This is a pretty common problem. When one of our staff got started, his garden was a few tomatoes in planters on his porch. But there are some really cool options if you don’t have a lot of space, or if you just want to optimize the space you do have.
One really neat option to grow a lot in a small space is called Square Foot Gardening. The creator of it is Mel Bartholomew, and the whole deal is you plant a different crop inside each square foot of garden. You create a grid, (in raised beds usually) and then there is a predetermined way to plant in each square. For instance – carrots usually need 3″ spacing – so you would plant 16 seeds in the square foot.
Medium plants (bush beans, spinach) you would plant 9 to a square. Large plants (leaf lettuce, parsley) you would plant 4 to a square, and your extra large plants (cabbage, cauliflower) you would plant 1 to a square.
What are the advantages? Well – you can use these just about anywhere. They are extremely portable. If you use a raised bed with a bottom, you can simply pick it up and move it. If you are someone who has a hard time bending down or getting around, you can very easily build the bed to waist level or higher.
But why the square foot thing? Well, the premise is this: You do a different crop in every square of the grid. Doing this is purported to help you be able to more closely regulate the nutrients you use, limit over-ambitious planting (so you don’t wind up with a bajillion tomatoes and nothing to do with them). In addition, it’s easy to stagger your harvest so you get continuous fruition, helps with weed and pest control, and it’s really aesthetically pleasing.
One factor Mel Bartholomew talks about a lot is the “all-at-once harvest” you see in row gardening. It seems to me you could pretty easily control this in row gardening as well, but the folks who use this method swear by it. From what I can see, this is the best use of space, and it does seem to make it pretty simple to dig up your crop once it matures and plant something else behind it pretty easily. Are there any downsides? Other than being really organized, nope. It’s just another layout for what you are already doing, and it’s pretty nifty.
I also really like that the creator has begun the Square Foot Gardening Foundation. Their mission is to teach others to feed themselves and become self-sufficient. This is a very admirable mission, and one we here at Kelp4Less can definitely respect. To learn more about the Foundation, and square foot gardening in general, check out their website: http://www.squarefootgardening.com