By Mara Higdon
With the current economy and concerns about the safety of some of our imported foods, more and more people are growing their own food. Here are three gardening techniques that can be used to grow more food in the garden if you are limited by space, but love to eat as much fresh produce as possible!
Some people also use the term square-foot gardening. This method allows you to plant your seedlings closer together and therefore decreases the amount of space between plants. Select early maturing small-to-medium-sized varieties to save on space, allowing you to plant more. When using this method it is best to measure your vegetable beds into a grid of one-foot by one-foot squares using string or twine. This grid will allow you to space your seedlings or seeds adequately. Usually for the larger vegetables you can plant one plant per square. With smaller vegetables such as lettuce or beets, more seeds can be planted per square – just follow the spacing guides on your seed packets. With the intensive gardening method you must be careful to monitor the plants’ growth and thin as needed to ensure a healthy harvest.
This method is one of the easiest and can be interpreted two ways. One method relies on planting a new crop immediately after harvesting another crop. Use this method when you have different season crops that you want to grow. For example, if your early spring peas are ready, harvest them and pull them up. In its place you can plant a crop that grows well in the summer such as zucchini. The other method can extend one vegetable’s season by planting the same crop every 2-3 weeks. Lettuce, spinach, beets, bush beans, carrots, and corn are good candidates.
There are a number of vining vegetables that benefit from being trellised or grown on a fence or wire supports. Not only can you grow more in less space, but by trellising you can keep your plants free of fungus or other soil-borne diseases. Crops that do well are: snap or snow peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, melons, and winter squash. With melons and winter squash, I have used ladders to support the heavy vines and fruit. Be sure that whatever support you train your vines on is sturdy enough to withstand heavy spring winds or rains.
Mara Higdon is the Program Director at Gateway Greening. They focus on community development throughout the St Louis area.