How to Make the Most of Your Garden Space

Grow a surprising amount of food in a small garden space with these intensive gardening methods.

| June 2011 Web

Backyard Bounty book cover

"Backyard Bounty" is a guide to low-maintenance organic gardening methods, exposing common gardening myths. Packed with a wealth of information specific to the Pacific Northwest, "Backyard Bounty" is perfect for novice and experienced gardeners alike.

Photo Courtesy New Society Publishers

The following is an excerpt from Backyard Bounty: The Complete Guide to Year-Round Organic Gardening in the Pacific Northwest by Linda Gilkeson (New Society, 2011). The excerpt is from Chapter 2: Planning a Productive Garden.

Land is expensive, and few people can afford the large lots or rural properties that make it possible to have a large garden. However, the point of this book is that you don’t have to have much space to grow a surprising amount of food, especially if you adopt some of the intensive methods described below. There are several ways to increase productivity so that your garden is full of food most months of the year:

Grow more plants in the same space: 

• In fertile soil you can grow vegetables closer than the spacing recommended on the seed package — sometimes much closer. A bonus is that densely planted crops help control weeds by shading them out.
• Grow vegetables in beds, rather than spaced out in rows: you waste much less space on unproductive rows and have a smaller area to weed.
• Within a bed, set individual plants in a staggered pattern, which allows closer spacing while giving each plant room for its roots.

In the first years of a new garden, the soil might not be fertile enough to plant too densely, so keep an eye on how your plants look. You might need to give them a dose of liquid fertilizer a few times over a summer to keep them growing well. Thin the plants if it looks like they are struggling. Over time, as you continue to add compost and other amendments, your soil will improve and you can grow plants closer together.

Take advantage of vertical space. Crops with sprawling vines take up more space on the ground than their roots do in the soil below. Trellising them off the ground opens up more space for planting:

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