How to Grow More Food in Less Space
Many of us are stuck. We are stuck with a certain size garden and expansion is difficult or impossible.
If this is your scenario, don’t be discouraged.
Here’s 7 Tips to Growing Big Food Crops in Small Spaces
Side Note: All the pictures in this post were taken this week of my gardens. There’s still plenty of crops I have yet to plant, but we are off to a nice start. Enjoy the tour. 🙂
Tip #1 to Grow Big Crops in a Small Space: Vertical Gardening
One easy way to get more crops into a small space is to go up.
So many vegetables can be grown on trellises: Beans, cucumbers, gourds, peas, pumpkins, melons, squash, sweet potatoes and even tomatoes will happily climb a ladder if you give them one.
For an all natural trellis, head to some nearby woods and grab some branches. You can build teepee style trellises, criss-cross trellises or triangle shaped trellises.
My favorite way to build a trellis is with cattle panels. They sell 16 ft by 50 inch cattle panels for $20 at our local tractor store. Cattle panels are strong, durable and will last for years to come.
To build the trellis, slice the panel in half with a sawzall. This gives (2) 8 feet lengths of panel. Next, place the panels in the garden bed & use zipstrips to connect the tops. You can stabilize the bottom of the panels with stakes or by burying them a few inches into the ground.
I can build this type of tressis and have it staked in my garden in just a few minutes. Super easy.
The green beans are just coming in!
Once your plants begin to climb you will want to guide them a bit. Gently lean them toward the trellis & they should find their way from there.
Tip #2 to Grow Big Crops in a Small Space: Raised Beds
Raised beds are a sure way to increase your harvest.
Some notes about Raised Beds:
- They can greatly increase your yields.
- Raised beds are a lot of work to set up.
- Crops growing in raised beds may need more water due to the increased volume of plants in a smaller space.
- Raised beds need super fertile soil (also because of the volume of plants)
- Raised beds are easier to manage, weed and keep tidy.
For more on raised beds go here.
When you grow in raised beds you don’t need rows. I plant my veggies equal distances apart throughout the beds.
With raised beds you can also plant much closer together. Because the soil is extra deep and extra fertile (compost) you can put more plants in less space. The roots can go down much farther in a raised bed so they don’t travel “out” as far.
When the soil is poor and ground is hard the roots will travel “out” to the right and left in order to find nutrients and moisture. In this scenario, you need to plant your veggies far apart so they can all find what they need.
With raised beds the roots can go down instead of out. This means more plants can all live in tight quarters without fighting over root space.
Tip #3 to Grow Big Crops in a Small Space: Succession Planting
Another method to growing more crops in a smaller space is to use succession planting. Succession planting is a system where as crops are harvested, new crops are planted.
In a succession garden you can plant spring crops (cool season) followed by summer crops (warm season) followed by another round of cool season crops for fall.
Sometimes I will begin a second crop before I harvest the first one.
Example #1: Once the pea plants are producing mature pods, plant pepper seedlings in front of them. When you pull the pea vines out of the garden bed, the peppers will be in line to climb the trellises.
Example #2: When your tomatoes are tall and ripe and dripping with fruit, sow lettuce seeds in the shade under the plants. Before you eat your last tomato, you will begin to harvest fresh lettuce.
Example #3: When the lettuce patch is beginning to bolt sow some yellow squash or zucchini seeds among the plants.
Tip #4 to Grow Big Crops in a Small Space: Use Cages & Steaks
Keeping plants upright will allow you to grow much more in a small area. Tomatoes are a classic garden goodie that is typically kept upright. Some folks use stakes, some use cages, some use strings. Growing tomato upwards does way more than save space. It keeps the plants healthy and the fruit off the ground so it is less likely to rot.
Tomatoes are not the only plant that can be grown up. Peppers, bush beans, eggplant, basil and oregano are all plants that I usually tie up with a stake or cage of some sort.
- This allows me to fit more crops in less space.
- It keeps my garden neat and orderly.
- It allows for airflow between plants.
- It also keeps plants healthier.
Tip #5 to Grow Big Crops in a Small Space: Loose Fertile Soil
It won’t matter how many trellises you build or how many cages you have, if your soil is lacking, the plants won’t thrive. Nutrient rich soil is a must if you want to cram dozens of plants into a small space.
Building soil isn’t difficult. Go here to see how we get our beds ready for planting in spring.
Tip #6 to Grow Big Crops in a Small Space: Companion Planting
You may have heard of the “three sisters” planting system. It’s a Native American classis where corn, beans and squash are all planted together. The squash shades the ground to block weeds. The beans climb up the corn stalks so you won’t need a trellis.
Other plants that grown nicely together are tomatoes, basil & onions or carrots, onions and radishes.
Tip #7 to Grow Big Crops in a Small Space: Stretch you Growing Season
To get the most from your garden keep it producing as long as possible. Some things you can do to keep your veggies coming after Halloween are:
- Put in some cool season crops that are frost hardy
- Use deep mulch (to keep your soil from freezing)
- Use row covers to create a mini greenhouse over your plants
With these 7 tips you are sure to be eating plenty of fresh foods from your garden most of the year.