People often ask “How much space do I need for a vegetable garden?” Well, I’d say a minimum of 1 square foot. In that space (which could be a container on your balcony or front steps), you can grow a tomato plant, 4 lettuce or 9 bush beets, for example.
Planning a new garden area? Think of it in square feet sections. You can even use string to lay a grid on the ground. Now you can imagine filling each square with whatever our tastes desire.
Forget the instructions on seed packets — they’re geared toward large row gardens. Use space wisely with square foot gardening. Here’s a simple guide for how much space each type of vegetable plant needs.
I’m helping a friend create a vegetable garden from scratch. We designed a garden plan based on square foot gardening in a small space. “Start small” is the top tip I hear from other gardeners and authors. Having a plan makes it so easy. So, here you go, a starter vegetable garden plan for a 4′ x 4′ area:
A friend of mine has these beautiful blue pottery urns flanking her front door. And it seems they always look pretty with seasonal interest – little pines in the winter, pansies in the spring, cheerful flowers through the summer, etc. She makes it look so easy…and it can be.
I used to get excited about taking home some hanging baskets in the spring and by July, the petunias are leggy and other flowers in the basket are dead. I’ve since focused on different plants, containers and locations — and thankfully, am finally getting to enjoy those pretty pots by the front door through most of the summer.
If you’ve already mastered container gardening, please share some tips. If you haven’t, well, here are a few ideas for a more successful summer of pretty patio pots ahead.
The recipe: Thriller, Spiller & Filler
Thrillers – something tall and showy for the middle of the pot (e.g., dracena spikes, begonias, canna – big tropical flowers); choice depends on the size of the container
Fillers – mid-height that fills out the pot and adds to the color (e.g., verbena, marigolds, dusty miller)
Spillers – drapes over the edge of the planter (e.g., petunias, lantana, lobelia, ivy, vinca vine, sweet potato vine)
Of course, a container full of one type of flower or a succulent can also be quite attractive.
Low-maintenance approaches to patio pots:
Bigger pots – they’ll retain more moisture and have fewer watering demands. For the same reason, avoid the typical plastic hanging baskets – they dry out super fast
Partially sunny locations – avoid putting pots in full sun to lower watering
Heat-tolerant plants – pick plants evolved to handle a sweltering day for a better shot at survival (e.g., lantana, salvia, verbena)
Self-cleaning plants – Plants that don’t require pinching off dead blooms to stay looking nice – avoid geraniums and be careful which type of petunia you get (e.g., begonias, vinca)
Most of all, have fun. Choose a mix for your porch planter that expresses your personal style. Just don’t let this be you with dead stuff in pots.
Fresh herbs are such a delight — and they can be right outside the kitchen door. Herbs are easy to grow. Many are drought-tolerant (they’ll survive the dog days of summer and can handle a missed watering or two without croaking). I planted an herb garden yesterday in about half an hour. Granted, it took longer to buy the plants. Go for a dedicated herb garden or just pop in one or two kinds you like. You’ll be proudly snipping fresh herbs right away.
Choosing herbs to grow
Plant what you like to eat or use. Some favorite herbs include:
Basil – make your own tomato and mozzarella caprese salad
Fresh herb omelette
Cilantro – a personal favorite and not just for Mexican food
Chives – not just for baked potatoes
Dill – great with everything from cucumbers to omelettes to potatoes
Mint – mojitos, anyone? (best in a container!!)
Oregano – you get the idea…
How much do I need?
To use in cooking to feed a family, one plant of most types will do. Some exceptions:
Basil – I do at least 8 plants
Cilantro & dill – Great to grow from seed so you can do succession planting
Where to put an herb garden?
In the sun – most herbs need full sun (6+ hours/day), except cilantro that likes a little heat relief in partial shade
Near the kitchen, ideally
Containers work fine — and are recommended for spreaders like mint!
In an area no deeper than about 2 feet — to easily reach in and snip, snip
Mixed into vegetable/flower gardens or as a stand-alone herb area
Raised beds – huh? We’re talking about sideboards that hold dirt in place to make a raised garden bed. Raised beds are the fastest and easiest way to grow vegetables in high-performing soil.Great dirt might not sound sexy, but it’s REALLY important for growing those delicious, juicy tomatoes, plump peas, and perfect peppers.
Square foot gardens - raised beds for growing vegetables
Why raised bed vegetable gardens?
It’s the dirt! Great soil is the key to growing an abundant crop of vegetables. With the sideboards that raised beds provide, you can mix your own high-performing blend of soil and put it right on top of whatever inferior dirt (or even grass) may exist underneath. Wala – instant garden! Continue reading →
It’s amazing how people are growing vegetables just about anywhere that there’s sunlight. From hanging bags for tomatoes and strawberries to container peas to backyards consumed by vegetables, fruits and herbs, gardens are popping up all over the place. Gardens aren’t being restricted to backyards or large acreage on country properties.
How to choose a location to grow vegetables:
Sunlight – Most vegetables need at least 6 hours sun exposure every day. Check target areas for sun vs. shade at different times of the day to find sufficient sunlight.
Close to the house – Try to put a vegetable or herb garden in an area you’ll often see and walk through. Benefits: convenient to the kitchen, easier to be attentive to problems like deer or thirsty plants, and enjoyable to see the garden grow. Continue reading →
Lilacs – now here’s a plant that just doesn’t belong on a 0.25 acre plot. If it happens to be on a neighbor’s property, that’s great! OPL (other people’s lilacs) is a wonderful thing!
I know it’s tempting to rush out to the local garden center and snap up a lilac bush (and yes, my defenses are weakened by the scent). They have some luring qualities:
can take partial shade, which is a rare find for a flowering bush
are so aromatic, and
hold up well in a vase!
But don’t do let a lilac bush take up precious space on a small lot. As Dennis Hillerud of DNS Gardens teaches in his Perpetual Gardening course, it’s a single play. In spring, we get those dainty, aromatic, lavender plumes. Then, we’re left with rather boring green leaves summer to fall (that are prone to powdery mildew). Worse yet, we then face straggly, unappealing branches through winter and into early spring.
For the all-seasons garden, skip lilacs — or plant one on a remote part of your multi-acre property.
Facebook now has its timeline. Flowers have always had a timeline — a sequence of bloom timing across the seasons. And in my opinion, there’s a lot more to love about the Blooming Timeline.
Understanding the sequence of blooms is key to having a constant pop of color and excitement in your garden. Many gardeners use a carefully planned arrangement of perennials (bloom year after year) to achieve a harmonious blend of color, texture, height and bloom time for continuous eye candy. Of course, annuals (die off in a hard freeze) have their place in the mix.
Here’s a rough sketch of the sequence of bloom for popular perennials. Bonus: most of them are great cutting flowers that can go from garden to vase. Continue reading →