Grow­ing food in small spa­ces

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Down­siz­ing to a small ur­ban plot presents a mixed bag of chal­lenges for gar­den­ers keen to grow their own food. But, as the gar­den­ers at Cop­per Crest have found, de­ter­mined gar­den­ers will al­ways find a way and at­ten­tion to de­tail can yield fan­tas­tic re­sults.

Pick favourites.

De­vote most of your pre­cious sunny ground to grow­ing what you most want to eat, but leave some space to ex­per­i­ment with some­thing new.

Fo­cus on nu­tri­tion.

Green leafy vegeta­bles and salad greens are the most nu­tri­ent dense. And there is no waste - ev­ery­thing the plant grows above ground is some­thing to eat.

Go ver­ti­cal.

Ev­ery sunny wall or fence is a po­ten­tial place to grow food. Es­palier a fruit tree or train a sum­mer crop of toma­toes or climb­ing beans. Pas­sion­fruit is an op­tion for a warm frost free po­si­tion. As long as they have some­where to scram­ble, clam­ber­ing cucurbits like pump­kins and zuc­chini need not use up an en­tire gar­den bed.

Fast fillers.

In­ter­crop­ping is a way of grow­ing two or more dif­fer­ent crops in the space that would usu­ally pro­duce one. So with care­ful tim­ing plus a dash of op­por­tunism, a given area will pro­duce a higher to­tal yield. Early in sum­mer we can fill the spa­ces between slower crops (such as toma­toes and zuc­chini) with quick grow­ing salad greens. Ex­am­ples of in­ter­crop­ping are car­rots with radishes, toma­toes with let­tuces, corn with salad greens.

Larger vegeta­bles like bras­si­cas need plenty of space at ma­tu­rity, but the spa­ces between them when young can be planted with a quick crop. One of the ad­van­tages of be­ing an ur­ban gar­dener is that a gar­den cen­tre is never too far away to call in and pick up a pun­net of seedlings to plug any spa­ces freed up as veges are har­vested. Many vegeta­bles can be eaten at a young stage, mak­ing room for the re­main­ing veges to grow larger.

Dou­ble act.

Many plants are both edi­ble and or­na­men­tal. Think colour­ful cabbages and feath­ery fen­nel, edi­ble flow­ers (such as cal­en­dula and bor­age) for sal­ads and fruit trees for shel­ter and screen­ing.

Mix it up.

When space is short there is no rea­son why you can’t grow flow­ers in the vege plot and vice versa.

Grow herbs for flavour.

Even if you de­cide not to grow veges, herbs are easy to grow and an easy away to add ex­tra in­ter­est to the sim­plest of meals. And they look great in the gar­den too.

Soil boost­ers.

When grow­ing crops close to­gether, nu­tri­ents must be re­plen­ished con­stantly. Many of the gar­den­ers at Cop­per Crest rec­om­mend sheep pel­lets as a way of boost­ing both soil sub­stance and nu­tri­ents. For quick suc­ces­sion, reg­u­lar feed­ing with liq­uid fer­tiliser is an easy way to keep up with the feed­ing de­mands of fast grow­ing vege plants.

Robin Clegg with his es­paliered plum tree at Cop­per Crest

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