New gardeners faced with a giant plot of bare soil or a concret balcony can be daunted with no idea where to start. Lacking ‘a big enough’ garden can deter people from even trying to garden but it doesn’t have to.
You can grow a whole host of fruit and veg in the smallest of places, including a windowsill. OK so it’ll never enough to be self sufficient but it’ll be enough to provide you with special home-grown tasty bits to add to your plate.
So, spending a little time now making a plan and having a system for gardening to feed your family, doesn’t have to be super complicated. It does take a bit of research and some trial and error which is the fun of gardening. Grab our free simple step guide to planning your first veg patch for an easy to follow guide to where you can grow, what to grow and how to get started.
Making the most of your growing space
It takes years to properly develop a garden and to learn the ryrhmn of it but starting a small vegetable garden can achieve big results in a short time. And if it doesn’t go to plan theres always next year!
Here’s a few of our favourite ways to make the best of any space you do have
Making Use Of Every Bit Of Growing Space
The first thing to do, is to download our Simple Guide to planning your patch
- What does your family eat regularly?
- Where you have to sow. Looking at pots, patio, balcony or plot.
- Research to guide you when to sow and how.
Take a bit of time to go through these sheets and think about what you like to eat how much space you have to grow etc.
Do you know how much food to plant for your family needs?
Keep a record of the things you like to eat, there’s no point growing crops your not sure you will like or want to eat.
And what about the available growing space.
Take a look around your home and garden. Do you have room for a window box? A few pots on the balcony or patio, room for.apme.vegetables in between you garden flower bed or do you want to make kitchen garden to grow all your fruit and veg?
To be honest as a gardener who has a decent front and rear garden AND a seperate allotment plot, you’ll never feel like you have enough space. BUT, a little planning and thought now can make every single spot count and you can grow an abundance of food from the smallest of spaces.
Grow for taste and nutrients not quantity
Ok, so you may never grow enough potatoes on your tiny balcony but spuds are cheap to buy so why bother?? Use the space you do have to grow those special things that cost a ton in the shops or better yet grow crops you can’t get in shops. It’s not easy to find beautiful brightly coloured Swiss chard for example. It is versatile, colourful and super useful but hard to find in shops but it’s so easy to grow
Crops like juicy crystal lemon cucumbers which are an old variety and something unusual to grow as they are never found in store.
Gherkins grow in a tiny space up a fence or post but are so prolific and you can make your own jars of pickled gherkins which are unlike anything you can buy!
Anything you grow, will be organic and pack full of nutrients that can be lost in store bought versions that have been stored.
Take your time to trawl through seed catalogues and learn about plants that are worth your time and energy to grow.
As you select seeds to grow, fill in the planning sheets sowing calendar is a great place to pop in when to sow, plant out and harvest.
You can also fill in the plant profile sheets with any other relevant information you need to remember such as when to feed the plant, how deeply the seed should go and how long it should take from sowing to harvesting-all of which can be found on most seed packets.
Some other things to consider are
- available sunlight and specific sun needs per plant.
- And what is the soil like, do you need to make any amendments?
Try to consider crops that will add colour, flavour and excitement to your plate. Take time to plan crops for every space you want to fill.
We utilize every little bit of space we have in our family’s food garden.
Here are some of the ways we use to make the best of every space you have available
Fortunately, our house has a lot of space for growing. But if you’re limited on garden space, consider container gardening on your patio or balcony, or branching out to an allotment plot or even a friend’s garden.
Lots of people have plots of land or large gardens they don’t want to use so why not create a garden there that benefits you both.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has started a movement called Landshare where people with land and large gardens they want to share are linked up with people who are desperate to garden and grow crops. Thinking outside the box can help think up unique solutions.
Consider compact plants for your small growing space
Another thing to consider if you don’t have a large area to grow your garden is to use compact plants are great options for patios or smaller areas.
You really can grow something in nearly any place. You just need to consider what your best options are!Here are a few options for smaller areas:
- peppers will grow in a pot ona windowsill
- most herbs, again herbs
- “bush champion” cucumbers
- climbing beans with trellis
- potted berries – strawberries, raspberries and even blueberries
- Early potatoes will actually grow in a pot too
- Even carrots will grow in pots
Companion Planting is a simple way to make most of your family garden
An essential part
of making every growing space count.Companion planting means planting crops that grow well and have a beneficial effect on each otherThe 3 sisters method for example has beans sweetcorn and squash together.
The beans provide nutrients and nitrogen to the soil, the corn gives the beans a framework to grow up while benefitting from the nitrogen and the squash covers the soil to keep the ground cooler and hold moisture. Also read….
They all benefit each other and grow a large amount of crops in a small space.There are many examples of plants that grow well together so do your research and use your space wisely.
Successional Crops keep your growing space full for longer
In addition to companion planting, we like to use a successional or catch crops
This means having a crop ready to put in to the space once another has been harvested. Our early peas for example were sowed in February can be harvested in May.
Instead of leaving that plot of ground empty, you could have sown some cabbage, kale or sprouts to go in that space.
The Brassica crop will love the nitrogen in the soil left by the peas and grow better for it. Keeping the soil in use is a must to get the most from your patch. Just sprinkle a little blood fish and bone fertilizer on the soil to replace any lost nutrients and your good to go.
Having something like a green manure ready to sow in a vacated space will keep something growing in your pot, garden or plot, and it can stop nutrients washing out and add fiber to the soil and when your ready to sow in that space again you just dig in your green manure which decomposes in the soil and feeds your plants and improve your soil.
Theres also a fun compost making experiement for kids here but its also useful if you have a small growing space, just make a few at a time!
Help Care For Your Soil With Green Manure
One thing to note about green manures is that they need to follow your crop rotation plan. Some are beans others are brassicas like mustard so keep that in mind if your sowing in a plot.
Another good way to make the most of your space is to start a garden journal. Using this to record successes, failures, things you’ve noticed or need to change for the next.growing season. Here’s our.sheets to get you started.
Verticle crops and supports can offer more growing space.
If you have restricted space and can’t find more space to grow, make sure your using your verticle space too. Growing up a fence, trellis or post can increase your growing space. Crops like peas, beans, cucumbers love growing upwards and saves space on the ground.
But also consider a green wall. Attaching planters or fabric pockets to a wall or fence and grow all your greens.
Spinach, chard, lettuce, cherry bush tomatoes, strawberries will all grow well with some food and water and you can very quickly cover a wall full of crops.
Even planting up a pallet full of salads, courgettes, strawberries etc and proping that against a wall can increase space.
Cut and come again gives multiple crops in your growing space
Gardening offers a similar boost to yields as succession planting, but without any extra planning. It’s definitely the easiest way to get a succession of harvests throughout the season, and all from a single plant.
Any plant that grows in a rosette is a good candidate for cut and come again.
For example, leafy greens are terrific cut and come again plants. Snip the outer leaves while leaving the younger inner leaves intact for fresh salads throughout the summer.
Many herbs can handle repeated harvests too. Brassicas like cabbage and sprouts will sprout more leaves from the stem if you pop a cross on the cut stem left in the soil.
Inter planting crops makes the most of any growing space
Larger crops like tomatoes, peas, courgettes need a lot of space. But you don’t want to be wasting that space while you wait for those crops to get larger. So by having quick to grow crops in between these areas means your collecting a crop in the ground before it’s needed for the larger one. Lettuce, radish and beetroot are all good crops for this.
Hanging baskets and window boxes gives extra growing space
Again using your verticle space to grow crops. Strawberries and tumbling tomatoes grow really well in hanging baskets. Windowboxes grow spring onions, salads, beets and stump root carrots will all grow happily in a basket or box.
Making the most of your small garden
Coming up with a plan and a system for gardening to feed your family doesn’t have to be super complicated.
It does take a bit of research and some trial and error. Just remember, if it doesn’t work you can try again next year. What’s important is you have fun learning.