A huge plot isn't essential for growing vegetables - in fact, it can be a drawback. A small, intensive, easily managed plot produces far more top quality, usable crops for most busy people. The secret of success is making best use of available space.
To grow good veg you need a sheltered site that gets full sun for at least half the day, with deep, fertile, well-drained soil that has been enriched with organic matter. Deep beds – the original no-dig technique – are perfect for small gardens; by working the soil deeply and adding organic matter to the surface, veg can safely be planted at two-thirds’ normal spacing with no paths between rows, so you pack lots into the space. You can also use large patio containers for certain crops, or create a decorative potager – a walk-through area with beds planted prettily with vegetables instead of flowers.
But if you have a conventional veg patch or allotment, with crops grown at traditional wide spacings, try intercropping. The idea of this is to sow or plant quick-growing crops, such as lettuce, radish or spinach, between big, slow- growing crops, such as sweetcorn or winter brassicas. The idea is that the quick crops use the spare space before their neighbours grow large enough to cover the soil (don’t try this on deep or raised beds, because the plants are already as closely spaced as you dare).
Pests and disease are more of a problem with closely spaced crops, so opt for modern pest- and disease-resistant varieties, where possible.
Another good idea when space is tight is to search the seed catalogues for space-saving varieties. You’ll find bush versions of courgettes and pumpkins instead of traditional long, trailing kinds. There are also mini-veg, varieties that naturally start cropping early in life.
Make the best use of your space by growing the four crops listed below.