Even if your garden space is limited, you can still plant a small vegetable garden. It is not necessary to plant in blocks of long rows of cultivated plants. Vegetables will grow in a small patch of ground. Simple hand tools such as a shovel, hoe and rake are all you need to work a small garden. Vegetable plants require full sun, good soil and ample water to produce. Starting with a small garden is a good idea for beginning gardeners. As your experience increases, so can the size of your garden.
Begin every garden with a plan. Sketch a map of your plot so you will know how much seed to buy and how many plants you will need. Be creative in your use of space. A sunny strip of grass along the driveway might be just the place for a row of beans. Try planting pretty ruffled lettuces with flowers in a bed. Select varieties of vegetables that have been bred for small spaces, such as bush-type squash. To save space, plant a vertical trellis of climbing pole beans instead of sprawling bush beans.
Small garden spaces benefit from raised beds or container gardening. A raised bed doesn't need to be fancy; build a four-sided box frame from scrap lumber. Fill it with quality soil mixed with compost. Vegetables thrive in the non-compacted soil of a raised bed. The edges of raised beds help limit water runoff, keeping water and nutrients at the roots where plants can use them.
Till the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches for most vegetables. Till at least 12 inches deep for tomato plants. For a small plot, a shovel and hoe will do a good job of turning and breaking up the soil. Use your hands to crumble the soil, if necessary. Remove clumps of grass, weeds, sticks and stones.
Mark the areas you will plant. Use string stretched between two small stakes to make straight rows. Mark the spacing for transplants like tomatoes and peppers.
Use a hoe to open a furrow for vegetables like peas, beans and squash that you will seed directly in the garden. Read the seed package and plant each variety at the correct depth.
Set out transplants according to your marked areas. Dig a planting hole for each plant. Carefully remove the plants from their nursery containers and set them into the holes. Spread the roots so they are not compacted, and cover them with loose soil. Press the soil lightly around each transplant to make sure there is good contact between roots and soil.
Water new transplants when you set them out into the garden. Make sure the root zone receives water, and not just the surface of the soil. Use light mulch around your transplants to retain soil moisture and block weeds.
If you water newly planted seeds, do so carefully. Use a light sprinkle so the soil and seeds do not wash away. You may want to let nature water the seeds with rain. After the seeds germinate and the seedlings are visible, mulch around them.