Thursday, 14 April 2011

Vegetables in Small Spaces

an area of my garden, laid down to metre-wide beds, mostly two metres in length and packed with produce

Gardening by the "square  metre" is a simple, easy-to-follow concept that allows you to squeeze more produce into small spaces. Basically, you sow crops closer together - a higher density in any give area. Vegetables, salads, herbs and other edibles - whether annual or perennial - are planted in beds no more than  a metre (39 inches) wide. Beds can be square, but need not be; raised or at ground level. It's not the length that is important, but the WIDTH. 'Square-Metre Gardening' is also a no-dig technique, once it's set up, unless you neglect the beds! You can tend and reach produce from either side of any metre-wide bed; as plants are grown closer together, weeding is reduced and because you do not ever step on the growing area, soil is not compacted. Fertility is built up by the annual addition of compost. It's a technique you can use in garden or allotment, and one I have followed for many years.

the new area which is to take four raised beds (see below) - at the initial stage of removing all weed and digging the area that will become the potager


I was reading 'Organic No-dig, No-Weed Gardening' in the late 80s when coincidentally I adapted my plot to a raised-bed square-metre (square-foot) system. It was one of those 'Eureka!' moments when everything fell into place. In fact, I'm creating my latest potager (my fourth) using four Link-a-Bord square beds and principles I've been following now for nearly a quarter of a century.

weed cleared, and the area pegged out (the paper represents the beds; an easier way of 'planning' before assembling the kits

Where to begin: Clear the ground of all weeds and dig or fork it over (no more digging after this!) - then peg out the beds, allowing space for paths. Paths can be laid slabs, positioned over weed control fabric; or if you prefer, cover the fabric with bark mulch or gravel, or leave it as is. Bare earth is a poossibility, kept weed-free by hoeing. Raised beds are ideal if your natural soil is heavy or very stony - but you'll need to fill them with compost, which adds to the cost. I use bags of 'multipurpose' mixed with soil-based John Innes no.3, bulked up with spent compost from last year's grow-bags and well rotted straw from the chicken shed - plus my own home-made mulch from the compost heap.

listing seeds and planning what will fit where

Now comes the fun: allocating all the seeds to their positions, in blocks or rows (pre-planned in the living room), sowing them, with protection from inquisitive wildlife; and waiting for them to grow! Even if you do not wish to adapt your entire vegetable plot to a 'square-metre' scenario, you could at least use the technique for seedbeds and a 'nursery' area for bringing on plug plants, or even trialing small quantities of a range of varieties, as I have just done with my square of alliums. Oh, and if you're just starting on your first year of growing vegetables, do get hold of 'No-nonsense Vegetable Gardening' by Christine Walkden; only just published, I wish I'd had a copy when I began my gardening adventures.

paths laid and beds assembled - the two on the left are filled with compost (my own and purchased from the local garden-centre); two beds are planted - one with alliums, the others with beans; and various pots and structures are starting to appear

With all the work outside, my Potager Diary is still in note form; I'll post the most recent pages as soon as they are finished. How good to be in the garden, growing the things we love to eat; I'll certainly cram all I can into the available space. 

6 comments:

  1. We used to practice "Square foot" gardening back in the early '80's and were amazing at how much it increased our production, and, once set up, how much easier the gardening was. Your garden is beautiful. Looking forward to more of your potager pages.
    Erin

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  2. Thanks Erin (I saw your comment was on Facebook as well). It will be interesting to see how these new beds progress - and I will post more of the potager diary pages as soon as I have actually written them - they're only in note form at present.

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  3. The gardens look lovely; we look forward to watching them progress.

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  4. Glad you both like the gardens - and how I wish you lived this side of the Atlantic so could visit for real. As to their progress, all I'm really short of is TIME - anyone have any ideas as to how to propagate that commodity ?? (And of course I hope the weather plays fair.)

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  5. I love the concept of gardening by the metre. We actually do it on a smaller scale with a product called the Wiggo Pod.

    Keep up the good work with your blog

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  6. I must google a 'Wiggo Pod' - sounds fascinating.

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