Tips on Growing Vegetable Patches

Most vegetables will grow quite happily in a little garden patch. If you want to grow vegetables in a small space, you need to make the most of what you have. The soil should be rich, water should be accessible and the plants' needs have to be met. There are also some tricks for getting a bigger harvest out of a little area.

Placement

Vegetable patches should be protected from strong winds in a place where plants will get at least six hours of full sun each day. Consider plants' watering needs, and place the garden near a water source. Maintaining a garden quickly becomes an unpleasant chore if you have to haul water two or three times a day in the summer's heat. Try to place the vegetable patch in an existing sprinkler path, or within reach of a hose. Another option is to use a drip system, which is low-maintenance once it's set up and it uses less water than overhead watering.

Soil

A small garden space can be planted more intensively than a larger place, but the soil needs to be rich enough to support the plants' nutritional needs. Have the soil tested before you start planting to check for deficiencies. Improve your existing garden soil with organic materials like compost, composted manure and yard waste like leaves and grass clippings. You can also try planting your patches in raised beds, which allows you to fill the space with the soil you want. Raised beds are easier to weed and always have good drainage.

Plant Varieties

Whenever possible, choose smaller, bushier varieties of plants like tomatoes or eggplant. You can also use trellises to train vining plants like beans, peas, tomatoes and cucumbers to grow up instead of out. Don't be tempted to sow closer together than recommended on a seed packet, or plants will compete with each other. Remember that most squashes and melons need at least a 2-foot radius to grow properly. If you want lettuce heads, they need around 18 inches to develop, but you can pack leaf lettuce and baby greens in much tighter. Baby greens and baby spinach can be cut several times in a growing season, giving you a lot of nutrition for less water and space.

Companion Planting

Don't be afraid to mix plants together. There is no need to plant in organized rows in a small patch. Flowers like marigolds, nasturtiums or petunias lure beneficial insects, and marigolds also help drive away harmful nematodes. Garden folklore holds that some plants "like" each other, and modern research seems to support this. For example, plant corn and legumes together. Legumes fix nitrogen in the soil that the corn needs, and the growing corn can trellis the legume vines. Aromatic herbs help keep cabbage worms off your cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Basil repels flies and mosquitoes and improves the taste of tomatoes.

Plan Your Plantings

Make the most of a space by staggering plantings of the same vegetables by a week or two and lengthen the harvest time. Consider also the maturation times for different plants. A slow-growing squash plant can go in next to something fast-growing like cilantro or radishes because the fast plants will be harvested by the time the slow plants take off. Try to group plants in terms of their light and watering needs, which will make maintaining the garden patch a little easier.

Keywords: vegetable patches, small space gardening tips, planning a garden