Many gardeners worry that a small garden will not produce the amount of fruit and vegetables they desire. The trick is to cut down on wasted space between rows and make the best use of the area you have. Square foot gardening and succession planting are two ways to produce abundant fruit in a restricted area. Although small areas do limit the plants you can grow, many of the favored garden vegetables actually grow quite well in a more confined space.
Tomatoes are available in both indeterminate and determinate varieties. Indeterminate tomato vines continue to grow throughout the summer and can reach heights of 4 feet or more and spread to widths of 3 feet. These sprawling plants require staking and take up considerable room in a garden.
Determinate varieties grow to a height of 1 to 2 feet (depending on the cultivar) making them ideal for small spaces. Although they do not typically produce as abundantly as indeterminate types, determinate tomatoes provide robust fruit in a compact space.
Green or wax beans grow well in small spaces. If planted by the square foot, they can be planted 2 to 4 inches apart in all directions allowing you to plant the equivalent of 6 feet of beans in 1 square foot.(See resources for basics of square for square foot gardening.) Once the beans are harvested, a new planting in the same area provides a second crop of fresh beans in the same space.
Traditional cucumber patches are large and sprawling with vines that extend several feet from the base of the plant. Although you may not have room for vining varieties, there are several varieties of bush cucumbers on the market that produce crisp young fruit without requiring a lot of space. For fresh cucumbers for summer salads, two to four bush cucumber plants will provide adequate fruit for the average family.
Spinach, Swiss chard and beets make good use of small areas and can be planted in wide rows or by square foot. Broadcast seed over the area and use the crops for fresh greens when the seedlings emerge. Thin when plants become too thick and use in salads or cook as a side dish. To extend the harvest, pick the outer leaves for eating and allow inner leaves to mature for another crop of fresh greens.
Lettuce, salad greens and radish are ideal for small areas. Not only can they be planted successfully in wide rows or by square foot, they mature quickly and free the area for new crops once they are harvested. Replant the area to produce a fresh crop of salad greens in the fall. These small plants can also be tucked between larger plants (like tomatoes or cucumbers) and harvested before the other plants need the area to grow.