A small space is no obstacle to growing big yields of delicious, nutritious vegetables when we put intensive gardening methods to work. It’s a matter of pushing boundaries by spacing plants densely, growing them higher vertically, and for a longer season than with traditional gardening methods. Such intense cultivation also requires excellent soil fertility. All of these aims can successfully be achieved in a small space with a little know-how and some inexpensive resources.
By minimizing the space for walking and working in the garden and also spacing plants as closely as their natures allow, we can easily increase yields per area. Plants always crowd together in nature’s fields, why not in the backyard vegetable garden? When we have plenty of space, we can afford to have comfortable walking/working paths around beds. However, we can get 30% more planting beds in a given area if we use the Center Square plan. This plan incorporates a two-foot square central work area in the middle of an eight-foot square area. All parts of the cultivation beds can be tended from either this central area or from the outside perimeter of the garden plot, though some people may need a bigger central square or a more rectangular central work area in order to reach all spots in their beds.
Plants with a vining nature can be trained to grow higher on trellises and other supports instead of bushier ground-level growth. Supports can be made from different materials, such as wood or metal. PVC pipes and their fittings are excellent materials for constructing simple, snap-together trellis structures that are inexpensive, sturdy, durable, and space-saving. PVC structures can also be taken apart easily for storage or for reconfiguring for another use.
We can get the most out of time as well as space by using methods that lengthen the growing season. Successive planting will keep the garden productive throughout most of the year. Building a simple and portable PVC pipe greenhouse can add three months of food harvesting to the year. Various cooling strategies in hot weather and warming strategies in cold weather can also extend the harvest.
To succeed with such intensive gardening, deep, fertile soil is a must. If we think of the vegetable garden as a food chain with the gardener at the top, we see that each level depends on the nourishment of the level below. We can add the microorganisms that the plants eat and the minerals that the microorganisms eat. There are naturally-occurring crushed rock products available as consumer products, such as Azomite and Greensand and humic shale that are loaded with the minerals and trace minerals that microorganisms consume and turn into more bio-available forms for the plants. Microorganisms can be added to the soil via compost tea and other composting methods. For those with little space, the bokashi composting method is a great way to add friendly microbes by recycling kitchen and yard waste into great compost fast, inexpensively and tidily without the need for bins or drums or space-hogging, vermin-haunting piles.
There are so many reasons to grow vegetables at home. We can assure the purity and mineral content of our food, pick our vegetables at peak flavor and ripeness and save money, as well. We can choose heirloom seed varieties and harvest seeds for the next crop to save even more expense. With the newer methods, small spaces are no longer a disadvantage. In fact, less space means less wasted water on walkways and paths and less time spent weeding a large garden area.