Small Garden Techniques and Ideas
With ever more people taking an interest in growing their own vegetables as part of a drive towards self-sustainability, or at least a growing desire to take more control of what they consume; the interest in how to get more out of the often small spaces available is, unsurprisingly, growing also. Thankfully there are a number of ways to grow veggies in small spaces and some great ideas for a small garden such as Raised Bed Gardening, Square Foot Gardening and Container Gardening – generally referred to as no-dig gardening owing to the lack of effort needed to grow plants in general, and vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, onions, peas, beans etc in particular.
This technique is especially important for the numerous city-dwellers who have taken up the idea, and for whome large garden space – or any garden space at all – is virtually non-existent.
S.F.G. Enter the technique of growing veggies in limited spaces!
Square Foot Gardening as with the Raised garden bed is one of the most popular small garden ideas at the moment, as it allows you to truely maximize your growing abilities, by concentrating a number of different plants within the same small area. In the SFG method this area is measured at 4 x 4 feet square. This in turn gives you 16 foot-square areas in which to grow your plants. Now I’m the first to admit that this does not seem like a large enough growing area to supply the average family; however nothing could be further from the truth, and the fact is that with correct planting this small area is indeed extremely effective at ‘producing the goods.’
A quick scan of this picture shows the typical layout of a SFG. The trick is to plant your veggies in such a way as to take control of the natural benefits that each plant will offer it’s neighbor in relation to pest control and nutritional benefits. This is a technique known as Companion Planting, and is extremely effective for growing plants in such concentrations – something that often leads to all sorts of problems in conventional gardening.
In truth SFG is another form of Raised Bed Growing in many ways, apart from the different dimensions involved the real thing that sets them apart is the fact that SFG tends to concentrate more on plant diversity. This offers a ‘balanced diet’ so to speak when it comes to serving a small family with a good range of selected vegetables.
Consider A Raised Bed Vegetable Garden:
RBG Techniques are similar in many ways to SFG, indeed many would argue that they are both concepts of the same idea; that is they both grow vegetables in a confined area using ‘special’ growing medium.
In fact the main differences between the two is in the area concerned, the hight of the ‘boxes’ and the principles behind the ideas themselves. With regard to the growing areas, the typical Raised Bed system is 9 foot by 3 foot. The SFG system is as mentioned earlier 4 x 4 foot, and the average height of a Raised bed is 12-18 inches compared to 6 inches for a SFG.
As for the principles behind them. The Square foot system is mainly about rotational planting allowing the growing of a diverse range of different vegetables; whereby the RBG really concentrates on producing more of the same species in each bed – usually about 2 or 3 different vegetables.
However…it should be obvious to the reader that both these systems are liable to the interpretation of the gardener. For instance there is nothing to prevent me from growing just one crop in the SFG, and at the same time growing multiple crops in the RBG. Indeed there is nothing preventing me building a SFG in the same way as a Raised Bed – just with higher sides!
In reality the gardener concerned must weigh up the different aspects of the two systems, then just go for it It’s not rocket science after all. Provide your plants with the correct amount of nutrients, light and water – and they will grow just fine. Incorporate some Companion Planting ideas and they will grow even better!
Another aspect of growing vegetables in tiny spaces, is Container Planting, which as small garden ideas go is pretty effective. As the name suggests this is simply taking any available container and planting vegetables suited to the size or make-up of said container. This means that good healthy vegetables can be grown on your patio or window sill! Many books have been written on the subject of growing vegetables in containers of all shapes and sizes, growing tomatoes in containers being off particular interest it seems.
Apart from the obvious advantages of this method for those without any space to consider the other options discussed, the container gardener has the advantage in that the containers can be moved around to take best advantage of the sunlight – an option that is not open to the other systems. (though to be fair the SFG can be portable if built correctly)
Straw Bale Gardening:
This is actually another form of container gardening in as much as the planting area is contained within a container – which in this case is a bale of straw. (although it could indeed be a hay bale garden?) The advantage with this type of micro-gardening is that it requires very little in the way of compost or fertiliser as it is pretty much self contained.
Simply lay out your bale on a sheet of garden membrane to stop weeds. Make sure your bale is sitting with the cut side up (on its edge), then soak it through with water which has in turn been infused with a suitable fertilizer to give it a boost – preferably use water from a water-butt or pond if you have one handy
After about 10 days dig a hole in the straw bale about 6 inches deep and 3-4 inches diameter. Fill with compost and plant your veggies according to their requirements. If support is needed then simply fix a post into the ground at each end and string some wires 6 inches apart to grow climbers.
Over the course of the growing season the bale will rot down to keep your veggies fed and weed free!
This is a growing trend amongst vegetable growers, as it is a definate contender for the no-dig gardening awards!
For more gardening hints and tips on these and other growing techniques, please visit our book store here