Growing veg in small spaces

by Adam Pasco

When growing edible crops, it is essential to use your plot efficiently, especially if space is limited.

Adam Pasco digging in compost to his vegetable bedsWhen growing edible crops, it is essential to use your plot efficiently, especially if space is limited. It’s no good growing an unusual variety with a tiny yield if it takes up space that could be used for a more productive crop – particularly if you have a family to feed.

I don't have the luxury of a large allotment, so I'm keen to grow as much as I can in my garden. It's probably larger than average, but then gardening is my passion, and my job!

Fruit trees and cane fruits grow around the edges to cover fences, and are used to divide areas of the garden. I have a greenhouse where I can squeeze in about eight tomato plants, a couple of cucumbers, plus pots of aubergine, sweet peppers and chillies. And pots of strawberries too, as grown outside they simply become bird food!

Crops are planted in beds about 1m wide with a narrow paved path between each for easy access. I've just finished digging the beds, adding plenty of homemade compost deep down in the process, and now I'm planning what to grow.

An inspiring book I often turn to for ideas is a small paperback by Joy Larkcom called Vegetables from Small Gardens, first published in 1976 – I'm not even sure if it's still in print. Joy introduced me to a lovely concept – the Value for Space Rating (VSR) – and produced a value for every crop. The main factors she considered were:

1.  The length of time a crop is in the ground before being harvested.

2.  The number of helpings you'd pick per square metre.

Crops that grew quickly and produced high yields received a high VSR, while those that took up space for many months while producing low yields scored poorly.

So, for example, Jerusalem artichoke and cauliflowers scored a low VSR, while the best crops with high VSR's included short carrots, many salads including rocket and claytonia, spinach beet, French and runner beans, and turnips.

Alan Titchmarsh had some helpful advice in the February issue of Gardeners' World magazine, too, encouraging us all to grow more veg. His top four space-saving crops were spring onions, watercress (no you don't need running water), runner beans and cut-and-come-again lettuce.

Which veg crops do you think offer the best return from the space devoted to them? For me it's salads (a wide mix of tasty leaf types), herbs like parsley and chives, and tomatoes. Now that's a crop I'd never be without. My only decision now – which varieties?

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Gardeners' World Web User 21/02/2011 at 16:04

Cayenne Chili - cropped for months for me last year and saved us about £60 or maybe even more... (we buy lots normally!)

Gardeners' World Web User 21/02/2011 at 16:55

I only started experimenting with growing veg last year in a few pots but would like to expand this now so I can produce more. I have a boring rectangular lawn which I am quite happy to dig up completely but I am stuck for what to do with the layout. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to make my garden productive and attractive at the same time. I am struggling to find inspiration and a design for my garden (which is at the front of my house and not at the back so it's quite visible) and any ideas would be gratefully received.

Gardeners' World Web User 21/02/2011 at 18:06

Hi llamalady Why not grow flowers with your vegetables like like for example sweet peas with your runner beans.

Gardeners' World Web User 21/02/2011 at 20:41

Hi.. Find footage of Geoff Hamilton's ornamental garden (think Gardeners World MAY have covered it).He plants crops such as Chard amongst his shrubs.Not only does it look good,it fills spaces, adds colour and is considerably cheaper than unedible plants.

Gardeners' World Web User 21/02/2011 at 21:09

hi.. llamalady check out chelsea flower show website. they have a few show gardens,that have flowers and vegetables growing together. also they have plans of designs that you can try in your own garden ,with a full list of flowers and veg.good luck in your search and keep us informed on how u get on.

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