Small space growing

Small space growing

If you don’t have a lot of room to grow, there are many ways to maximise crops from tiny places. Emma Rawlings suggests some ideas.

Edible corner

This picture shows that in a small sunny corner you can create something attractive but productive.

Planted at the back is an espalier fruit tree. You can buy young trained trees or you could pay a lot less and buy what is known as a one-year maiden tree, which will tend to be a single stem with no or few sideshoots. You then take the top out and encourage sideshoots to form and train horizontally.

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At the base of the tree is rosemary and this will eventually get too big for this space but it can be kept smaller by regular pruning and using the clippings in cooking.

Also in this bed is red-veined sorrel, a perennial plant that will come up every year. The very young leaves have a slight lemony tang and can be put in salads.

Slightly older leaves can be cut and cooked like spinach. Add a viola for the edible flowers and you have an interesting little edible corner.

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Pack them in

When you have a small area you can often experiment with crop spacing. Sometimes you can get away with having plants a bit closer together. This can affect the amount you harvest but it can work the other way by giving you more.

As long as water and nutrients are in plentiful supply and plants are not too shaded, it is worth just bending the rules a little on spacings.

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Vertical lift

Using vertical spaces around your plot will vastly increase the growing area. This growing wall has been created using scrap wood and pallets.

Runner beans are growing through at one end and sweet peas the other. Old sacks have had their tops sewn up, been turned on their side and the one long side opened up to create a planting pocket.

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To securely hold the sack with the weight of compost and plants, it would best to batten and screw to the wall. In the picture many screws have just been used to hold the sack firmly against the wooden sides.

You could grow a wide range of crops in the pockets. Pictured are carrots (stump-rooted ones are best), strawberries and salad crops, all of which are ideal.

Hanging troughs

For something a bit more uniform and stylish you could fix several small troughs to a wall or strong fence. These have been planted with lettuce, salad leaves and tiny bush tomatoes. All vertical plantings do need careful watering.

Rainfall is often shielded from these planters so do check regularly. Ideally, keep to a height to make checking soil moisture and watering easy.

Fruit tree double act

This fruit tree has been under planted with lettuce plants. When fruit trees are first potted on into large pots you will find the base is a perfect area for some shallow-rooted veg such as salad leaves or lettuce.

This space can be planted as long as the tree is getting enough water and occasional feeds. Many little spaces like this soon add up to significant additional harvests.

Potted and plentiful

Growing in containers is a great way to grow veg if you don’t have much space. A balcony, patio or tiny backyard can be very productive.

Growing in pots is also ideal if you rent and don’t want to ‘put down roots’ or you are restricted in what you can do in the garden. You can grow in pretty much anything as long as it holds compost and has holes in the bottom for drainage.

In this picture, along with traditional pots, is a home-made trough recycled from planks of wood. It isn’t pretty but it is a perfect home for some strawberry plants.

Pallet planting

Pallets are great for increasing your growing area. They do need to be secured well to a wall to prevent them falling forward.

You can remove one or two planks and reattach under the slats to form a rudimentary planting box. You can either drop small pots into the box or fill with multi-purpose compost and sow or plant up.

This pallet has a mixture of crops including herbs such as thyme, lemon balm and also kale and pansies to add colour.

You could also plant several dwarf bush tomatoes with trailing nasturtiums and basil to make a really attractive pallet garden.

All together

If you haven’t the space to devote to just vegetable growing but have a flower border, why not just grow them all together?

In this picture this beautiful but also edible space has a wigwam of runner beans and around it brassica plants plus yellow tagetes and orange marigolds. Also note the feathery foliage of cosmos, which will be topped with a mass of pollinator-attracting flowers come mid summer.

The tall purple Verbena bonariensis is a great bee attractant and as it is a spindly plant will not shade out your veggies. Edible nasturtiums also ramble through the mix.

You could also dot in some purple kale plants and patches of spinach with lettuce at the front of the border. (In a border like this it is worth using quite tall prominent labels so you can spot the crops.)

Just bootiful

Even an old pair of boots can hold some compost and therefore some fruit or veg plants – in this case, two strawberry plants.

Bag them

If you don’t have a lot of room, you could buy some growing bags and sow with a whole range of veg. Growing bags would fit down a narrow alleyway or in a corner of a sunny patio.

Simply break up the compacted bag by punching it and moving it around. Place where you want it and make some holes in the bottom. Cut out the plastic in the top in a rectangular shape and then sow. Lettuce and mixed salad leaves do well in growing bags.

In the picture the bag contains spinach plus a round-rooted carrot called ‘Atlas’ but you could also grow ‘Parmex’.

Block planting

Sometimes, utilising odd-shaped pieces of land requires a bit of creative thought. Why do you need to have vegetables in rows? Why not sow in blocks.

In this case, patches of green and red lettuce have been sown around a cross-planting of brassicas. They are close together but the lettuce will be harvested and the brassicas allowed to grow on.

Growing fast-growing lettuce around slower-growing brassicas is also known as intercropping, which is a great way to increase harvests from one area.

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About the Author

Emma Rawlings
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