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Volume 16, Issue 8 - February 21 - February 27, 2008


Grow a Vegetable Garden in
Tight Quarters

Plan now to plant produce in a small space

A full-size garden isn’t necessary to grow your own fresh vegetables. You can start with as little as a square foot of garden space. Seed catalogs and nurseries offer varieties of dwarf vegetables that you can grow successfully in limited space, including planter boxes. All these miniature varieties, however, have one thing in common: They require full sun. No amount of fertilizer can substitute for full sun.

When planning a small vegetable garden, maximize your growing space by double cropping. For instance, grow Bibb lettuce and green onions together. In one square foot of space, you can grow four Bibb lettuce plants and eight green onions planted between the lettuce plants. As soon as you harvest the lettuce, be ready to plant more lettuce — double cropping — except this time you will plant a variety called Summer Time. This variety is heat tolerant, but because it grows larger than Bibb lettuce, only two plants can be grown in one square foot of space.

You can also grow one miniature cabbage plant and eight radishes in one square foot of space. The radishes will be ready for harvest in 24 to 30 days, leaving plenty of room for the cabbage to grow.

Also available in miniature form are bush-type cucumbers and summer squashes. Hot pepper plants by nature tend to be small and highly productive.

A small-space gardener can also have tomatoes. Cluster varieties of tomato plants produce an abundance of fruit in a limited amount of space. The Tiny Tim tomato variety takes up little room in a garden and makes for excellent eating fruit.

If you yearn for snap beans, consider growing pole beans. Grow them on a trellis, but make sure bean leaves don’t shade the rest of your vegetables. To ensure they don’t block sunlight to other foliage, plant beans on the north side of your garden or make use of a nearby wall using coarse string for them to climb on.

The Little Marvel pea is a delicious shelling pea. It grows only about 18 inches tall and produces well. I have even seen it grown in flower boxes with the vines hanging down, loaded with pods.

Whatever you choose to grow, gardens in a limited space need well-prepared soil. A blend of equal parts compost and gardening soil will provide approximately 50 percent of the nutrient requirements. To maintain the soil, supplement with either organic or chemical fertilizers at two- to three-week intervals. For container gardens, add about 25 percent sand by volume to the soil mixture for proper drainage.

Keeping your small garden properly irrigated is equally important. Water well and deep, avoiding daily watering unless plants wilt between irrigations.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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