Big Yields From Small Space Gardening

Center S post veggies

The Center Square Garden Plan

I love growing organic vegetables. A few years ago, when setting out to create a garden in my new urban backyard, I wondered how much food  I could get out of my small space, if I really pushed the limits. I knew I had to abandon my old vegetable gardening habits and develop new methods if I wanted to yield as much food as I was used to growing in gardens twice to three times the size. I embarked on a multi-year adventure of experimentation to see just how densely and intensively I could pack in plants and still get excellent results.

It seemed to me that the most commonly practiced gardening techniques were based on traditional farming practices. This is not surprising, yet, the farmer’s aims are not exactly the same as the home gardener’s. How many home gardeners really want to harvest six large cabbages on the same day?  The farmer has a lot to gain from simultaneous harvesting and convenient space layout for easy picking.   At home, though, a more phased harvest is welcome. So the backyard gardener can cheat a little on space . . . and time, as well.  Since spacing of plants affects maturation of plants, picking time can be be delayed through use of space as well.

The first way I cheated space in my little garden was by eliminating rows and pathways. I realized that I could perform all cultivation tasks from the perimeter of the plot and from a central two-foot square workstation in the middle of eight-foot square plots. Thus, the Center Square plan was born.


From there I went about shrinking space between plants as well, each year seeing if my plants could thrive if they were  planted even closer together. In the end, I was simply amazed by how little space is needed to supply my own vegetables.   And in 2013, I wrote a book, More Food From Small Spaces, to share these discoveries with everyone.

Now, there isn’t a single thing I miss about my old style, spread–out, walking around in vegetable gardens that required more weeding, more water, and left little free space available in the yard.

The Center Square Garden at full maturity.  August 2014

Our 8 x 24 foot vegetable garden at the height of summer

Our 8 x 24 foot vegetable garden at the height of summer

The eastward eight-foot square

The eastward eight-foot square. The white pipes are framing for a portable greenhouse that had been covered in plastic sheeting to start plants in Winter.

The middle eight-foot square

The middle eight-foot square

The westward eight-foot square

The westward eight-foot square

Yes. We’re growing our own vegetables in the heart of the city with space-saving design and great soil quality.

Check back for tips and strategies for spacing of plants.