; a versatile perennial
Additionally, you can landscape with fruit-bearing shrubs. Blueberries grow well in most warm regions. Consider adding vining plants along chain-link fences to add a functional wall of privacy.
Get the right tools
You wouldn’t build a deck without the proper tools. Give your garden the same respect with these essentials:
- Hand pruner
- Hand trowel
- Utility bucket
- Leaf rake
- Garden rake
- Watering can
- Kneeling pad
- Work gloves
- Garden hose with multi-setting sprayer
These tools are inexpensive, widely available, and make gardening less of a chore. These few tools are all you need to get started. In a few short months, your yard may be paying for itself.
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