Small Space Vegetable Gardens

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If you think vegetable gardening is only for those lucky enough to have a huge backyard or plot of land, think again. You can grow vegetables even if all you have is a few square feet. True, you won’t produce as much as those who have larger yards, but you can still supplement your diet with tasty, healthy fresh vegetables right from the garden.

How To Start A Small Space Vegetable Garden

For a healthy vegetable garden of any size, your plot needs to be in full sun. Most vegetables require at least six hours of sun each day. Work good organic compost through your soil, and remove any rocks, weeds or clumps. You need a water source near your veggie garden, and unless your garden is very small, carrying a watering can will get tedious. A sprinkler or hose will make the job easy, and keep your veggies happy. With the intensive planting outlined here, you should pay close attention to fertilizing. Spread a good quality, organic fertilizer around your vegetable bed at least monthly. Keep an eye out for insect pests, removing them by hand or with a soap spray safe for use on vegetables. Pull weeds as soon as you spot them.

A raised planting bed is excellent for a small vegetable plot, allowing you to amend the soil heavily and keep your garden contained and tidy. You can buy raised planter frames, or fashion one yourself with lumber and corner connectors. A raised bed as small as 4 feet by 4 feet will provide a surprising amount of produce if you plan it carefully. Specially organized raised beds can be broken into square foot sections, which is called square foot gardening. The secret is to stick with varieties of vegetables that are naturally dwarf or small, plant them close together, and make use of every square foot of your bed. By planting successively, you can prolong your harvest, and keep your garden rotating through a variety of veggies.

small space vegetable gardening ideal home garden small space vegetable gardening ideal home garden

Before starting, measure out square feet in your vegetable plot with a measuring stick. A 4 foot by 4 foot bed will have 16 square feet. Use powdered chalk to mark the lines, or even your finger to trace a groove in the soil. You will be planting a specific quantity of plants in each square foot, maximizing your small garden’s capacity, and making it easy to rotate your crops. By planning carefully, you can harvest and rotate vegetables throughout the year.

Small Space Spring Vegetable Gardening

For a bounty of late-spring vegetables, sow seeds or plant young starts from the nursery as soon as your area’s last frost date has passed. Prepare your soil carefully before beginning your planting, raking it smooth and working compost throughout the bed.

Here’s a suggestion for a vegetable garden that will be ready for harvest by late spring.

  • Lettuce – You will be planting four square feet of lettuce. Each square will contain four plants. Wait two weeks between planting each square, so your harvest will be spread out over a month or more.
  • Radish – Plant one square of 16 radishes.
  • Carrots – You will plant three squares of carrots, each containing 16 plants. Wait two weeks between planting each square.
  • Spinach – Plant two squares of spinach, each containing four plants.
  • Broccoli – Plant two squares of broccoli, each containing one plant.
  • Cabbage – Plant one square with one cabbage.
  • Onions – Plant one square with eight onions.
  • Peas – Plant two squares with peas. You will need a small frame or tomato cage for the peas to climb.
  • (See Spring Vegetable Garden Guide)

Small Space Summer Garden

As your spring vegetables mature and are harvested, square feet will become available in your raised planter. Now it’s time to start filling those squares with summer veggies. As tomatoes and zucchini are larger plants, you will give each of these three square feet.

As space becomes available, plant the following:

  • Carrots – One square of 16.
  • Tomato – One cherry tomato plant, which will occupy three squares.
  • Bush green beans – Two squares with six plants each.
  • Basil – One square of 4 plants.
  • Tomato – One Roma or other salad tomato, which will occupy three squares.
  • Bell pepper – One plant.
  • Zucchini – one plant, which will occupy three squares.

Small SpaceFall Garden

As the long, hot days of summer come to an end, most of your hot-weather vegetables will be harvested. Now it’s time to fill their spots with cooler weather, fall-harvested plants. A few of your summer plants will still be going strong, so leave them in their squares until they are finished for the season.

Continuing from the summer:

  • Cherry tomato – filling three squares
  • Salad tomato – filling three squares
  • Bush green beans – filling two squares
  • Bell pepper – filling one square

New to the fall garden:

  • Spinach – Plant two squares of four plants each, with two weeks between planting. Once your bell pepper is done, plant another square of spinach in its spot.
  • Cabbage – Plant two squares with one plant each.
  • Broccoli – Three squares with one plant each.
  • Lettuce – Plant one square with four plants. Once the cherry tomato is finished producing, replace those three squares with lettuce, planting two weeks apart.
  • Peas – When the salad tomato is finished producing, replace those three squares with peas. Use tall tomato cages to provide support for the pea plants, and plant six peas in each square, planting two weeks apart.
  • (See Fall Garden Guide)

Small Space Winter Garden

If you are in a warm-winter area, you can replace harvested squares with more of the same vegetables. In a cold-winter climate, you can put your garden to bed for the winter once your harvest is done.

It doesn’t take a lot of space to provide a bounty of fresh vegetables with a taste you will never experience with store-bought produce. By carefully planning, rotating crops continuously as they finish producing, and planting in a square-foot fashion, even a plot as small as 4 feet by 4 feet will bring nearly year-round vegetables to your table.

Last Updated: March 14, 2012
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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