By Sean Conway

A 4-foot by 4-foot raised-bed garden can be put together with wide boards, simple hardware and good soil. With adequate sunshine and careful tending, this mini garden can keep you in fresh produce all summer long

If the only thing keeping you from raising your own vegetables this season is enough space to grow them in, then have I got a project for you!

Did you know that in a space as small as 4 feet by 4 feet you can have a productive vegetable garden?

Well, it's true, and recently on "Cultivating Life" my guest Gayla Trail showed me how. Gayla is the author, most recently, of the book "Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces" (Clarkson Potter) and creator of an excellent website, She stopped by to explain how 16 square feet of space can yield plenty of fresh vegetables throughout the summer.

To make a small garden succeed, you will need to pick a site that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight; you'll also need good soil and be able to water your garden when it needs it.

Start by choosing vegetables that you and your family like to eat, as well as those that are the most expensive at the market. Tomatoes, peppers and fresh herbs are all good choices. Be careful to choose plants that do not take up a lot of space. While pumpkins and corn are fun to grow, they require a lot of room and are not the best choice for a small-space garden.

Take advantage of vertical space by growing plants that will climb such as pole beans, cucumbers, and some varieties of tomatoes. Supports for your plants can be as simple as some bamboo stakes tied together or as decorative as an ornate trellis.

Vegetables that mature quickly, such as lettuce, spinach, radishes and peas, can be removed when they have finished bearing and can be replaced with other crops such as carrots, beets, beans and chard for harvesting later in the season.

Another technique Gayla recommends is co-planting vegetables together in the same area. For example, plant slow-growing tomatoes with fast-growing plants such as lettuces. The fast-growing vegetable will be harvested before the crops begin to crowd each other.

A simple and inexpensive garden can be built using two 8-foot long 1-by-12-inch boards that are cut in half. Once the boards are cut, they can be joined with angle brackets to form a box. Fill the box with good quality soil and add amendments if needed.

Be sure to locate the box in a sunny area. Growing in a raised bed like this will allow your soil to drain freely. The soil in the raised bed will also warm up earlier in the season than bare ground, allowing you to plant earlier.

If you have been longing to grow a garden but thought you didn't have enough space, take another look at the space you do have. You might be surprised at how much potential even a little patch has to accommodate a wonderful, productive garden.


Available at

Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces

© Cultivating Life by Sean Conway





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