Last Updated on October 8, 2022 by Real Men Sow
So how do you grow food in less space? Although it may seem tempting to simply cram plants wherever they will fit in your garden, this is a bad idea and is likely to result in lower yields. And although you might be able to fit more plants into your garden, it won’t necessarily produce more food. Plants that are too close together will fight for nutrients and root space.
To produce more food from your garden, the best thing is to give each plant the right environment to thrive. It can be difficult to fit everything in your garden the traditional way if you want to make sure there is enough space between your plants. There are many things you can do to make your garden more functional and provide more food for more plants. You can fit more food and plants into your garden, but not all of them.
Be Wise When Choosing Plants
First, grow only what your family loves to eat. Next, find crops that thrive in your local area. Make sure you are familiar with the microclimate and your garden zone before choosing crops that will grow well in your area.
If you are looking for plants you enjoy eating and that grow well in your local area, be sure to select varieties that require less space and/or produce more food per plant. Some things are just not worth growing. They take up too much space and produce less food. When it comes to choosing what plants to grow in your garden, and how to best utilize your space, make wise decisions.
Companion planting can be a great way to increase your gardening space without compromising the health and space requirements of your plants. This is a way to plant crops next to each other in order to benefit from their growth. They can also help add nutrients to the soil which will benefit other plants. Other plants will repel pests and attract beneficial insects such as bees. Some companion plants will shade you or provide wind protection. Others can even make your crops taste better as basil is planted close to tomatoes.
Sample of Companion Plants
Brassicas and Legumes
Legumes can be described as beans and peas. They are able to fix nitrogen in the soil and make it bioavailable to other plants. This makes them an excellent companion plant for many plants. They are excellent companions for any member of the brassica family (broccoli and cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts etc.). Brassicas are heavy feeders of nitrogen.
Brassicas and Alliums
Brassicas (broccoli/kale/cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts), do well when grown with allium crops (onions/garlic, shallots/leeks, etc.). Alliums are believed to repel pests and enhance the taste of brassicas. It is best to avoid planting alliums alongside legumes, as they don’t get along well.
Basil and Tomatoes
Basil is believed to repel pests from tomato plants such as whiteflies and tomato hornworms. People believe they to enhance the flavour of tomatoes grown on nearby plants. I can’t confirm this, but tomatoes and basil are grown together in our garden and both have amazing flavours.
Beans, Squash, and Corn
This is the “Three Sisters’ planting method. The corn grows up, giving something for the pole bean to climb up; the nitrogen-fixing pole beans fertilize the soil; and the squash grows beneath, providing shade and keeping the soil cool and moist.
Instead of planting two crops at once and benefiting each other, interplanting involves planting a fast-growing crop in between a slower-growing crop to produce multiple crops and harvests from the same area.
You could, for example, grow radishes between rows of carrots. There will be a faster growth rate for the radishes than the carrots so when you harvest them, they will allow your carrots to grow in more space. You can also grow lettuce with onions. You can either harvest the lettuce quickly or transplant it to fill the gaps. This was what we did last year, and it worked well.
Succession planting is another way to harvest multiple crops from the same area. This means you plant a new crop immediately after the previous one is harvested. Some crops, such as peas and garlic, grow fast or can be harvested earlier than others. You can plant new crops by removing these crops from the ground.
A fall garden can be planted in place of summer annuals. Make sure you start your fall crops well in advance so they are ready for planting as soon as the summer crops are finished.
Growing on a Vertical Garden
Not all crops can be grown vertically. This is why it is important to choose the right crops and make sure that you have the right equipment to trellis and grow them vertically. Good vertical crops include pole beans and peas (English and sugar snap peas), winter squash and pumpkins as well as melons and indeterminate tomato varieties. Each crop will require a trellis, and each one will be different.
Crops to Grow on a Vertical Garden
Beans and Peas
The easiest crops for vertical growth because they will latch onto any trellis that you give them. Peas prefer chicken-wire or cattle panel fencing. We like to grow peas along our garden fence because they climb up and grab with their little tendrils.
They can climb fairly easily but may require some help to get started. Although they took a little longer to grow, our fresh-eating cucumbers did remarkably well and occupied only one square foot.
Melons, Squash, and Pumpkins
They require a bit more assistance when trellising. You may have to weave some vines up a fence or hoop trellis, or even an arbor. As they grow, they can become quite heavy and large. You might also need to support them. To support squash and melons, you can use old nylons (or pantyhose), by tying them to your trellis. They act as little hammocks for each fruit.
You can train them to use a tomato stake and then prune them with great care to get lots of tomatoes from your plants. There are many ways to stake or trellis tomatoes indeterminately, including string trellising and straight up-and down poles. Spiral stakes are my favorite way to stake tomatoes.
The spiral stakes allow the tomato vines to wind around the stakes easily until they outgrow them. Either top them off or tie them to our tomato shelters. But that’s a rabbit trail that I won’t follow right now.
Utilize your Microclimates
There may be areas on your property that don’t get full sunlight, but you can add containers or a raised bed. There are areas on our property that have shade, where many annual sun-loving crops won’t thrive. However, we have learned to make the most of these areas and cultivate crops that can tolerate or even thrive in cooler areas.
You might also have a greenhouse that acts as a microclimate. This can be used to extend your growing season, get a larger harvest from heat-loving plants such as tomatoes and peppers or even grow vegetables all year!
Try square foot gardening
Square foot gardening is another great method to increase food production in a smaller space. Square foot gardening works by dividing your garden into square feet and allocating each square foot to a specific crop or number of vegetables.
Some vegetables need more space. You might, for example, grow one tomato plant per square foot, four heads lettuce in another, nine heads garlic in another, and sixteen carrots in another. Each of these plants require different amounts of space.
Plant in Containers
Even if you only have a small patio or balcony, container gardening can be a great way of growing food in small spaces. It’s also an excellent way to increase your gardening space without having to grow new plants.
Containers can be added to an existing garden or to other areas on your property to make the most of your microclimates. They are a great way for you to increase your growing space in areas that you don’t want to put in a garden.
Containers are great because they can be moved around to where you need them. This means you don’t have to keep your garden in one place. You can also add more. Hanging baskets might be a good option. You can save space and grow food even on the smallest of balconies. There are many varieties of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and strawberries if you have good sunlight. Hanging baskets are also possible to grow herbs.
It doesn’t matter if you want to grow more food in a smaller space or if you just want to produce more food, your soil is the most important thing. Your garden will thrive if you focus on creating healthy, nutrient rich soil that is full of organic matter.
Your plants will thrive if they have access to the nutrients they require from well-drained soil or compost. You can prepare your soil by planting a cover crop, or layering thick layers of compost or manure on top of your annual crops. Then mulch with organic matter such as wood chips, leaves and straw. The organic matter in the soil will eventually be broken down, feeding your soil throughout the winter and spring months. By spring, your soil will be full of nutrients and ready for planting!
If you didn’t get the compost in the fall, and are looking to add compost in spring, make sure that it is well-aged compost. Hot compost, which is still in its initial stages of breakdown, can contain too much nitrogen and burn the roots of seedlings. Hot manure is the same: you can either apply it in the fall to let it decompose, or ensure that it’s well-aged composted manure when you apply it in spring.
Crop Rotation Plan
Every crop you grow requires different nutrients from the soil. You must replenish those nutrients before you can plant the same crop again in the same space. Amend your soil to increase nutrients, or companion planting, but it is important to always rotate your crops to ensure that they don’t use the same nutrients year after year.
Crop rotation also helps prevent pests and diseases from spreading to the same crop every season. Monocultures can spread disease and pest infestations in the same way as monocultures. The same goes for growing the same crop every season. Mix it up, and then move things around! This will ensure that your garden is productive no matter what size space you have.
The key takeaway from this article should be that you need to play around with the spacing in your garden. If you don’t, you may accidentally put plants too close together and not realize it until later. And with that in mind, there’s no right or wrong way to design a garden to grow food in less space. There are many different factors to consider, so it will likely look very different for every person who does it. In the end, your garden needs to fit the needs of your particular plot of land, the space you have available and your personal preferences.