Growing vegetables in a small space
Advice to Grow By, The Press Democrat
Sonoma County Master Gardeners
Contributors to this column: Ellie Samuel, Mary Lou Milkoff, Pat Decker & Karen Felker
How to grow veggies in small space
Nancy P. writes: I really want to grow veggies, but my yard is very small. What should I plant?
Answer: To create a garden with lots of variety in a limited space, try square-foot gardening. The first-square foot garden was designed by Mel Bartholomew, an engineer looking for a more productive way to use space. With his method, you can put a large number of plants in your garden by dedicating each square foot of space to one or more plants of the same size.
The number of plants you put in each square depends on the mature size of the grown plant. The smaller the plant, the more you can fit in one square. As long as all the plants are the same size, you can even have more than one type of plant in the same square.
For example, you could sow or transplant four small plants, such as strawberries, basil, chives, lettuce, Swiss chard or fennel, in 1 square foot. To fit four plants in a square, plant them in two rows, with 4 inches between plants.
With spinach, leeks, beets or bush beans, you can fit nine plants in a square foot, in three rows with 3 inches between plants.
With carrots, radishes or green onions, set out 16 plants inside the square foot in four rows, with 2 inches between plants.
For large plants such as tomato, bell peppers, cabbage or zucchini on a trellis, plant only one in a square foot.
The ideal plot size is 4 feet by 4 feet, but any space you have will work, as long as it gets six to eight hours of sunlight a day. Your garden can be in the ground or in a raised bed. Prepare the soil by amending it with compost. Then, using lengths of string, wire or wood, lay a grid of one-foot squares over your prepared soil.
A successful vegetable garden requires frequent watering. Unless you plan to water by hand, you need to set up your watering system before you put in your plants. Watering options, from simple to more complicated, include watering by hand in the early morning, a soaker hose, water-filled buckets attached to either soaker or drip hoses or a drip irrigation system.