Unlike urban and community gardeners, I don't have obvious space limitations for my vegetable garden. But I don’t want to expand it, partly because that’s about all the area I can keep picked, watered and weeded and partly because I’ve put up an eight-foot deer fence. So I’m learning how to grow more food in less space.
My garden is 50’ x 250’, which isn’t huge considering I’m trying to grow enough food for my family to eat in summer and preserve for winter, plus extra for guests and a local soup kitchen.
Intensive plant spacing helps. Instead of row-cropping I grow plants in beds three or four feet wide and fifty feet long. Within those beds I plant peppers on a 1’ grid, garlic and onions on a 6” grid, carrots closer than that. I used to try to plant bush beans on a 6” grid, but they tangled into each other, restricting their growth and promoting the spread of mold in wet years. I’ve worked out my spacing patterns with a combination of charts (scroll to bottom of linked page) and trial and error.
Complimentary crops can share one bed. I plant spinach between my rows of peas; the shade of the peas keeps the spinach cool and delays bolting, and the nitrogen fixed by the peas feeds the spinach. I also sow carrots and radishes together. By the time the slow-growing carrots need all their space I’ve already harvested the quick-growing radishes.
Sometimes one bed can carry successive crops in throughout the year. I pull my spring-sown peas up in July, plant fall lettuce on one of those beds immediately, and plant garlic on the other bed in September and October. I harvest the garlic in July and immediately plant fall peas or late carrots in their space.
Some gardeners save space through vertical gardening, training plants on trellises instead of letting them sprawl. That didn’t work for me -- the wind flattened my trellises.
These are great ideas for expanding the harvest season too. I love the idea of having pea harvests both spring and fall. Yum!