Alicia DeVore

Can a small space for a garden really give you enough food that you can eat off of throughout the whole year? Let me tell you about a time when my son came home from college and the first thing that he asked for was for me to make him spinach artichoke dip. I didn’t have spinach, but I did have a garden bed full of greens. I went out to the garden and picked 2 cups of greens that I then used as the spinach in the artichoke dip.

The positives of a small garden:

  • I didn’t have to go to the store.

  • I used fresh, organic food that was nutritious.

  • It only took a few minutes to pick the greens.

  • I can use the garden all year to supplement meals.

Many people have a dream to grow their own food and not need to depend on the grocery store for every meal. Starting a backyard garden is possible, like I share in this article. Going out to the garden to pick food for your day can be your reality if you use every available space in your garden to provide food in efficient ways.

3 ways to garden in small spaces for best harvest

The fresh, nutritious, healthy taste of homegrown food makes it worth the effort of growing certain vegetables each season. I’m here to say that it is not only possible but a very useful life-skill with the right techniques to make your small garden area grow more food one season.

In this article, I’m going to share how you can use a small garden space with 3 ways to increase your harvest each season.

Everyone Needs a Plan

wood garden box with veggies growing

Maximizing yield in small spaces is an art that requires strategic planning and an understanding of seasonal cycles for the best vegetable garden. By laying out a month-by-month plan, you can stagger your planting to ensure a continuous harvest throughout the year.

To maximize yield, it’s essential to consider the specific needs and growth cycles of each plant variety. To find out more about growing in small and tight spaces, check out this blog post. Some plants, for example, thrive in cooler temperatures, while others need the heat of summer to flourish.

By integrating these factors into your plan and using space-saving techniques such as vertical gardening, companion planting, permaculture practices, and succession planting, you can maximize the productivity of root crops in your small edible garden. Read more to find out these space-saving ways of growing. And also check out this blog post on growing in small and tight spaces.

Where to Start a Vegetable Garden

Starting a small edible garden requires a few essential steps. Here is another blog post for more details on starting a new garden and using permaculture-style gardening.

Firstly, choosing the right location is paramount. Most plants require a good amount of sunlight, so find a spot that gets tall plants with at least 6-8 hours of sunlight a day.

Secondly, start with good soil. Nutrient-rich soil is the foundation of a healthy garden. It’s beneficial to incorporate some organic matter and compost to improve the soil’s fertility and structure.

Thirdly, pick the right plants. Research the types of plants suited to the climate and soil type in your area. Start with easy-to-grow varieties aromatic herbs that are known for their hardiness and reliability. Check out this article to know what to plant according to the temperature in your area.

Taking Stock of Your Vegetable Garden Layout

Knowing what to plant starts with the location you have for your garden. Picking a spot with enough direct sun, is crucial to the growth of your plants. When you use garden beds, choose wisely because it is difficult to move if there is not enough direct sunlight.

If you use vertical planters like Greenstalks, seen in this article, then you can move these planters with the wheels to locations that are best for growing depending on soil conditions and on the season.

Knowing your sun and shade before setting up your garden can be the best move towards a successful year-round garden.

Start with Sun and Shade

Sunlight:

Most vegetables need at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight or sun exposure each day to produce well. Some vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers thrive in full sun, which means they need at least six hours of direct sunlight, preferably during the warmest part of the day.

Shade:

On the other hand, some vegetables tall crops can tolerate partial shade (3-6 hours of sun per day), or even do better in it. Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard, as well as leafy greens such as crops like peas and radishes, can grow in partially shaded areas.

It’s also beneficial to consider that some areas of your garden may receive more shade at certain times of the year than other crops, due to the changing position of the sun or surrounding trees.

pots on a porch

Well-designed beds and paths in vegetable garden layout

Planning for Ease of Access
To ensure your garden is easy to get to and navigate, consider the following:

  1. Garden Placement: Locate your garden close to your house if possible. This makes it easier to pop out and pick vegetables, and you’re more likely to notice and address any problems early.

  2. Path Width: Make sure your paths are wide enough to comfortably walk through and to carry tools or harvest baskets. A width of at least 2 feet is generally recommended.

  3. Raised Vegetable Garden Beds: Consider using a garden bed, which elevate the soil level and make it easier to reach your plants. This can be especially helpful for those with mobility issues.

  4. Water Access: Ensure there’s easy access to water. If your garden isn’t near a water source, consider how you’ll transport water to your plants.

Create a garden that’s not only productive but also enjoyable to spend time in. Thoughtfully planned pathways and ease of access will contribute to an experience that’s both efficient and pleasant.

rows of lettuce growing in wood planter

What Worked for Farmers

Growing in rows, like traditional farmers or growing in rows of different beds, like traditional farmers, is not the most effective method for intensive planting, particularly in smaller garden spaces. Check out this blog post on how to grow in a permaculture style of gardening. This is due to several reasons:

  1. Spacing: Traditional row farming often involves wide spacing between crops, which is not ideal for intensive planting. Intensive planting aims to maximize yield in a small area, which requires plants to be kept close together.

  2. Soil Compaction: Traditional row cropping can lead to soil compaction, especially if machinery is used. Compacted soil can be detrimental to plant growth and yield. In contrast, intensive methods like raised beds can prevent soil compaction as pathways are designed to keep foot traffic off the cultivated surfaces.

  3. Water Runoff: Planting in straight rows can lead to faster water runoff, especially during heavy rains. This can result in water waste and less water available for plant uptake. Permaculture approaches, on the other hand, aim to slow down and capture water for more efficient use.

  4. Plant Competition: Traditional row planting can lead to uneven seed distribution, increased plant competition, and potential yield losses. Intensive techniques, however, focus on careful plant spacing both within and between rows to optimize growth and minimize competition.

  5. Inefficiency for Small Spaces: For small space gardening, traditional row cropping or crop rotation is not the most efficient use of area. Intensive methods, such as square foot gardening or vertical farming, can make better use of limited area and even offer benefits that traditional farming cannot, like growing year-round or in urban environments.

While row cropping has its place in large-scale agriculture, it’s not necessarily the most effective method for smaller-scale, intensive planting schemes.

Let’s talk about the other methods, like intensive planting, vertical garden, using raised beds, and square foot gardening can offer more efficiency in your garden area. These other methods use permaculture types of growing and you can read more about that HERE.

raised beds with veggies growing in the morning sun

Vegetable Garden Layout Ideas

Garden layouts come in a variety of designs, each with its own unique set of advantages. Raised bed gardening involves growing plants in soil that is higher than the ground surface, providing better drainage and soil quality control.

The square foot gardening method divides the same area of the garden into small square sections, typically 1×1 meter squares, to practice intensive planting.

Vertical gardening utilizes vertical space to grow plants on trellises, walls, or stacks, which is especially beneficial in urban or small area settings.

Other layout types include potager gardens, which combine vegetables, herbs, and flowers for an aesthetically pleasing kitchen garden design, and permaculture designs smaller plants, which aim to create sustainable and self-sufficient agricultural ecosystems.

3 Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Layouts & Styles

ONE: Square-Foot Gardening Layouts

Intensive planting is a highly efficient method that divides the growing area into small square sections.

  • Grid Layout: The basic layout of a square foot garden involves dividing the garden area into squares of one foot by one foot, hence the name.

  • Space Maximization: This method allows for maximum plant growth in a minimal area, making it ideal for urban or small-space gardening.

  • Variety Planting: Each square can be planted with a different type of plant, allowing for a great variety of crops in a small area.

  • Less Soil Compaction: Since you’re not walking on the growing soil, it doesn’t get compacted, and plants’ roots can grow more freely.

  • Easy Maintenance: Weeding, watering, and harvesting are easier due to the organization and accessibility of each square.

  • Less Water Usage: There’s less water wasted since you’re only watering the plant-filled squares and not wide paths or empty spaces.

  • Reduced Pests and Disease Spread: With plants not overly crowded, air circulation is improved which can help deter pests and prevent disease spread.

This intensive method is flexible, easy to manage, and a great way to start if you’re a new gardener.

veggies in square foot garden

TWO: Kitchen Vegetable Garden Layout (Potager) with Intensive Planting

A Kitchen Vegetable Garden Layout, also known as a Potager, is a traditional approach that combines both beauty and utility. It often involves intensive planting methods. Here are its key features:

  • Aesthetics and Functionality: Potager gardens are designed to be visually appealing as well as productive, often featuring symmetrical or geometric designs.

    Here is a blog post to give you ideas on how to grow vertically.
  • Variety of Plants: These gardens typically include a mix of vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers, all planted together.

  • Intensive Planting: To maximize yield, plants are grown closely together in raised beds or wide rows, which also helps suppress weed growth.

  • Year-Round Planting: Potagers often aim for continuous harvest by planting crops that mature at different times and using succession planting techniques.

  • Access Paths: The design usually includes paths for easy access to all plants, which can also add to the garden’s visual appeal.

  • Companion Planting: This method of planting certain crops together for mutual benefit is commonly used in potagers. For example, marigolds might be planted with tomatoes to deter pests.

  • Use of Ornamental Elements: Potagers often incorporate decorative elements such as ornamental pots, sculptures, or a central feature like a birdbath or sundial.

  • Organic Practices: Many potagers emphasize organic practices, including composting (learn more about composting in this article), natural pest control, and avoiding synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

    Find out more about composting HERE.

In essence, a garden planner a whole garden design. potager is a kitchen garden where aesthetics meet productivity, making it a delightful activity in a vegetable garden.

garden with trellis

THREE: Vertical Planting Layouts for Vegetable Garden

Vertical planting layouts have several advantages that can lead to more productive gardens, particularly in urban or small-area settings. Here are some key reasons to consider this approach:

  • Space-Saving: By growing plants up rather than out, vertical gardening makes the most of limited area, allowing for more plants per square foot.

  • Improved Sunlight Exposure: Plants grown vertically often get better sunlight exposure, which can enhance growth and productivity.

  • Better Air Circulation: Vertical gardening promotes better air circulation around plants, reducing the risk of fungal diseases.

  • Easier Maintenance: Vertical gardens can make tasks like watering, pruning, and harvesting easier by bringing plants closer to eye level.

  • Pest and Disease Management: Raising plants off the ground can help reduce issues with soil-borne diseases and certain pests.

  • Increased Yield: Some crops, like tomatoes and cucumbers, can produce higher yields when grown vertically.

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Vertical gardens can add visual interest, turning a blank wall or fence into a lush, green feature.

  • Accessibility: For those with mobility issues, vertical gardens can make it more accessible and enjoyable.

  • Variety of Plant Options: From climbing vegetables to cascading flowers, a wide range of plants can be grown vertically.

Overall, vertical planting layouts offer a practical and visually pleasing solution for maximizing garden productivity, particularly in areas where horizontal gardening is limited. Using vegetable garden layout ideas will help you plan for a garden full of production in small spaces.

wood raised bed with lots of plants

3 Ways to Increase Your Harvest

Gardening Layout with Changing Seasons

Vegetable garden layout ideas can be your ticket to a thriving, season-ready veggie garden. By mapping it out ahead of time, you can make informed decisions about what vegetables to plant and where, taking into account factors like sunlight exposure and using supports like trellises.

Each year increase your harvest by trying out a variety of layout designs so that you can come up with the best vegetable garden layout for each season to get multiple harvests in close proximity. By making or using your own compost, you can add nutrients back into your soil each season for better production. Check out this article on how to do that.

A well-planned garden means less time spent guessing and troubleshooting, and more time enjoying just enjoy eating the fruits (or veggies!). A little planning today can lead to a continual harvest throughout each season.

Small Vegetable Gardens & Spacing in Raised Beds

You might be surprised by how much you can grow in a compact area. By utilizing raised beds, you can define your garden space better, control soil quality, and most importantly, optimize plant spacing. This technique is a game-changer.

When you give your veggies just the right amount of room to flourish in raised beds, they can focus their energy on growing upwards and outwards, not competing for resources. Think of it as a little ‘personal space’ for your plants – enough room to breathe, but close enough for a sense of community. Plant vegetables knowing how many plants will thrive during the growing season.

planting flowers as companion plants

Companion Planting Vegetable Garden

This clever technique involves planting different crops together that mutually benefit each other. It’s a bit like setting up your garden with the best roommates with companion planting. Interplanting perennial plants into the design also means that you only have to plant some of these herbs once and use annuals around them.

For instance, planting tomatoes alongside basil not only makes for a great pasta sauce but the basil helps repel pests that love to munch on your tomatoes. Similarly, carrots and leeks are a perfect pair as they fend off each other’s pests. Your garden, living in a community where plants work together, have enough space, boosting each other’s health and leading to a richer harvest.

To find out how you can get help making the garden efficient and easy to care for, check this out to see how Create My Garden can make gardening what fits your lifestyle.

small space gardening with big harvest with strawberry plants

For More Related Garden Posts:

Vertical Gardens with Greenstalks

3 Ways to Maximize Space Foot Gardening

5 Reasons Why Composting Benefits Your Garden Soil as Backyard Gardener

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About the Author

Alicia has been teaching her whole life from elementary teacher to workshops for beginning gardeners.  Go HERE to read Alicia's story into gardening from plant killer to pro grower and garden coach.  If you want to send Alicia a quick message, then use her contact page HERE.

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