How to Grow a Mini-Garden

If you want to plant a garden but only have access to a small or very small parcel of land, using the methods outlined here you can plant a mini-garden that will be productive in the spring, summer, and fall.

| July/August 1973

  • Huckans' garden diagram
    A diagram of the garden Huckans planted using succession planting techniques adaptable to a mini-garden.
  • pix2223b.jpg
    An idealized image of a garden with ample space for everything.
  • pix2223a.jpg
    The somewhat more constrained reality of a mini-garden.

  • Huckans' garden diagram
  • pix2223b.jpg
  • pix2223a.jpg

"Grow your own food" is a popular theme these days, and plenty of excellent organic-gardening books are available to tell you how. The problem that's least often covered in these works, however, is the very one that keeps many would-be home farmers from getting started: What if all the land you have is the skimpy yard that surrounds an apartment . . . or a home on a small lot in a village ... or a rented farmhouse?

Well, you can do more than you might think with that kind of space ... or even with no space that's actually yours. Every city, for instance, has large amounts of publicly and privately owned wasteland—empty urban renewal sites, vacant lots, unused areas around new apartment houses—much of it so unsightly that those who own or control such property should be glad to have it made beautiful and productive.

I know that you can raise plenty of fresh produce in cramped quarters because—even though I live in a rural village—my own vegetable patch measures only 20' X 50'. The techniques I use on that bit of ground should be readily adaptable by any urban, village, or farm gardener who has only a shirttail-size plot at his or her disposal.

There's no question, of course, that my garden is rather small for serious food production . . . so I stretch the land. Sound impossible? Not at all ... because stretching can be done in a time as well as in a space sense.

First of all, instead of waiting for the traditional beginning of the garden season (Memorial Day here in upstate New York), I commence in early April or whenever the ground is dry enough to work. Not all crops, however, take kindly to a cool-weather start ... so I take advantage of their different preferences by planting less hardy subjects later on between the rows of the early vegetables. By following the principles of "companion" and "succession" cropping, I can extend my land spatially as well as temporally and—in effect—double its productiveness.

To show you what I mean, I'll explain how I planted last year's vegetable patch. 

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