Q: I don’t have a whole lot of space. How can I still have a vegetable garden?
A: Everyone is looking for ways to save money and get back to basics. Planting a vegetable garden is one way to put fresh, healthy food on the table while saving big bucks. How do you design a garden that meets your needs? Plant a specialty garden designed around your family’s food preferences.
The following gardens are designed for a 3×6’ garden plot or raised bed. Choose a sunny spot (at least 6 hours of sun daily), provide fertile soil with good drainage, and add the seeds or seedlings of your favorite veggies. Place your garden in a handy spot, so you can water and inspect it daily. Local nurseries have a good selection of seeds and starter plants for Colorado gardens.
To maximize space in kitchen gardens, plant vegetables in blocks rather than single, long rows. In a small garden, fewer rows mean fewer gaps between plants and more plants per square foot. For example, plant a block of carrots next to a block of lettuce. Plant crops with equal spacing between neighboring plants in both directions. As the vegetables grow together, the shade inhibits weeds and the vegetable yield increases.
If you enjoy life on the spicy side, grow the ingredients for a summer-long supply of salsa. Based on how hot you like your salsa, try growing Anaheim (mild), Jalapeños (medium), Serrano or Habanera (hot) peppers. Grow one type or a variety, 3 or 4 plants will be plenty. Sow seed for scallions and cilantro. Add a couple of tomato plants such as “Roma” or “Early Girl” and fresh salsa is never more than a few steps away.
Just two tomato plants will keep you in salads all summer. Try “Sweet 100”, a cherry tomato and “Early Girl” or “Beefsteak”, a slicing tomato.
Cutting lettuces sprout a fresh crop of leaves after you shear them a couple of inches above the ground; oak leaf is one variety. Sow lettuce seeds from spring through fall as you deplete your supply. In hot weather grow a heat resistant type such as “Jericho”.
One or two cucumber plants will provide a bounty. A space saving variety is “Salad Bush” cucumber. Trellis or stake the plants if they start to bend under the weight of the cucumbers. Interchange lettuce for spinach, kale, and any other veggies you enjoy to round out your salad choices.
Don’t have a yard or room for a regular vegetable garden? No need to worry. Seed catalogs and plant growers are developing a wide variety of vegetables that grow in small spaces. You can grow a container garden on your patio or deck, as long as it receives at least 6 hours of sun a day.
Look for “baby” varieties of vegetables including golf-ball sized “Bambino” eggplant, “Parmex” baby carrots, and patio sized peppers, cucumbers and spring salad mixes. Cherry tomatoes are perfect for containers, one plant per 5-gallon pot. Add herbs and flowers around the vegetables for color.
Fresh air, fresh food and more money in your pocket are a recipe for vegetable gardening success.
Contributed by Valerie Smith, Colorado Master Gardener. Photo by Leslie Holzmann, Colorado Master Gardener. For answers to your horticultural questions, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at 636.8921 or CSUmg2@elpasoco.com. Access fact sheets and seasonal information on the El Paso County Horticulture Website http://elpasoco.colostate.edu/horticulture/. (A version of this article appeared in The Gazette on 4/26/09.)