Using intensive planting techniques as well as crop rotation small garden design can be successfully achieved. Yields are high when plants are closely spaced. By growing early, mid and late season vegetables in the same space, maximum yield is realized from minimum space.
It’s amazing how much you can grow in a small space if you plant intensively and continue to plant in the same space as the seasons change.
The following is a basic plan for a compact, easily workable 4-by-4-foot garden. It can yield delicious vegetables during the growing season, and provide color and interest throughout all four seasons. Although this small garden design is only 4-by-4-feet, it can seem quite large when preparing the soil for the first time.
The garden needs at least six hours of sun a day, including mid-day sun, so choice of site is very important. This is not meant to be a hard-and-fast small garden design but a guide for planting a high-yield garden. Other vegetables can be substituted for those designated.
A great space saver is vertical planting. The plan calls for a fence bordering the northern end of the garden. This makes the best use of available space by training plants upward instead of allowing them to sprawl.
Even early in the year, the garden is productive and attractive. Spring flowering bulbs precede vegetables. Bulb planting is done in the fall.
As spring progresses, sugar snap peas climb the fence. Two broccoli plants are surrounded by Johnny jump-ups. Broccoli is the only edible that stays in the garden throughout the growing season. After the central head is cut, smaller heads form on side shoots. Lettuce is attractive in any garden. New Zealand spinach is a good, heat-tolerant substitute for regular spinach. Beets or carrots interplant well with radishes. Radishes grow quickly, ready to eat in about three weeks, and help loosen the soil for the deeper-root vegetables.
As the weather gets hotter, the early cool-season vegetables start to peter out, and are replaced with mid-season vegetables started from seed indoors or bought from a nursery or garden center. The only exception is the pole or runner beans that trellis up the fence, which grow so quickly they do not need to be started ahead of time. Sharing the fence with the beans is a tomato plant. A warm-weather variety of lettuce planted near the beans and tomatoes is slightly shaded from the harsh summer sun by the vining leaves. Nasturtium fit well between the broccoli plants. There is room for an eggplant and a sweet or hot pepper centered with a clump of chives. The front of the warm-season garden is reserved for low-growing herbs and edible flowers. Dwarf marigold and dianthus add color, spice, and even a measure of pest control to the garden.
As the weather begins to cool, the garden undergoes its final transformation. Tomatoes are left, as they will keep producing. I might sneak in a pumpkin of a very small variety along the fence. Chrysanthemums are a traditional autumnal plant.
Although this is a small garden design, it contains the basics for an attractive landscape that will last several seasons each year. The rewards for growing your own vegetables are great, not only in terms of money saved at the market, but in pride of achievement.