Raised beds, vertical gardens and modular kits are just a few of the tools you can use to grow vegies and herbs in tight spaces. The minimum requirements are room to maintain and harvest, and adequate sunlight (six hours daily, at least). With those boxes ticked, you’ll start to see every space as a growing opportunity.
Consider what you want to grow and work from there. If it’s a few compact herbs and leafy greens, a small in-ground garden is sufficient. However, if the soil is difficult to dig or you have no bare ground at all, raised beds or modular kits are ideal.
“Place them on top of existing beds, concrete or grass,” says Simon Bird of Birdies Garden Products. “They encourage faster plant growth because the soil warms quicker and is less compact.” Modular kits often allow you to create a variety of configurations from one product to suit your space.
Where space is at a premium, choose plants that give you bang for your buck. “Herbs are one example of this – pay a few dollars at the supermarket every week or grow a near year-round supply at home,” says Simon.
But, depending on the size of your space, your choices may be restricted. “Root vegies, like carrots, parsnips and ginger, need at least 300mm of soil, but for herbs and salad greens, less than 300mm is fine,” says Simon. To grow your own potatoes, you can buy specialty ‘potato bags’, so there’s no digging required, except when you’re harvesting for spuds. Dwarf varieties deliver standard size fruit and veg on a smaller plant, while vines can be trained up a support, saving on space.
“Vegies respond well to healthy soil, so add organic matter and compost to give them a good start,” says Heath Okely, national marketing manager of Richgro. “Regularly feeding with an organic fertiliser will help nourish plants and the soil, too.” If growing in pots and vertical gardens, opt for a premium potting mix – don’t use garden soil, as it hardens and compacts. Ensure you protect all plants with organic mulch to help retain moisture.
Pots and containers can dry out quickly, so monitor them closely. To help take the guesswork out of watering, and maximise water efficiency, consider installing a dripper irrigation system with a timer.
When building a raised garden bed, consider a no-dig garden, which can be built over grass, concrete or paving and involves layering materials such as newspaper, pea straw, grass clippings, manure and compost.
Here’s how to do it: Line the base of your bed with thick, overlapping sheets of newspaper or cardboard and wet down. Wet pea straw and spread a 10cm-thick layer over the newspaper. Spread a 10cm-thick layer of compost over the straw, and then a layer of grass clippings sprinkled with manure. Repeat with layers of straw, compost, clippings and manure until the bed is full, ending with straw. When you’re ready to plant, part the straw to create a planting pocket. Fill with compost, plant and water well.
Maximise your small-scale harvest with these varieties of edibles:
Herbs & leafy greens
Loose leaf lettuce
Herbs (basil, oregano, mint)
Small cucumbers (such as Lebanese)
Check out our easy guide on how to grow hydroponic herbs. They’re a great solution if you have little to no garden space.
Photo Credit: GAP Photos/Rob Whitworth, GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss, Getty Images, Alamy Stock Photo.
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