Building a small vegetable garden requires only as much effort as you wish to put into it. Raised beds are a handy way to make the most of a small space but are not necessary. Choose smaller varieties of plants to make the most of your small space. Cherry or grape tomatoes are just as lovely in salads as big beefsteak slicing tomatoes. Growing vertical vegetables, such as peas, beans and cucumbers can also help make the most of your space.
Plan your full season of growing before you start. Consider strategies such as succession gardening, in which you constantly have seedlings growing in a flat indoors. You can then transplant them outdoors when the current crop is past its prime. Interplanting, interspersing vegetables that take different amounts of time to mature, is another good use of small space. Write your plans on paper, and do not be afraid to revise as you learn new things.
Start tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and other hot-weather-loving vegetables in a flat about six to eight weeks before the date of the last frost in your area. Use a small amount of starter mix in each cell and sow the seeds according to packet instructions. Use a mister to water so you do not disturb seeds or soil.
Consider raised bed gardening. Raised beds consist of soil mixed with organic matter to a minimum height of 8 to 12 inches above ground level. At their simplest, they are mounds of soil where gardens are planted. They have better aeration and drainage than other gardens, as well as larger yields in a smaller space. Borders of wood frames or stones may be added.
Sow cool-weather-loving vegetables such as lettuce and spinach in your garden in the spring. Pay careful attention to packet instructions. Some seeds, such as lettuces, need to be covered by a very scant amount of soil. Lettuces require some sunlight to germinate.
Transplant hot-weather seedlings to your garden after all danger of frost has passed. Squeeze the cells of the flat to loosen the root balls and plant in holes twice as wide as each root ball. When planting vertical plants that you will train onto trellises, plant a couple of inches closer together than packet instructions suggest.
Securely mount trellises near the seedlings of vertical plants after you have transplanted them. Pound the trellises into the ground with a mallet. Use strips of pantyhose to tie tender seedlings of vining and climbing vegetables to your trellises. Pantyhose is strong and sturdy, yet will not bruise tender seedlings.
Monitor your garden’s watering needs closely. Raised bed gardens are more convenient for weeding and harvesting, but they dry out more quickly than traditional gardens. All vegetable gardens, regardless of whether they are raised bed or traditional, require consistent watering. Water deeply once every few days or whenever the top couple inches of soil look dry. During the hottest days of summer, water at least once a day. Do not water during midday because you might burn the leaves and fruit of your plants.