25 October, 2008

10 Best Fruits & Veggies to Grow in Small Spaces

Photo by Dawn Perry
A handful of my friends have dropped by The Suburban Plot and are envious of my new found space for gardening. As a former apartment-dweller, with nought but a balcony to call my own, I wanted to make a list of tips on what someone with limited wiggle-room can grow for themselves.

Of course, most of these require a fair bit of sun, but you don't need a lot of space to eat fresh even if you have nothing more than a small patio or postage-stamp yard. So let's get started!

1. Cherry and Plum Tomatoes: The best of the best, tomatoes can brighten up any salad, make the perfect sauce, and are the key to any good salsa. The best part? These smaller varieties of tomato do beautifully in pots, or even hanging upside-down! Just buy your seedlings, a pot, and mix up some good compost-rich soil and you're on your way. Keep the soil moist and the plant in good sun.

2. Lettuces: This salad staple is made-to-order for container gardening, what with its compact shape and shallow root system. A window box would show off your multi-colored lettuce display and they only need around four hours of light each day. Grow varieties you just can't find in your neighborhood store.

3. Climbing beans & peas: Hooray for climbers! And big cheers for fresh green beans and peas from your own little cement patch, adding tons of vertical visual appeal. Rig up a trellis pot or build a decorative cage and have sweet greens to munch all summer long. Be brave—experiment with yellow, white, and purple varieties, and all the flavors of peas.

4. Carrots: What, you say? Yep! Carrots can do very well in containers. Go for smaller, early-ripening varieties, like Chantenays, and sow into pots twice the depth of the full-grown carrot. Consider round, bulbous varieties like Thumbelina or Mini-Round as well. Less length means less soil, means easier container growth. The foliage is like having your own tasty pot of edible ferns!

5. Herbs: This one is likely a given. Most apartment dwellers in search of green-gourmet immediately pot up a bunch of rosemary or mint. Done properly, herbs of nearly every imaginable flavor can cheer up the window sills of your little home. Be sure to investigate the soil needs of each herb, as they do differ, and don't be afraid to grow something unusual. How about Thai basil and choco-mint? Give it a go!

6. Dwarf fruit trees: In honor of my friend, Maggie, I can't leave dwarf fruits off the list. How jealous will all your party guests be when you grab limes, lemons, or even pomegranates from your own patio?! Keep them sunlit and well-drained, bring indoors during the frosty months and these little treasures will sweeten your days.

7. Pumpkin and Squash: Aside from my husband, who doesn't love a tasty, cool summer squash? Varieties of yellow squash, acorn, butternut, and zucchini will be a nostalgic delight on hot summer nights. If you have a railing or fence line, try training some squash vines across it and simply harvest what grows! (I don't recommend this method for those gardening above ground level, ouch!)

8. Spring Onions & Garlic: Sick of paying ridiculous prices for jars of minced garlic and bunches of spring onions that waste away in the crisper? Grow them yourself! These indispensable flavors grow like a dream in confined quarters. Spring onions can be grown from seed in the most dense conditions and can, within reasonable time limits, be picked as needed. Garlic is even better, though not terribly attractive. But it makes up for beauty in what it adds to your cooking. To store your harvest, get a needle and thread and do them up Italian-style, hanging, as edible art, from the kitchen ceiling.

9. Peppers: Be they chilis or sweet peppers, these beauties can open the door to cuisines from Mexico, Asia, and the Mediterranean. And they do love a pot! Sunlight and warmth are the keys to getting these little darlings to do their best. Be careful not to over-water, and keep harvesting to coax more peppers off these yummy plants.

10. Berry Bushes: Want some fresh strawberries on your morning cereal? How about a blueberry tart for dessert? Berries can thrive in small spaces if care is given where it's needed. Water carefully and fertilize with a balanced mix of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and other trace elements. These tasty treats are mostly perennial so, with love, they can keep you in berry-goodness for years.

What do you do if there's no available sun? Make a small investment. Even we space-rich gardeners have to shell out for supplies now and again. Buy some decent quality grow-lights and it can be daytime anytime you like!

I really hope this list helps the small-spacers out there. No one should be deprived of their own homegrown goodies. Happy growing!


RazorFamilyFarms.com said...

What a great list! So many people have a tiny garden plot and need to know how best to use the space. What a great post!


Kelly the City Mouse said...

Thanks! The plan is to do a list each week of some usefulness. We'll see if I run out of ideas!