Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Best Veggies for Small Spaces

I am delighted to discover that more and more urbanites are interested in growing their own produce, but you may be wondering while skimming through sumptuous seed catalogues (or seed trader lists) what are the worthiest candidates to grow, especially in a small space.

Space saving techniques:

Purple podded peas on a trellis, growing alongside a young grape.

You may not have much horizontal ground but I bet you have a fair amount of vertical space. Grow up! Often, it is suggested that you grow bush squash or hanging pot tomatoes and if you are confined to containers, then this might be your best bet as your 'root space' is limited but if you can use large pots or you have some ground then it makes more sense to trellis your squash upwards. This is also true of beans and peas, both of which come in 'pole' varieties.

Remaining red lettuce going to seed, interplanted with red cabbage.

Interplant your vegetables: Plant short rows of quick maturing crops such as loose leaf lettuce and baby greens in between vegetables that take longer to mature such as parsnip or eggplant. The classic combo is heading lettuce and cabbage though both of these are space heavy vegetables. You can actually plant cabbage very close together, down to 10 inches, and get small, family sized heads.

Think not just of space but space through time: Spring and fall are two times of year that gardens have a lot of bare spaces so let's fill those spots. Choose frost hardy, quick growing plants such as spinach or peas. I have had success growing a row of shelling peas in the middle of where I planned on putting my potatoes. If you always have some seedlings on the go, you can fill the empty spot left over from garlic with a fall maturing kale or a even a second crop of peas.

Plant on the slant: If you have a south facing wall, you can use the hypotenuse. Create a slight slope to increase your growing space. A southern slope will also warm more quickly in the spring. Or you could be really creative and create a sloped planting surface or wall filled with pots. You could, for example, get a hay barrel, hollow it out some, fill the space with compost or aged manure, then stick some pumpkin seeds on top, the pumpkin vines would sprawl down and around the 'planter' rather than along the ground. In the meantime, plant some greens to grow out from the sides of your planter. I've never tried to do this but the idea sounds fun.

Hot peppers like their hot pots.

Plant in a pot: Convert a gardenless part of your yard such as an unused parking spot or a balcony to a grower's paradise by using large containers like child's swimming pools, or large storage containers. Make sure these containers have adequate drainage holes. You could even put an inch or so of coarse gravel on the bottom. Mulch the top afterwards to help preserve water.

Rhubarb hanging out with columbine.

Decorate with vegetables: Don't be afraid to add those edibles to your perrenial beds. A lot of edible plants are attractive and besides, you'll be saying to your neighbours that you are proud to grow some of what you eat.

Space saver vegetables

Peas - climbing varieties such as tall telephone pole
Beans - pole beans, many varieties
Summer Squash - trombocino, also matures to a butternut variety
Winter Squash - most varieties. The small fruited ones are easy to trellis
Many greens - great cache crops and season extenders
Most root crops including turnips, carrots, beets
Garlic and onions are both harvested early allowing for a fall planting to follow

What's your favourite space saving vegetable?


deborah said...

These are some great ideas and some very cool combinations. I especially love the peas growing with the grapes. I'm always looking for more ways to interplant. Thanks!

Daphne said...

Well I've never done it so I can't say it is my favorite, but it's a cool idea - the build as it grows potato bins. With a 4x4 space, supposedly you can grow 100lbs of potatoes. I'd love to try it, but that is a lot of dirt to add.

Ottawa Gardener said...

I've tried potato tires but found that the yeild was still better from traditional hilling up BUT I am going to container grow some taters this year so we'll see how they do.

Deborah: I love the idea of growing vines up my trees and stuff but always worry about shade. As the grape vine was young, I figured it was an opportunity to grow something up it while it was still small. Now that I think about it though it would be fun to let a couple peas intermingle with the more mature grape vine as well. I grow lupins under my fruit trees to help fix nitrogen so why not?

Marc and Renee said...

This is a fantastic post - well done! You covered so many things!

Even for people who are not limited in the space they have can benefit from these ideas. Growing smarter instead of bigger is a good idea.

Deb said...

Thanks for a throughly enjoyable blog! Those purple pod peas are beautiful! Where might one buy seed? (We're in BC in 6a). I have the garden itch soo badly right now. We are in a new place it's going to be from scratch this year, and since everything but a small patch is in heavy shade I don't have much room. I will try the bok choi in the "shadier" spot and see how they do.
Deb in the Okanagan

Ottawa Gardener said...

They're fairly widely available Deb but I am offering them up to people too so if you email me (email is under my profile) with your address, I'm happy to send you a sample for seed saving purposes. Let me know!

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Well, I have been mixing edibles and ornamentals (which is admittedly easy with pretty things like red cabbage, eggplants, etc.) but I need to try a few of your other techniques. WHY I look at bare soil around my tomato plants whenthey're young is beyond me... especially when I have lots of lettuce seeds to plant. (Duh, Kim! Why didn't you think of that sooner?!)