Good morning everyone! How are you today?
This morning I am sipping my coffee staring out the back window at my new tilled garden plot right out in the backyard. It wasn’t here in the morning, and it wasn’t there when I came home after a grueling day of field trips with my children. But when I came back from running through my piano students’ recital pieces, there, in the back yard, neatly between the posts I laid out a couple days ago,
is my new garden.
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Can you hear me smiling? I think my teeth are creaking. 🙂
Now I know some of you are going to holler and howl and wonder why in the world I had someone till up a spot in my backyard when I declared that the Back to Eden film had revolutionized my way of gardening,
yadda, yadda, yadda.
Well it has.
But this is the very first step for us because we don’t want that land to lie fallow all summer when it can be producing goodies for this family and others, so we are tilling it, then mulching it with a heavy load of fine grade wood chips. Within a week, that baby will be planted and ready to go! For this year it will host all my squash, eggplant, pumpkin, and etc varieties…anything vining is heading in there, because it will provide a large crop that will squeeze out the weeds for me. 🙂
Anyhow, today we are talking about baby steps, and that if you are just getting in started in gardening, there are some ways to have a good yield from a small space. I wish someone had laid some of this out for me when I was first getting started, because it would have saved me a lot of time and energy trying different approaches (not to mention cash output).
I want to talk with you about the five best things you can grow in a container, or in a very small space to yield the largest amount of produce for your time and money. If we are looking at methods, I am absolutely going to point you straight to the post I did last week on raised bed/Square foot gardening and container gardening using Global Buckets. I don’t care where you live, those avenues can be used, and the second was developed for use in places where either the soil could not be used, or there was little space that needed to produce a large amount of food for hungry people in third world countries.
Click HERE to head over to that and read if you have not been there already.
Now for the top five things you can grow in containers,
and how much they will produce.
  1. Obviously one of the highest producers that you can raise are tomatoes. I don’t know how much you pay for tomatoes where you live, but when you consider for the cost of a plant, the container, and a little love, sunshine, water and care that a single tomato plant will produce 30-40 lbs of tomatoes by the end of the season, well…you shouldn’t be surprised when I tell you to grow a couple of these. I would say a single plant makes two to three batches of spaghetti sauce for me, or a plant and a couple pepper plants and onion plants make a couple batches of salsa. Even if you purchase those things cheaper than I do, since I live here in the mostly frozen North, you will be saving upwards of $40-$60 PER PLANT. Tomatoes can be planted and trellised, meaning they can be trained to climb or tied to something that will keep them going upwards instead of out in a big bush, but to do that you need to have indeterminate plant types (read the labels on the plants or seeds you purchase) which simply means it will keep growing and producing until frost. I saw this idea the other day and wanted to post it for anyone who is looking at growing in a small space:

As you can see—these plants are grown using buckets, and while this is a larg(er) example of what I am talking about, it shows how a little creativity can go a long way in making use of the space you have! I will be posting other ideas having to do with container gardening today on the FB page for those of you who are interested. Please bop on over there using the ribbon link on my picture to see more.
            2. Pole beans: these can also be trained to go up instead of keeping in bush form, and a single seeds that sprouts will produce up to 20 lbs of green beans from one plant. They flower in when setting the pods of beans, and so are also beautiful in the Spring or early summer as well. They make a nice privacy screen between balconies in apartment buildings, and the best part is, you can eat dinner on the patio, with your food source for dinner right there at hand! Beans will grow in almost any soil as long as they are given sunshine and a good watering now and then, PLUS they contribute back to the soil, leaving it richer for the next year’s plants. SO get a couple small containers, and give it something to climb up, and plant some pole beans!
            3. Lettuce or Spinach: Really, this depends on your taste and which one you like more, but we have found growing a couple varieties of salad greens, and a ton of spinach work best for our family. In a single window box, or larger growing container, you can grow the equivalent of 60 bags of salad greens, which would cost you an arm and a leg in the grocery store. If you use a method such as successive planting, where you sew a new row of seeds every few weeks, you will have more than enough salad greens for yourself, family members, and even neighbors for  as long as the season is warm enough for them to grow. Some of these will bolt in high heat, though, so be sure your “salad box” is not in the direct sunshine for longer than 6-8 hours a day. Otherwise, if you are planning a small, in-ground garden instead of container gardening, you can plant lettuce and spinach under a frame covered with chicken wire, and grow beans over the frame which will shade the lettuce and spinach from the hot sun, giving you more use and yield from a smaller space. 🙂
             4. Zucchini or Yellow Summer Squash: yep. You knew it was coming. And if you have ever had the “misfortune” of planting a few too many of these plants at once, you know how incredibly prolific and abundant the yield can be from a single plant. You will know what it is to wrap zucchini in a blanket and leave it sitting on someone’s doorstep in the hopes they think it is a baby, and take it in. 🙂 One year we had run out of zucchini a little earlier than normal (I freeze and dry it for use throughout the year), so I got ambitious and planted ten zucchini plants. We normally use three. I cant even tell you how much zucchini we had that year–enough I have not grown it for two years and now this year I am finally planting some this year. Give it a good pot and some water and lots of sunshine, and these babies will give you up to 2 zucchini every couple of days for two months. Go ahead. Add it up in your head, and know how much you need to plant for your family. We will be doing ten plants again this year, but our family has grown by two people, and we also are planting for my mother and to help another family. So we should be back to planting every year from here on our without getting another zucchini overload. 🙂
            5. Bell Peppers: I don’t know, again, how much you pay where you live in the grocery store for bell peppers, but here they are normally 2 for 4 or even on sale sometimes for $1.50 each. A single bell pepper plant will give you between 12 and 18 peppers per plant, and they are good container plants that love lots of sunshine and grow well with other shallow root plants like lettuce or spinach, or even some herbs like basil and oregano. Cost for purchasing it versus growing it is significant, so it is definitely one we want to include in the top five easiest and most productive plants to grow.
   So those are the top five VEGGIES that I would choose if I were looking in gardening in a small space, and they are relatively easy ones to start out with! Others that would round out the top ten would be planting potatoes in a garbage can with holes and filling with more dirt each time the plant gets 18″ tall (but you have to use certain varieties so they will keep forming potatoes.). Some varieties are supposed to give you up to 100 lbs of potatoes in a small space! Otherwise, things such as onions from onion sets are easy and produce well, or any herbs because those are SO expensive for a small bottle in the store, and yet, one plant will yield up to a pint of  dried herb for you with a little care. Be sure to check out the ideas over on the FB page, and we will be talking tomorrow about the next step up in gardening and how to begin to plan for a real way to begin to ease your family’s grocery budget using gardening. 🙂
 Many Blessings to you and yours!