Thursday, 16 August 2012

Small Space Gardening

It is incredible just how many vegetables you can grow in a small space if you take some time to plan how you can fit it all in.  Although I have my veggie plot I also have some raised beds in the Rosebank garden which I usually use for salad crops and as a back-up in case of crop failure.  This year has been a prime example.
Because of the weather and slug infestation my early sowings of french and runner beans  have not done well - so I re-sowed in containers which were raised off the ground in the hope of getting at least some beans a bit later on.  These have been much more successful and although the runner beans have yet to flower, they haven't been attacked, and look much healthier than the originals.  There should be enough  left of the summer for them to develop beans before the frosts arrive.
I try to use my small space wisely and besides using containers of all shapes and sizes I apply a bit of common sense and interplant slow-growing crops with salad greens, radishes and spring onions, which won't interfere with their growth and will be used up by the time the other veg need the space.  You can grow certain things quite closely and it won't affect their size.  Carrots and beetroot rows are a case in point.  When harvesting I pull alternate roots and leave a bit more growing room for the remaining vegetables.
 If you train your trailing plants upwards on trellis or canes they take up a lot less space - you can't afford to let squashes ramble in a small garden.  By re-seeding quick growing crops every few weeks, especially beans and lettuce you can keep your crops coming all summer and not have a situation where everything comes all at once.  And once a crop is harvested another crop goes straight in after revitalising the soil.

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 Virtually any fruit, vegetable or herb can be grown in a container - as long as the container is large enough.  I have peas, beans, lettuce and carrots growing in troughs, strawberries and tomatoes in hanging baskets and runner beans in very large pots, plus potatoes in grow-sacks.  It is a great way to squeeze an edible garden into the smallest space.
And by using cloches and cold frames you can keep the garden going over winter to extend the gardening season.

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 The time will come when I have to give up my allotment, then I will be totally reliant on my small  space edible garden at home for supplying all our needs, and making the best possible use of it will be my prime concern.
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Veg growing has been part of my life for so long now I just couldn't imagine not doing it.  Being able to walk to the top of the garden to pick a fresh  lettuce is one of lifes simple pleasures. 
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 This is what Alys Fowler has to say:-
It's one thing to play around with how to grow in the ground, but what if you don't own a patch to plant into? I have always found growing food in pots easier than in the soil as conditions are controllable, and with good compost, regular watering and good light you can get very good results.  One of the joys of growing in pots is that you can move them around.  This not only gives them the best possible chance as the season progresses, but you can place plenty of flowers and nectar-rich plants between your vegetables to create an ecology that will attract beneficial insects and pollinators to your pots, or you can grow the two together in large pots.

43 comments:

  1. I used to use containers to grow all my veggies before I got my allotment and it never ceased to amaze me just what can be grown in pots. I haven't had a decent sweetcorn harvest since I've had my allotment, yet they did fantastic in containers.

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    1. I think it's because, like Alys says you have more control over containers.

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  2. We're thinking of having some salad crops in the garden - just so we can pick when we fancy them. WE also have a few fruit trees in containers in the garden too - more for the ease of looking after as they are the more fussy trees or ones that need protection from birds. They are very ornamental as well as productive

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    1. I used to have quite a few few trees in pots but they grew rather large in the end and I had to put them in the ground but I would quite like to try again with peaches etc.

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  3. It looks unbelievably productive. Well done, you must be kept very busy!

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    1. I manage to get a fair bit of stuff from a very small area (and you don't have all the digging to worry about either).

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  4. A most enjoyable, and informative, post which would be most useful to anyone wanting to grow their own in a small space.
    The photos are terrific with everything looking good.
    Flighty xx

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    1. Thanks Flighty - even though I have my allotment I do enjoy pootling round the veg plot at home - it's more convenient when you fancy a cuppa.

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  5. Ooh you are a busy bee and I'm so envious. It must be wonderful to pick for your meal when you want it. You really should write a book.
    Patricia x

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    1. It is definitely a bonus just to be able to wander up the garden and decide what to have for dinner. As for writing a book - no way - it takes me long enough just to write a blog post. LOL.

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  6. Good planning, good thinking and the garden looks wonderful too.

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    1. There's still plenty more I could do to improve the area and increase the crops but there are only so many hours in a day!

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  7. It certainly is very rewarding growing your own, all our 'crops' are container grown due to lack of space, although sadly lots of failures this year.Darn weather!!

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    1. Yes, it hasn't been the best year and lots of things have gone wrong (through no fault of our own) we can only keep on keeping on!

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  8. A very good article and great photos! It's always inspiring what can be grown in limited space and in containers.

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    1. I love having a go just to see if it can be done - there's nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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  9. I need to take a few more tips from you about successional planting and containers... I'm not very good at planning contingencies or watering containers (although this year they haven't needed much help from the watering can)!

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    1. It's surprising how quickly they dry out even with the copious amounts of rain we have had (although you do feel a bit stupid watering with an umbrella up).

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  10. Just shows what can be done with careful planning, I am a great believer though to do really well it helps to have green fingers.

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    1. You may be right - but I think it's mainly down to common sense.

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  11. I think anyone can grow fruit and veggies no matter how small the space and even if you only get enough for a couple of meals, so what, you will have tasted home grown veggies and nothing you buy in the shops can compare to that just harvested flavour. I have had limited success this year, probably due to the weather but will try again next year.Possibly more container gardening too for me.

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    1. I must admit that at times this year I have felt like giving up - everything seems to have been against veggie gardening. All we can do is keep trying - it's worth it in the end.

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  12. Elaine, you are an inspiration to all gardeners, whether small or big. Your use of your "small" garden is amazing.We are thinking of raising our outside beds on stilts to keep slugs and weeds under control, and just growing toms,peppers and non hardy veg in the tunnel next year.

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    1. Sounds like you have got it sorted Cath - I'm all for keeping things simple and making life easier - after all it should be a pleasure not a chore.

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  13. Great post Elaine. I am so impressd with how much you fit in to a small area, I've spotted a few ideas I may have to borrow. x

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  14. What an inspiring post Elaine! It's amazing how much you have growing in your little garden and you really lead by example when it comes to showing how productive a small space is.

    Do you have any pointers for making sure your containers are well hydrated? I've started sprinkling gravel on the tops of mine but have to confess that I'm fairly irregular with watering. That's all well with my herbs but it's definitely not a good thing when you're trying to grow strawberries. I think I just may end up moving my more water intensive crops into the garden next year but would like to hear any more ideas.

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    1. Thanks Tanya. I use water retaining gel mixed in with the compost but I do water every day when necessary. The other useful tip is to plunge. I keep a dustbin full of water nearby and plunge the smaller pots in it until bubbles stop forming. That is a good way of making sure the whole of the compost is thoroughly soaked.

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  15. You've managed to squeeze a huge number of plants into a small space Elaine - it's inspiring to see. I've been experimenting with square foot gardening this year to try to get more produce in a small area.

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    1. I had a go at that last year - but I think it needs a bit more thought from me as to where to plant what in relation to one another.

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  16. Lovely post Elaine, though I always think the unseen cost of container gardening is the cost of compost, good quality stuff is expensive, and although salads and some other crops are happy in cheaper stuff, I have found that beans, in particular, are more demanding. Have you found the same?

    I gardened in pots for several years before I finally got an allotment, and as you say, it works really well, provided you select the right sized pot for the crop. In fact, I think some things are just better grown in pots - cut and come again salad leaves are much easier to pick from a pot. Even when I get my veg patch up and running I can't imagine life without some veg in pots too.

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    1. I try and spread the cost by mixing in my own garden compost along with the multi-purpose - but I suppose the cost is the one drawback.

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  17. Hi Elaine,

    Super post extolling the virtues of container growing! I do so much agree that in a small space you can be productive with a little time and care...

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    1. It's not so hard on your back either - picking stuff at waist height or so is definitely a bonus.

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  18. If only more people used their space as efficiently as you they could have fresh chemical free produce from their garden. Especially important now with food prices rising all the time.

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    1. I agree Bridget - you can squeeze so much into a small area and it only takes a bit of commitment to keep it all watered - but most people take the easy way out - there is no comparison though between home-grown and supermarket.

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  19. Very inspiring especially as I have just decided to give up my allotment due to time and distance pressures.

    I do love your last photo - gorgeous

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    1. Oh that's a shame after all your effort - now you will have to see how much you can squeeze into your garden at home.

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  20. That's amazing that you grow so much veg in that space. I was thinking of replanting my poorly performing veg patch with perennials next year but you've got me rethinking now.

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    1. It hasn't been a good year for anyone this year - don't give up on your veg patch just yet - things can only get better!

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  21. Your garden looks amazing in this difficult year. A really inspiring post. I think I'm going to start growing more in containers in my garden even though I've got my allotment, you can have so much more control over the slugs and I can keep a closer eye on them.

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    1. I tend to use the containers as a back-up in case of failure at the plot. Some years I don't really need it but this year the containers have been a bonus.

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  22. It's lovely to see everything so well organised, Elaine. The veg garden here is a small space which I have to be very creative about. This year I haven't done so well as sunflowers have shot up to shade the compact bean plants, fennel herb has self seeded everywhere and strawberries have taken over the ground. Next year I'm determined to be much more decisive about controlling what grows where and I've made note of a couple of really good tips from your post. Super post as usual - much more enjoyable to catch up here than trawling through a magazine!! xx

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