While a huge garden with almost limitless space is a dream for most gardeners, the reality is we usually only have a fraction of what we would like.
Some of us might even be limited to a few small planters on a porch or balcony.
Don’t let that discourage you though. It just means you need to plan a little differently.
You’ll want to grow vegetables that are high yielding. For example, a single zucchini planted in a container could produce a dozen or more fruit over the course of the summer, where the same container planted with spinach might only produce enough for a single serving (or less).
Lettuce, pole beans, tomatoes and zucchini are all good choices for high yielding vegetables.
It’s also a good idea to consider the cost of buying vegetables and the difficulty of finding them. Main crop potatoes are easy to find in any supermarket and are cheap, so they don’t make sense for a small garden. Out-of-season potatoes are a different story though. If you plan it well, you could have them fresh from your own garden when they cost an arm and a leg in the stores.
Ease of growing is also a factor in a small garden. If you have a number of plants in a larger garden, it’s not going to be as big a deal if one of them fails as it will if it’s the only plant you had room to grow.
Before you start building your raised bed system, you should cultivate the whole section the same way you would for any other vegetable garden design. Remove all weeds, loosen and level the soil, and remove any large rocks or other foreign items.
Ideally, you want to make your beds 4 feet wide so you can reach the center from either side, giving you access to the entire width. Since you’re going to have to walk around the end of the bed to get to the other side, they shouldn’t be too long – probably 10 feet maximum.
Most of the paths between the beds should be 18 inches (or more) wide, with a few 2 to 3 foot paths for wheelbarrow access.
The edging of your bed can be any height, really. It will depend on the soil you’ve got to work with for one thing. If you need to add more organic matter for effective growing, you’ll need higher beds than if the soil is already in good shape.
Most people think of a garden in the traditional sense – a large rectangular area with rows of vegetables separated by enough space to walk and maintain the plants.
This isn’t written in stone however. A raised bed garden has several advantages over the traditional layout.
First, it can be built to suit your yard. As long as it gets enough sunlight, there’s no need to have everything in one place. You could build raised beds around the outer edge of your yard or in some other way that uses the space to the best advantage.
With raised beds, you also avoid compressing the soil when you walk through. You need to leave enough space between the beds to be able to access them all for maintenance and harvesting, but you won’t need to walk in the bed itself.
This can make a big difference in keeping the soil from becoming too compressed, as well as keeping it from eroding around the roots of your plants.
You’d be surprised at how many gardeners spend little or no time planning their garden every year.
Sometimes they just can’t resist all the beautiful pictures in the seed catalogs while other times they fill half their garden with vegetables nobody in their family even likes, because “those vegetables are in every garden.”
One of the first steps you should take when planning your garden is to decide what you like and will eat. Don’t grow something you wouldn’t buy to eat.
And since most of us have limited space for our garden, try to grow things that fit any or all of the following criteria:
- Hard to find in the store
- Expensive to buy
- Are best when fresh
- Offer different varieties than you can buy in the store
Did you know we’re already halfway through National Mailorder Gardening Month???
Yes, January is officially Mailorder Gardening Month, made so by the National Mailorder Gardening Association. And to think I almost missed it…
Better get out those catalogs and start ordering!