Vegetable Gardening in a Squeezed Space

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Urban gardening isn’t always easy, especially since space is often hard to come by. For those of us with less space than we’d like, it’s important to be smart when organizing your garden so we can get as much out of it as possible. I’ve learned some tricks, from experience and from friends, about how to manage a garden in a small space.

The first thing to consider is whether you have the appropriate amount of sunlight and irrigation in your space. For most balconies and window boxes, watering isn’t a problem so much as direct sunlight, so assess where the most sunlight is likely to fall. For smaller yards, be aware of where your water drains in case of flooding- use garden boxes if you’re dealing with standing water or soil issues.

The next thing to keep in mind is that you can’t expect to be able to raise corn and pumpkins in a small space. Choosing your plants requires a little discernment and an eye towards which plants grow vertically instead of horizontally. I use a lot of garden stakes, cages, and such to keep my taller plants growing in an orderly direction, but that can make a small space feel smaller, so use discretion for how high to build. Especially given that you’ll have very limited space for plant roots, be mindful of how cramped you want your plants to be.

Get the most for your space with these veggies:

Pole Beans

One of the best ways to conserve space when gardening in the city, especially if you’re relegated to a smaller yard or even a balcony, is to erect a pole bean trellis. Trellises come in many shapes, but most take up space vertically, freeing up room for other plants. Beans are heroes of dietary fiber and, as a bonus, I’ve always found them to be rather forgiving when it comes to maintenance.

Tomatoes & Peppers

Tomatoes are space savers in much the same way that pole beans are. They like to grow tall and can be managed in a small space with the use of a tomato cage. Peppers are one of my favorite vegetables to eat. Like tomatoes, they tend to grow somewhat tall and they do relatively well in smaller planters.

Radishes & Beets

These root vegetables are more forgiving than others when it comes to space. In general, beets don’t mind cramped spaces and are hardy when it comes to limited amounts of light. Radishes are little treasures that grow exceedingly fast and take up barely any room at all. Especially if you have a compact box garden, these two should be considered.

Herbs

A favorite of city-dwellers for their kitchen window boxes, herbs can be the simplest things to grow and to use in cooking. Even if you have a ton of space in your yard, you might find an herb window box is too convenient to pass up.

When designing your garden for small yards, balconies, or window boxes, keep in mind how much sun your plants will get and how accessible they are for watering and harvesting purposes. Just because you have a limited amount of space at your disposal doesn’t mean you can’t have a thriving garden.

What are your favorite vegetables for growing in a squeezed space? Let me know in the comments below. 🙂

 
Mackenzie Kupfer is a writer and gardener. She’s raised gardens, small and large, in several climates across the US.

pole beans photo credit: j.adams1 via photopin cc

18 Comments

  • cj

    Reply Reply January 27, 2014

    I started container gardening about 4 yrs ago. Have no rototiller so obtained old tires, brought in garden mix dirt, filled them & have had really good results w/food grown in small places. Where in TN are you located? We live in S.E. cleveland, tn.
    Thx for your helpful tips & also new ideas for using space.

    • Paul

      Reply Reply January 28, 2014

      Hi CJ – thanks for sharing. I agree with Mackenzie below and love the idea of using tires! 🙂 You may be thinking of me when referring to living in TN. We live just southwest of Nashville.

  • Mackenzie Kupfer

    Reply Reply January 28, 2014

    I love the idea of using tires as containers! I’m actually in Idaho, suffering an eternal inversion right now. Thanks for reading!

  • Emma

    Reply Reply November 3, 2014

    Thank you so much for this article! I want to make my own garden with homegrown vegetables but I don’t have enough space. Thanks again for these advices! Regards!

  • Josh

    Reply Reply November 4, 2014

    This is exactly what i need, i have a small area where i can plant, thanks for the advice

  • Arentat

    Reply Reply December 6, 2014

    I love the container idea, i’m gonna try it and get back to you, thanks a lot paul

    • Paul

      Reply Reply July 5, 2015

      Great! Do let me know how it goes!

  • April

    Reply Reply December 14, 2014

    brilliant ideas.. thank you

  • Gamer

    Reply Reply December 21, 2014

    I’m doing something similar with my garden, i’ve surrounded it with plastic wrap to shape my garden, thanks for the great post.

  • Trelat

    Reply Reply December 24, 2014

    This is a brilliant idea, thanks a lot might save a lot of space in my backyard.

  • Tamara

    Reply Reply December 25, 2014

    I like the idea, thanks a lot paul.

    • Joshua

      Reply Reply January 4, 2015

      Yeah me too, its really creative.

  • Damon

    Reply Reply January 8, 2015

    You sir are awesome, this is a fantastic idea, i’ll apply in to my little garden.

  • Niel

    Reply Reply January 12, 2015

    What an amazing idea, i shall try it myself.

  • Suphie

    Reply Reply July 3, 2015

    Hey, there!!! I just happened to stumble upon your little website while searching for some good tips on how to treat my pumpkin plants that I started growing in mid-May.

    I was just wondering…I did use the requisite amount of space (18-36in.) to separate the pumpkins from each other, but since I live in an urbanish-garden (I live in a moderately spacious backyard and side-yard adjacent to a drive way, which I try to shield my pumpkin plants, from). Anyway, but I did not use much caution when planting the pumpkins next to other things, namely, roses, plox, and zinnias…Is there any danger in planting a pumpkin plant like, 5-10 inches from, say a rose plant>>>??? I feel like I made a mistake, but it’s too late to move it now, what do I do?? I don’t want to kill my rose bush which has a lot of seniority on the pumpkins, which are newbies. Thanks, Suphie

    • Paul

      Reply Reply July 5, 2015

      Hi Suphie, great question!

      Alright, first of all, there is definitely no danger in planting your pumpkins next to the rose plants (or other flowers for that matter). Your main concern is if they have enough space to grow to their optimum size. Even if they are planted too close they will still grow and even produce fruit (granted they get the right care and the soil is good) but the plants and fruit may be smaller then optimal.

      I definitely wouldn’t pull out the roses unless you don’t care about them. If you can possibly plant the pumpkins a little farther away from the rose bush I’d do that. If they are already planted and are small you could simply transplant them a little farther away but carefully digging up the plant with a trowel and moving it over. Otherwise if there is plenty of room for the plant to grow away from the rose bush then you should be just fine.

      So yes, that is a bit too close – but if it has space to grow away it should be fine. If it’s being crowded out on all sides then I’d see it as a concern and would encourage you to move the plant somewhere else altogether. Make sense?

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