You don’t need a lot of space to grow your own fresh vegetables, herbs and produce. You don’t really even need a garden. A sturdy pot will do, as long as you have dirt, water and sun.
Here are the three things you must have for any size garden.
Sun: Vegetables need a good six or more hours of sun each day. Otherwise, grow vegetables that can survive in light shade, such as lettuce and other greens, broccoli and cole crops (plants that belong to the mustard “brassica” family such as kale,cabbage, etc.).
Water: Vegetables require regular watering. A drip irrigation system is a plus, but you can even do with a simple soaker hose. Locate your vegetable garden near a water spigot for easy access.
Soil: Vegetables need soil rich in organic matter. A vegetable’s taste is affected by the quality of the soil.
Now, think small
• Look for any plant varieties with the words “patio — pixie — tiny — baby — dwarf” in the name, which means a plant is bred to be small.
• Mix flowers and veggies if you’re truly short of space. Vegetables can be ornamental in their own right and flowers will bring pollinators to the vegetables.
• Look for vining crops that can be trained upward on supports. Think pole beans rather than bush beans, and vining cucumbers and squash.
• Use succession planting as a small space technique. Re-seed quick-growing crops every two to three weeks
during the growing season. You’ll have produce all summer, but not all at once.
• Companion planting conserves space and cuts down on pest infestations. Shade-tolerant plants benefit from being planted next to taller crops. Basil likes a respite from the hot sun and does well planted next to tomatoes. Early harvested vegetables can be planted with slower-growing crops, which won’t take over the space until the spring harvested vegetables are gone.
• Grow in containers that you can squeeze into spaces on your patio or elsewhere. Virtually any fruit, vegetable or herb can be grown in a container if the container is large enough for it.
- herbs and greens can grow in small pots or hanging baskets
- fruiting plants such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers work best in 5-gallon containers or larger.
• Windowsill gardens can provide an easy, low-space option for plants that are frequently harvested, such as lettuce or herbs.
Simple ways to water while you’re away
• Find a neighbor/plant-savvy friend who can come over a couple of times a week, then you can return the favor. Group plants with similar watering needs together on a waterproof floor and out of direct sun.
• Make a mini greenhouse with a plastic bag set over the plants. For details, go to goodhousekeeping.com and search for “how to water plants while away.”
• Set up a wicking system with an absorbent wicking material (thick yarn, roping, cotton T-shirt strips), plus containers to hold water. Set a container of water next to the plant, place one end of the wick into the water, making sure it reaches the bottom of the other container. Pole the other end about 3 inches deep into the plant’s moist soil. As the soil dries out, water will travel up the wick to replenish the moisture.
• Try a wine bottle. Simply screw a wine bottle filled with water to the stake, i.e., Plant Nanny Wine Bottle Stakes. Then insert the stake into your potted plant. The water will release slowly and steadily while you’re away. You may need two stakes per plant.
• Invest in a slow drip system. These are easy to assemble and will save you time when you are home.