Isn’t that what every gardener wants?
MORE. Garden. Space.
My cousin was telling me recently that her husband and her were wanting to acquire some land so that they could be out in the country and grow they’re own food, be more self-sufficient. Then, she proceeded to tell me all of her endeavors to become more self-sufficient, right there where they are. It was quite a long list. I was impressed. No matter where we live, or how much space we have, I believe , if we take a good hard look we will find we can utilize what we have a little better.
The same applies to my garden. I started our pretty tiny. A 10×12 plot. Every year it grew until I really didn’t see where I could put much more, yet I had a desire to grow more food.
The Art of Companion Planting
Companion planting is growing particular plants together that aid one another in various ways, and in this instance: that utilize different levels of the soil.
also, utilizing the different growing seasons of vegetables: and planting other crops before, or after that main crop .
The first year I started to utilize companion planting principles, I went marigold crazy! I planted 36 marigolds all around my garden. At the end of rows, in the middle of rows, a nice, cheery line alongside a bed. They were everywhere! Those marigolds grew. And they grew . . . And they grew! Come to find out, they were some African giants, and they pretty near took over the whole garden! They grow really tall, like 3 ft (which I did know) but, then they spread. AND RE-ROOT! They were more like marigold bushes by mid-summer. I had to pull a lot of them up, just so I could have room for some food crops! However, I have persevered and am becoming more proficient in companion planting.
The trick is to realize the conditions each crop wants to grow in (and how large it will become!) as well as how long it takes to mature. Other considerations are how long the the plant will be harvested for. A head of lettuce will take 60-80 days before you pluck it, leaving a bare space. Cut and come again leaf lettuce takes 60 days to mature, but can be harvested continually until it peters out in the heat: so it needs the space you plan for it several months (in our area, from March until mid June or so). Bush beans thrive in the heat, take about 50 days to mature, and can give you 3-4 harvests, taking the space for about 3 months.
So, my plan for this year includes:
this is in zone 6b, where we can plant lettuce and other greens, as well as snow peas and carrots, turnips, beets, and radishes in March because they will take a pretty heavy frost. I do this knowing that if the weather happens to drop down into the 20s some of my crops may have to be protected. I find the gamble is worth it for these crops.
- carrots, , turnips, onion and radish in March where the tomatoes and peppers will reside in May. The tomatoes can be planted in the spaces where carrots have been harvested and some carrots can stay in the ground while the tomatoes are small if need be.
- clover will be planted in between tomato /basil/carrot rows to harvest for animal feed either cut and carry or by the animals themselves in “tractors” that we pull through. When we do this with chickens it is especially beneficial as they can harvest some of the unwanted insects as well.
- basil and parsley grow on the other side of the tomato fence, thus giving them space for their leaves. their roots take up separate levels of the soil.
- lettuce and radish in March where the Three Sisters (corn, beans, squash) will reside in May. Followed by winter rye for the animals in the cold months.
- radish and beets in March where the cucumbers will be planted in May. Also, as I have 5 ft between my rows, I am planting a 2 ft wide row of winter peas between to harvest the greens for rabbits, goats, and chickens. In the fall we will seed this whole area in clover.
- bush beans will follow spent lettuce and salad blends as well as brassicas, followed by fall greens or brassicas.
- lettuce and radish will also be planted in March where the sweet potatoes are to be in late May. Followed by oats or clover for the animals, or maybe winter peas as these are yummy greens for people also!
- greens and salad mixes will be planted in May under the arched trellis’ of the winter squash, the squash vining up the arch and shading the lettuce from the hot sun later on. In the fall, this will be planted with winter rye.
- buckwheat will follow the later harvest of greens and salad blends, before we plant the fall greens and blends. buckwheat only takes 30 days from seed to flower, so it is a great cover crop to stick in the spaces that you don’t have time for a longer crop. The rabbits, chickens, and goats all love it and animal food is a great alternative to weeds, which is what will grow there if you don’t plant something else!
Using these methods, a little forethought, and a good companion planting chart; you can get quite a bit of vegetables out of a fairly small space!