Growing vegetables in small spaces

By Veronique

Vegetables will grow in a relatively small space provided the site receives at least 5 hours of sunlight daily. Here is an example of a small, productive vegetable garden in our backyard.

The materials for the two raised beds were salvaged locally. Alf, our neighbour, had the necessary tools, knowledge and skills to construct the beds for us. We then levelled the site, positioned and braced both beds on all sides with short metal pickets. We added a total of one square metre of organic loam and one square metre of organic compost, well mixed and equally distributed inside the beds. These raised beds each measure two square metres and give a combined growing area of four square metres. This might not sound like much but, with a good soil/compost mix and plenty of liquid fertiliser from our worm farm, the yield is abundant. Can you guess how abundant? How many individual plants do you think are currently growing in these beds – 20? 50? 100? 150?

If you guessed 150, well done – you are very close! You are looking at a total of 160 plants growing in just 4 square metres. In the left bed there are 5 Broccoli, 5 snowpeas, 8 lettuces, 5 kohlrabi, 5 beetroots and 50 carrots. The bed on the right holds 5 kale, 4 snowpeas, 10 lettuces, 31 beetroots, 5 leeks, 7 Bok Choy and 20 peas. You can read more about this method of growing vegetable here: Intensive Vegetable Gardening. For continuous cropping simply replace each harvested vegetable with another seed or seedling. Lettuce leaves are picked as needed and the plants left in the ground. They will keep growing new leaves throughout the cool weather.

If you do not have a spare 4 square metres there is another alternative… 6 Styrofoam boxes from your local supermarket will give you 1 square metre.These are best filled with a top quality organic potting mix to encourage good drainage. A fortnightly dose of liquid fertiliser should keep the plants well fed.

This is where we grow our current crop of strawberries.  Lettuces, herbs, garlic, shallots, carrots, beetroot, kohlrabi, beans, peas and cherry tomatoes will also grow well in these boxes. We have also planted quick growing geraniums around the boxes. These will insulate the soil from excessive heat, reduce watering, attract bees and make the area look more attractive. In fact, once the geraniums reach box height and the area is covered with mulch, the Styrofoam will be completely hidden. If you are new to growing vegetables, this is a good place to start – small, easy, economical and rewarding.

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