When you’re new to gardening it may be difficult to know what to plant in a small space vegetable garden, but we have some ideas and tips that may help you to decide.
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Small Space Vegetable Garden
Some of these tips will depend upon your definition of “small space”. Are we talking a couple of planters on your high-rise apartment balcony? Or are we talking a couple of raised beds in your small backyard?
Our experience is closer to the second of those scenarios, so these tips are more geared towards that. But we will also throw in a few ideas we have for small container gardening and what vegetables you could potentially grow in a much smaller amount of space.
What to plant
What you want to grow will vary widely, primarily based upon your own food needs. It makes the most sense that you would be sure to plant vegetables that you are confident you will consume rather than those you’ve never tried or do not eat frequently.
So, first ask yourself, “what vegetables do I like to eat?”
The answer to this question vastly narrows down the selection, at least for most people! Some people enjoy veg that they can eat raw, and some prefer cooked vegetables, which will give you a different selection as well.
Another consideration is how much light the space gets. If you have a truly confined space and cannot change the location of your “small garden” then choosing plants that can best use the available sunlight is important. Some plants grow best in full sun, while others do better in dappled light or partial shade. There are ways to “hack” this if your plant needs less sun, but getting more sun to an area that has little is not a practical endeavor.
So we’ve listed a few considerations already, but let’s lay them all out together in one place.
- How small is your space? (in ground/raised bed/container?)
- What vegetables do you like to eat?
- How much sun does your space get?
- Is vertical height a consideration? (for instance for a balcony or area that is covered but still outdoors)
Based on the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to weed out (pun intended) vegetables you would prefer not to grow, or are unable to grow, which fortunately leaves you with the selection that will work.
If you are attempting to grow a small space garden in pursuit of some level of self sufficiency, then I would imagine you’d like to grow as much of something in that small space as possible. So let’s take a look at some plants that can grow in a small space and also have a high yield of vegetables per plant.
High yield in a small space vegetable garden
High yield means that instead of a plant that grows a single fruit or vegetable, you’re going to select plants that can bear a lot of fruit per plant.
There are a lot of plants that fit that category. Tomatoes. Green beans. Zucchini. Snap peas. Lettuces and spinach and other leafy greens since you essentially eat the whole plant. Cucumbers. Peppers.
But can you grow all of these things in a small space? That depends how willing you are to get creative.
How to keep a sprawling garden small
One way that you could theoretically grow even vining plants in a small space without worrying about having them spread out too far is to try your hand at vertical gardening. This is why your vertical space is a consideration.
Plants that can grow on poles such as tomatoes can have a high yield on a single plant. But what about plants that normally stay low to the ground and shoot heavy vines in every direction to bear their fruit? Like cucumbers or zucchini, for instance.
It is possible to grow these plants vertically on poles and trellises in order to avoid the spread. There are other benefits as well such as fruit not resting on the soil and inviting pests to eat them, or that the fruit is easier to pick when it is elevated and easy to see.
Now, these aren’t necessarily traditional methods of growing these plants, but they’re quite practical solutions for growing a vegetable garden in a small space and being able to have the freedom to choose what to plant and grow. I’ve even seen winter squash and even large melons grown this way with the correct support for the heavy fruit.
In addition to keeping the individual plants confined to a smaller space, this would allow for growing more plants and varieties in the space you have to work with.
One example – a 4×8 raised bed
Say you have a single 4×8 raised bed and you want to grow zucchini. Normally zucchini would take over a whole bed of that size, but if you attach the vines up a pole as they grow, then you’ve got a horizontal garden with room to plant a couple tomato plants, a bell pepper plant, and maybe some spinach. That’s a fairly diverse garden for the size available and each of those is fairly high yield and commonly liked, so you’d be off to a good start.
Another example – a few window boxes
Perhaps all you have is a couple of window boxes and not much room other than that. They’re not very deep so you’d have to be careful not to plant varieties that require deep rooting. You may be best served by planting some leafy greens, or a small bush variety of plant, or even some peppers. In this small of a space your options are quite a bit more limited, but options remain nonetheless.
What do you think?
What to plant in a small space vegetable garden is going to vary widely, as we’ve seen. So much depends upon your location, sunlight, actual square footage, and preferences in what makes a “good vegetable”.
There are other options besides vegetable gardening that can be equally beneficial, depending upon your needs. In a very small space it would be easier to grow a selection of herbs to use for cooking, or chamomile for making teas, or even some kinds of “weeds” used for tinctures and salves. It really all just depends on what is the most valuable way to use the space to meet your individual needs.
What are you growing in your small space vegetable garden? Feel free to share any tips you’ve learned so readers can peruse comments and learn even more!