Vegetable gardening can provide the grower many benefits including exercise, a break from the stress of everyday life, decrease in the weekly food bill, nutritious produce that tastes better and is fresher than grocery store produce, and a sense of pride when you feed your family fresh vegetables from your own garden. It’s no wonder vegetable gardening keeps gaining popularity.
But what if you have limited space to grow a vegetable garden? Garden anywhere that receives six to eight hours of full sunlight. Vegetables can be incorporated into an existing landscape, such as around a mailbox. Utilize container gardens in or around areas with hard surfaces, such as patios. Vegetable gardens can even be placed in the front yard.
Or plant a square foot garden. Square foot gardening was developed by Mel Bartholomew. This style of gardening involves the construction of a 4 feet by 4 feet raised bed. The bed can be longer, but should not be wider than 4 feet. You should be able to reach all plants without walking into the garden.
Square foot gardens can be built in any full sun space such as on a patio or driveway. The garden can be built close to the house and a water source. The system is above ground and does not require tillage. In addition, a square foot garden utilizes less space.
Square foot garden beds are filled with a mix of one part peat moss, one part vermiculite and one part compost mix. If placing the bed on top of a lawn space, spread newspaper six sheets thick in the bottom of the bed. After filling the bed with potting mix, divide the raised bed into square foot sections. Each square foot of the garden is managed separately. The number of plants per square foot depends on the mature size of the plant. For example in a square foot you could plant one cabbage, or four lettuce plants, or nine beets. Water and fertilize the beds as needed. For more information visit Square Foot Gardening Web site at www.squarefootgardening.com.
If you have limited space, poor soil, or not enough sunlight for a traditional vegetable garden, you may want to grow vegetables in containers. Any container that has drainage holes is suitable for growing plants. Fill the container with a good quality potting mix, consider using one with a time release fertilizer. Vegetables that grow well in containers are those with compact growth habit.
The size of the container depends on the mature size of the plant. Be sure to give the plant a large enough container to support the root system. Lettuce, spinach, radishes, onions and beets will grow well in a 6- to 10-inch diameter container. A one- to two-gallon size container is suitable for peppers, Swiss chard and green beans. A container 20 inches in diameter that holds four to five gallons of soil mix is suitable for tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. During the heat of the summer, be prepared to water containers every day. Ohio State University has a good fact sheet on container vegetable gardening, http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1647.html.
If you haven’t grown vegetables before, this year try to grow a vegetable plant anywhere that you have space. Vegetable gardening can be fun and be a great source of fresh produce. –Jennifer Fishburn
Jennifer Fishburn is horticulture educator for University of Illinois Extension Sangamon-Menard Unit, where she has worked for 13 years. She has written a garden column for Illinois Times since 2003.