5 easy tips for better yields from edible gardens in small outdoor spaces
If you missed last week, check out 5 easy tips for preparing your edible garden. This week delves into setting things up with space saving & companion planting ideas, ensuring your plantings get along and dealing with climbers in small spaces.
- Map out your space with companion and aversion planting in mind. When you’re working in small areas, it’s important to understand what gets along – and what doesn’t. Tomatoes like cucumbers, peppers and carrots but it’s not a good idea to plant them near corn, kohlrabi, potatoes and dill because these plants will attract worms & blight or stunt growth. Know what works well together and what doesn’t as you plan your space. Deer relish peas, rhubarb, strawberries and beans but tend to stay away from herbs. If you have spots the deer dive to each day try adding some herbs such as oregano with peas or basil with tomatoes (the latter will also enhance the taste of your tomatoes and ward off predatory bugs).
- Know what needs cross pollinating and what you don’t want bees sharing. Corn usually isn’t a good choice for small spaces but you can make it work if planted in clusters, not rows. Don’t plant sweet peppers and hot peppers together because you’ll get unexpected flavors. The same holds true with tomatoes and peppers. Different squashes nearby will produce weird hybrids with challenging textures and tastes. Nightshades (eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, etc.) generally do not grow well together. Consider this before you map out your space.
- Plan for the seasons. Some plants will bolt in heat. This includes broccoli, radishes, spinach and lettuce. Plant these cold-resistant crops in early spring and/or fall to extend your harvesting season. These will also do well in part-sun, so if you have shady areas, these are good ones to expand garden space. Perennials are great for getting an early jump on spring harvesting. Consider adding asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb and herbs to your small space. These offer early delights and don’t take up much room – particularly if you’re smart about planting them together. Also determine if you have a season long enough for what you want to ripen. It can be tough some years in the northern United States to see peppers turn red, watermelons reach maturity and cantaloupes thrive. As you travel further south, cool weather loving plants like broccoli and cilantro don’t fare well in the spring but can be planted in the fall and harvested into the winter months. In most US climates, lettuce, radishes, spinach and kale can be planted and harvested repeatedly.
- Watering right is critical. You won’t get good production from your plants without smart hydration tactics. Use soaker hoses for a few hours once or twice each week (once plants are established – you’ll need more frequent watering initially with seed starts) to encourage deep root growth. Overhead watering is wasteful, encourages fungus growth and discourages root depth. You can purchase a 50-foot feeder hose for under $20. Consider this as a smart garden health investment that will last many years.
- Space saving ideas. Some plants go great together while helping you keep things neat. Strawberries work as a super ground cover with asparagus for less weeding time and more harvest in the same space. Asparagus responds to soil temperature, so strawberries covering the plants won’t retard growth. Beans and cucumbers work great with corn. Plant your climbers near the perimeter at about the same time as corn so they get full sunshine before the corn gets tall. Most herbs are compatible so you can plant ground cover crops like thyme and oregano with taller growers like sage, lavender and rosemary to create a tiny herb garden with tons of perennial flavor to harvest. Many root vegetables compliment other crops. Just be cognizant of how you plant with harvesting strategies in mind (root vegetables generally require digging). Potatoes are good with peas and beans; carrots, onions and tomatoes make happy companions; radishes and lettuce work well together (and harvest at about the same time so you can replant that spot).
Hope you found some fun tips to make your small space more productive. Come back next Tuesday for five happier harvesting tips.
If you use the soaker hose hyperlink and buy, I might get some change deposited into my account. It’s there for illustrative purposes but if you want it, I’d sure appreciate the support.