A few handy tips can make planting your garden easier and faster. Add a few planning tips and you can optimise your garden’s yield, growing more vegetables in less space.
Gardening in a Small SpaceUsing space efficiently in a small garden takes a little extra planning. First, try to plant space-efficient and continuous-bearing varieties. Study seed catalogs and seed packets which highlight varieties with compact growth habits and good yields. Avoid sprawling vines or use trellises or other vertical growing systems - grow up not out. Plant pole beans rather than bush beans, for example.
Practice succession planting to get more than one crop in the same space. Plant an early spring crop of peas, for example, and once they’re harvested, dig the vines under and plant a crop of Swiss chard.
Practice interplanting – planting two or more crops together which have different growth habits, and can therefore be planted closely together without competing for sun, water, or nutrients. Tomatoes, peppers, and basil are a good combination. Lettuce and radishes also work well interplanted.
Patio or Balcony GardenIf you live in an apartment, you can still have a nice balcony or patio garden. Plant vegetables in pots and make use of vertical space. Grow “up and down” – use pots with trellises to grow up, and hanging pots to grow down, increasing your growing space. You’ll be amazed at how many vegetables you can grow!
Which Vegetables Should I Plant?If space is limited, plant vegetables that:
- are your favourites
- don’t take up much space
- can’t easily be purchased locally from an organic market
Vegetables for the Beginning GardenerIf you’re a beginning gardener, start small. Vegetables that are good for the first-time gardener include bush beans, loose-leaf lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, summer squash, Swiss chard, and tomatoes. Plant onions from onion sets (which are immature onion bulbs) and plant tomatoes and peppers from purchased seedlings. Peas and beans are easily grown from seed, as are summer squash and Swiss chard. Lettuce can be a little tricky to get started (its seed dries out easily), so purchased seedlings might be a good idea.
How Much of Each Vegetable Should I Plant?Try to determine your family’s needs. Don’t plant more than your family can eat, or else plan to preserve (freeze, can, cold store) extra produce. While one of the pleasures of gardening is sharing your bounty with neighbours and friends, it’s easy to end up with so many tomatoes and courgettes that you could feed your entire community. Start with a list of your family’s favourite vegetables, estimate how often you eat them and look at the yields on the seed packets. Experience will help you improve your planning – make sure to note yearly yields in your garden notebook (and notes that say “Plant more next year!” when appropriate).
Good NeighboursWhich vegetables make good neighbours, and which don’t? Companion planting is planting vegetables together that help each other grow and avoiding planting vegetables together that hinder each other’s growth. While the veracity of claims for many companion pairings may be anecdotal, research proves many common companion-planting practices are beneficial.
Seed-Sowing GuidelinesThe size of the seed determines roughly how deep it should be planted. Small seeds, such as carrots and lettuce, should be planted about 6 mm (1/4”) deep. Medium-size seeds, such as broccoli and radishes, are sown about 12.5 mm (1/2”) deep. Large seeds, such as peas, beans and sweet corn, are planted about 2.5 to 3.8 cm (1-1½”) deep. Very large seeds, such as fava beans, are sown about 5 cm (2”) deep.
Time-Saving Planting IdeasFor planting seeds, lay out a straight row using a garden reel – a piece of garden twine attached to two stakes. Put the stake in the ground at one end of the row, unreel the twine, and insert the other stake at the end of the row. To lay out a garden bed, use a similar technique, marking the square or rectangular perimeter of the bed using four stakes and twine.
An easy way to make a furrow for planting seeds is to lay down the handle of your iron rake or hoe and press it into the ground. For setting out transplants, use a yardstick and mark common planting distances with a permanent marker.
Why not give some of these suggestions a try and make your gardening life easier? Over time you’re sure to come up with a few planting tips of your own!