Some gardeners are lucky enough to have sprawling acres of countryside to plant everything their hearts desire. But for the rest of us, the big concern is space, space, space, and the name of the game is optimization. Here are the top ten tips for maximizing your growing space and getting the most bang for your garden buck.
1. Grow vertically. Perhaps the easiest and most effective way to increase your growing space is to grow up with vertical gardens. Nothing says plants have to be flat on the ground. Install trellises, cages, and arbors, and focus on vining plants like squash, cucumbers, and indeterminate tomatoes to minimize your footprint and maximize your yield.
2. Plant successively. Maximizing space is also about maximizing time, and when you're going big, the last thing you want is downtime. Succession planting - the practice of sowing new seeds every week or two - will ensure that you'll always have new harvests just around the corner, even as older plants are slowing down.
3. Grow in containers. Containers are an excellent way to spread your garden beyond the garden itself. As long as there's light, container plants can grow anywhere - patios, ledges, even indoors. Hanging baskets are a real gift, and an ingenious new take on vertical gardening.
4. Grow in the shade. There's no such thing as an impossible part of the garden. Even deeply shady spots can produce food and flowers, as long as you know what to plant. Rhubarb, hostas, leafy greens, and even mushrooms can thrive in the shade. So take advantage of these areas and fill them with shade-loving plants.
5. Keep walkways small. It's important to have room to move, and to carry tools, but you might be surprised by how much extra space you can gain by inching your growing space into pathways. How much room you need is up to you, and it's different for everyone, but planting right up to that line will increase your square footage more than you think.
6. Grow up fences. Do you have a fence or boundary wall on the edge of your yard? Grow creeping, vining plants at the base of it to earn yourself a free trellis. As a bonus, you'll get a beautiful living wall.
7. Grow double duty plants. Are you worried about finding the space for both landscape plants and vegetables? Plants like sunflowers, swiss chard, banana plants, and sweet potatoes are both beautiful and edible. Don't be afraid to grow both edibles and ornamentals together. The bees and other pollinators will thank you.
8. Grow indoors. Who says a garden has to be outdoors? Planting inside, with the help of grow lights or just bright windows, will extend your planting space as well as your growing season.
9. Plant everywhere. Don't feel bound by big plots of land. Do you have small patches of soil around your house? Do you have spots where small patches of soil could go? Some plants need very little space to thrive, and having small pockets of vegetation around your house will give it a beautiful, green look.
10. Plant microgreens. While you can't change your square footage, you can change the size of your crops, and how long they spend in the ground. Microgreens, leafy vegetables picked very early for tender and delicious salads, are incredibly efficient both in terms of space and days to maturity, and a single plot of earth can produce several bountiful harvests over one growing season.
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The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.
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