If you saw my last post, I was banging on about us all being able to grow a bit of our own food, which is not only great for your health and pocket, but helps with the global food crisis. I’ve just returned from visiting a friend and found a perfect example of container gardening. My friend has a flat with a shared communal garden. Therefore, the only area in which people can grow things is outside their windows in a very restricted area. One of the residents has made supreme use of this tiny space, and I thought I’d share her ideas with you. It proves you can have home grown food in a tiny space and you don’t need a huge garden to garden!
This lady has made the most of a very small space. It’s about 4’ deep by about 12’ wide under her window. She has sweetcorn, beetroot, runner beans, herbs, tomatoes, French beans, cucumber, spring onions and even carrots. I was thrilled to see such a lovely little garden all without a garden. Everything is in a container, everything growing and cropping well, despite a few nibbles to the beetroot leaves.
It’s worth noting that you can eat the young leaves of beetroot, maximising the crop you get out of the space. Young leaves can be put on salads, or stir fried or steamed like spinach. When planning for an area like this, it’s worth thinking about what crops you can eat the most of. Obviously, if the whole plant can be eaten, as is the case with some root vegetables, they make the most of the space. Salad leaves are great value for space, too, as you can keep coming back for more as the young leaves grow. Any crop that grows upwards will also make great use of space. The highest yielding crop of all per square foot (or meter) is runner beans. Climbing French beans come a close second, and give you a greater yield than the low growing ones. It’s also worth considering the cost of vegetables and fruit in the shops. Onions and potatoes are relatively cheap, but khol rabi expensive. They taste great, grow quickly and you can eat the leaves like spinach, too, though I find the stalks a bit tough.
It’s worth trying anything in a container. How about butternut squash or aubergine (in a good summer). Walls retain and reflect heat, so containers placed like this in a sunny spot can succeed in growing things normally reserved for a greenhouse. Crops will ripen quickly with this additional heat, and you only have to nip outside the door for your dinner.
Here’s a list of vegetables you might want to try in a small space
Lettuce and salad leaves
Baby turnips (great in salads)
Swiss chard (very attractive. Eat leaves and stalks, steamed or stir fried)
Radish (sow a few every three weeks)
Carrots (stump rooted varieties)
All you need is some compost and the will to try. Containers can be made for free. We buy our bird food in plastic buckets. Paint and put holes in the bottom for drainage. And you have a free container. Use pallet wood to make a box container. Even a plastic storage box whose lid has been lost or broken can be turned into an attractive container for vegetables and fruit or herbs. Grow it, cook it and be proud of it!