Growing in small spaces

A couple of people have recently asked me about growing vegetables in small spaces so I thought I would write a few useful tips on how to do it. Now is the time to start getting seeds planted so it is the perfect opportunity to start using spaces you hadn’t thought of using before.

There are a few basic things to bear in mind when gardening in small spaces:

  1. Utilize all the space available, not just the ground. This might mean putting up a couple of hanging baskets which can be used to grow strawberries or tumbling tomatoes, or nailing tubs to the fence, known as vertical gardening (this topic deserves an article all to itself so watch out for this soon!)
  1. Use the right tools. There are plenty of containers, tubs and pots out there, all designed to enable people to garden in small spaces. They don’t have to cost much either, things like potato planters and stacking strawberry pots can easily be bought from local garden centres or DIY stores.
  1. Grow the right plants. Some plants simply cannot be grown in small spaces, others can be adapted with a little work and some will thrive whatever environment they are in. The key is to select the correct plants for your space, bearing in mind how much sun and shade they will be getting.
  1. Fertilise! When growing in pots there is a limited amount of nutrition available for the plants so they will need quite a bit of help along the way. This is the same for watering as well as plants in pots can dry out very quickly.

Bearing in mind that this website is aimed at people who garden with children, I am going to keep my vegetable selection simple, relevant, and appealing to children – too often have I thrown away rotten vegetables that my children just don’t eat. You do not want to be doing this if your space is limited!

So here is what I recommend growing if you don’t have much space:

  1. Tomatoes: You can get many varieties and they can easily be grown in pots, though bear in mind that they do prefer a sunny spot to a shady one. For traditional larger tomatoes plant them in a large pot with a bamboo cane for support, bush (cherry) tomatoes don’t need support and can also be grown in a pot. To make use of vertical space you can get tumbling tomatoes and grow them in hanging baskets, they make a fantastic visual addition to the garden as well. Sun requirement: eight hours per day.

tumbling toms

  1. Potatoes: This is a popular one with children, not only for the many ways they can be eaten, but also because children seem fascinated by how they grow. Potato planters can be bought from garden centres and basically consist of a large bag or tub that you fill with soil/ compost and plant your potatoes in. There is a hole at the bottom for you to pick the potatoes from, without the need to disturb the plant itself. Sun requirement: six hours per day.

potato planter

  1. Carrots: These are easily grown and if you grow them in a rectangular tub you can get a brilliant yield too. Just make sure they are regularly watered and fed when possible. Sun requirement: six hours per day.
  1. French beans: Again in a rectangular tub the yield from these can be great. I would suggest growing the dwarf variety as they don’t need any support so could even be grown in a window box or attached to a wall as part of a vertical garden. Children love picking beans as they are fun to hunt for on the plant and easy to pull off by themselves. Beans can tolerate more shade, needing only three to six hours of sun a day.

beans

  1. Peas: The all time favourite with children who just adore popping the peas and eating them raw. These will need some support which can easily be done using a few bamboo canes and some string. Sun requirement: six hours per day.
  1. Strawberries: You can buy strawberry planters that will make growing strawberries simple and easy in a small space. They will need to be fed a lot as their roots grow quite big and there isn’t much space in these pots. Sun requirement: six hours per day.

strawberry

  1. Leafy vegetables: spinach, lettuce and kale all grow well in pots and are quite happy growing in relatively shaded areas. Their popularity with children remains a well contested issue (my children won’t go near them) but some kids love them and it is always worth a try! Sun requirement: three to six hours per day.

There are, of course, many more vegetables that can be grown in small spaces and I will be doing more articles on this in the future. Please feel free to ask me if there is something in particular that you want to try growing and aren’t sure if it will work. I have seen people come up with the most incredible adaptations in order to grow things in awkward spaces so I am sure most things are possible, with a little creativity!


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