You can grow a lot of vegetables in just a few square metres. A lot can be done with hanging containers and even a small balcony or terrace would be sufficient for a decent, small vegetable garden. If you don't have an outdoor space at all, no need to despair—some good growing lights will sort you out. The primary thing to remember is that small is good. If you are just a beginner, you'll be happy to hear that most experienced gardeners advise you to start small anyway. Perfect!
Why? We'll discuss this later on. But first, we would like to run through a few general tips. To begin, start thinking about what vegetables you would like to grow. This doesn't mean researching it to death, this means thinking about what you actually like to eat. Even better, think of something that's quite expensive to buy as well. Aside from this, some leafy vegetables such as lettuce are a good investment because you can just snip off a few leaves and keep harvesting them over and over.
We will explore this in more depth later. But for now, let's get on with exploring a step-by-step process to building a small vegetable garden. Happy gardening!
After you have made your list of your preferred vegetables, do some research and find out how much room they need to grow and what kind of sunlight they prefer. In general, cherry tomatoes, spinach, beans and potatoes are easy to start with. Salad greens and lettuce are great as well. A variety of herbs are always a must and a few edible flowers like nasturtiums are good. These add colour and act as pollinators. Citrus trees can be tricky for the beginner if you want them to bear fruit.
A small and well-tended small space is better than a huge place filled with weeds so don't worry about the size. Some gardeners like to create a grid and get an idea of the potential yield by measuring out the spaces for each plant. Whatever approach you take, it's good to start with a rough plan with some basic measurements. Then mark in the water access and the areas that receive the best sunlight.
If you have the space, consider the possibility of setting up some raised garden beds in both sunny and shady areas. The beds should be at least 12 inches tall. This isn't so much for the plants, but to ease the strain of bending over for long periods while working. If you have the option, it is a good idea to place the beds close to a water source. Garden beds like this are great because they come on wheels and can be moved to the water source when needed.
Any small garden should really include the vertical spaces. If you build upwards, the sky's the limit. Runner beans and stakes can be used to really extend vines upwards and drastically increase your yield. A vertical garden will also give you a reason to get up, work at eye level and avoid back strain.
Hanging pots will probably be a very integral part of your vertical space. The only slight issue with growing vegetables in pots is that the soil will dry out faster than garden beds. This is particularly bad with small and unglazed pots. You will need to water them more often than ground level plants. The bonus though is that pots heat up faster in summer and your tomatoes will get off to a flying start.
Good quality potting mix is one of your most important investments. It's best to consult your local gardening store to make a decision on fertilizers at planting time. These are essential and it's important to make the right choice. You don't want to miss out on one of the greatest benefits of home gardening—and that is knowing exactly what is going into your body.
A small vegetable garden is a compact one. Speak to your local gardening supplier and find out which vegetables can be intermingled in your beds. It's best to group those with similar needs together. But a big part of your choice will be determined by the size and depth of the root systems.
By now, you have probably guessed the reason why gardeners advise beginners to start small—because it's easy to get overwhelmed. So take it easy, enjoy the process and take it one, gentle, muddy footstep at a time.
If you are interested in green spaces, you will love this Ideabook How to bring the outdoors into your kitchen.