Small-space vegetable gardening can be remarkably productive. Even a 4-foot by 4-foot raised bed can yield a substantial amount of produce, while being easier and more enjoyable to maintain than a large garden area. Adding trellises for vertical growth and selecting space-saving bush and dwarf varieties add to the efficiency and attractiveness of a small vegetable plot.
Beans and Greens
Interplanting--growing two compatible vegetable crops together--is one of the space-saving techniques recommended by the University of Iowa Extension to maximize production in small vegetable plots. Pole varieties of green beans are one of the most productive home-garden vegetables; a tepee or trellis over a 4-foot by 4-foot plot planted with pole green beans, wax beans or romano beans will produce may pounds of beans for fresh eating, cooking and freezing. Most salad greens, including lettuce, arugula, spinach and endive, can tolerate some shade, and even prefer shadier conditions in the full heat of summer. Plant salad greens underneath your green bean trellis or tepee to reap two crops from the same garden space.
A 4-foot by 4-foot raised bed in full sun provides ample space to grow most of your fresh salad makings all summer, especially if you select space-saving varieties. The Colorado State University Extension recommends Tiny Tim, Small Fry, Patio Hybrid, Presto and Toy Boy tomatoes. These can be planted in the vegetable plot or grown in hanging baskets on poles over the raised bed, which would also allow you to grow peas or pole green beans up the support poles. Radishes and carrots can be interplanted in one row along the edge of the bed. Small, whole-head lettuce varieties like Tom Thumb can be planted in succession (a new seedling tucked in each time a head is harvested) to ensure a continual salad supply all year.
Small garden plots can produce a substantial quantity of vegetables that can be stored for winter use, when fresh produce is more expensive and less readily available. Beets, winter radishes, parsnips, carrots, turnip and potatoes all yield hefty root crops from small plantings. Space-saving varieties of winter squash, such as Cream of the Crop, Table Ace acorn squash or Bush Delicata, can yield a half-dozen winter squash from about a 2-foot by 2-foot plant. Hot peppers also produce an attractive, prolific yield in small spaces, and can be dried or canned to spice up winter meals.