Utilizing the Space You Have in a Small Garden Plot 17


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Years ago, when my family moved into a home in a subdivision, the very steep front yard was filled with pineapple plants (undeniably cool, I know). It was probably an easy way for the previous resident to use the awkward space, but we wanted more productivity from the only sunny spot in the yard. The pineapples ripened over the course of several months, and as they did, we pulled out the plants and shared them with friends and neighbors. But we felt that plants that bear only a single fruit just wasn’t the best use of the small garden space. Instead, we terraced the area and planted some veggies.

If you have a small garden plot, some crops are better than others. Make the most of the space you have with these vegetables.

We also converted the driveway. The concrete drive was situated in the sunniest spot on our lot. Instead of battling the shade and poor soil conditions that existed in other level parts of our yard, we imported some soil to create raised beds right on top of the concrete so we could start growing immediately. We used Smart Pots and planters made from stacked banana stumps. The banana stumps were mush after just six months or so, but they’re great for short term planter beds.

With our limited space, we focused on plants that offer a lot of produce for the space they take up.

Good vegetables for abundance in your small garden plot

Tomatoes — Caged and supported, a tomato plant takes up roughly a 2′ x 2′ piece of ground. One will produce a steady flow of ripe red fruit during the summer months. As I estimated in an earlier post, a single tomato plant can bear 20-30 pounds of fruit.

Green beans — A happy green bean plant will awe you with how many pods you can pull off during the season. Six bush bean plants can produce a colander full of beans every few days. Or, save space and grow pole beans vertically.

Hot peppers — Unless you like your food fiery, you probably only need a plant or two for fresh use. A jalapeño pepper produces fruit all season long, so you’ll be able to spice up your meals throughout the summer. You might need two plants if you plan to preserve homemade salsa for the pantry. Bell peppers, on the other hand? I’ve not had enough success with them to invite them back to my garden, with one exception. Gypsy bell (a hybrid) is a smaller sweet pepper that is prolific. It doesn’t require the long growing season that a standard bell pepper does.

Squash — We’ve all heard stories about people running away from a gardening neighbor bringing yet more zucchini to the door. Squash does take up a fair amount of space in the garden, but it’s also prolific. If you’ve got a neighbor who grows and shares squash, you might want to save that space for something else. If not, you will be pleasantly surprised at the abundance a single seed can produce. Choose a small variety like Patty Pan to take up less space in your small garden plot.

Greens — Greens like lettuce and spinach are easy to grow and will keep your salad bowl full. Those with warmer weather to contend with will do well with Swiss chard, which will produce new leaves all summer long. And remember to save the tops from your beets and radishes – they’re edible, too!

Eggplant — A single Japanese long eggplant takes up roughly 15 square inches, but continually produces fruit throughout the growing season. Varieties that put out larger fruit take up a bit more space.

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17 thoughts on “Utilizing the Space You Have in a Small Garden Plot

  • Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi

    I live in a subtropical area of the Southern Hemisphere, so I’m working on my winter garden now. Peas, beans, swiss chard, lettuces, carrots and green onions are all planted or going in the ground right away. Getting the right mix of veggies and numbers of plants is something I’m working on!

  • Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart

    I live at altitude in a dry climate (usually) with a VERY short growing season. Even with a small, hobby greenhouse, I have trouble getting certain things to produce enough to make it worthwhile. For example, where other people get overrun with squash, I leap around like I’ve won the lottery when I get one big enough to eat. The first year, I had only male squash blossoms. No females mean no squash. The second year, I had both sexes of flowers, but the squash literally died on the vine (blossom end first). The third year, we got a few squash thanks to better timing and pollination (it really is best to get the female flowers seeded the first morning they open), but some did die on the vine again, and we certainly weren’t overrun. I’ve been trying to grow them in pots because space is such a concern in the greenhouse … so we might try your earlier idea of using bales of straw (we have little soil on top of the rock that is our property.

    My beans and tomatoes have not been nearly as prolific as yours, but I do grow a mean bed of lettuce, spinach and kale, so those will make a return this year.

    It’s still WAY to early to plant anything here, with temps well below freezing overnight, but I do need to get on it and start making a plan for this year.

  • Vera Marie Badertscher

    I have the opposite problem of Roxanne–hot desert climate. That means people can and do grow vegetables all winter long, but most everything dies off in the summer. On top of that, I live in a townhouse with a bricked patio, so am limited to container plants. I’m off to the nursery today for suggestions on things I can grow on the patio, although I’m already a month or so late getting them planted!

  • MyKidsEatSquid

    I haven’t had much success gardening in the past either. I’m growing herb plants indoors right now. I’m going to see if I can keep them growing before I even think about moving them outside, but your post inspires me to keep at it!

  • Jane Boursaw

    I was always a fan of the “square foot gardening” method, but never quite got set up that way. Now my part of the garden is mainly flowers and herbs, so everything’s in there willy nilly. Sort of like my life.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      I’m intrigue with the square foot gardening concept, but truth be told, I’m not much good at following specific directions and I never seem to do exactly what I’m supposed to with my space!

    • jeanne

      I did the square foot garden. All my veggies were bitter. The Garden did not produce well.
      I have narrowed it down. (I’m in San Diego)
      Green beans, tomatoes,garlic, spring onions and 3rd year asparagus garden which has not produced yet in a 4×10 ft box
      italian squash, butternut, cantalop in a 20×5 foot box.
      And herbs galore! Rosemary, basil, oregeno, lemon balm lavendar in a
      4×10 box
      a feverfew bush in a big planter

      I love it!!!

  • sarah henry

    Timely post, as I’ve just cleared the veggie bed for replanting.

  • Jeanine Barone

    I’m in NYC where space is a commodity but even apartment dwellers here have managed to grow some produce in a tiny tiny garden. I like your selection of vegetables.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Vertical gardening is the way to go for city dwellers, I think!

  • merr

    Another great post. We have a small back patio and would love to do a veg garden but I wasn’t sure where to begin, or how.

  • Nancy

    When we lived in California we could grow anything without much effort.  Now that we’ve been in Virginia for the past 12 years I have had no luck with melons, pumpkins, zuchinni, or ant squash.  The squash bugs killed them two years in a row, then when I learned the best way to fight them successfully, the vine borers killed them.  All this time I was losing the battle with powdery mildew.  This year I will not even attempt to grow any of those.  Sticking with tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, carrots and herbs. I really miss CA but not the drought. 

  • teddy

    I have been over-run by weeds this season.  I just couldn’t keep on top of them, so I sent the chooks in and will start again.

  • Laura

    I have a huge bit of property, but cranky knees, so this is exactly the sort of beneficial advice I need to help me plot and arrange my smaller, more manageable garden space, this year. Thank you!

  • Keith

    You’d be surprised at what vegetables will grow in part shade. Beets, spinach, carrots, and many others can take dappled or partial shade without losing productivity..