Growing vegetables in small spaces
Small backyard? Tiny verandah? No problem - you can still grow an impressive crop of herbs and vegies with these growing tips.
All vegetables require sunlight- how much depends on the particular crop, but as a rule, they definitely do best in full sun. So when you're setting up a spot in your small garden, look for an open, north-facing aspect that ideally gets up to six hours of sun each day. You'll also want to protect your crops from strong winds, and have a source of water nearby so you can easily water thirsty seedlings as they grow.
Containers should be as large as possible, ideally at least 30cm across and 25cm deep, with adequate drainage holes. Anything can be used: plastic pots, terracotta pots, wine barrels, baskets lined with plastic, wire hanging baskets, ceramic pots, concrete troughs or urns. Make sure that water will not damage the surface beneath, and use saucers for protection if necessary.
Once you've got the perfect pot, fill with good-quality, free-draining potting mix and add some fine compost. Keep in mind that although good potting mix contains fertiliser mixed into it, it's best to feed your vegetable seedlings fortnightly with a liquid fertiliser to keep them growing well.
When gardening in a small space, it's all about choosing the right plant varieties. Read the descriptions, take note of growth habits, and look for compact or dwarf varieties that have been developed for small spaces.
Tomatoes are easy to grow, and small cherry tomatoes in particular will continue to crop right through summer. Keep picking them and they will continue to produce more tomatoes. Make sure that you give them support as they grow. Either use a tripod of bamboo canes or buy a tomato tower that will fit over any pot. Just two plants will give a good crop.
Brilliant rainbow-coloured silverbeet is also one of the easiest vegetables to grow, and looks great on a balcony. Pick the outer leaves as you need them and you'll have a long-lasting supply for cooking.
You could also try growing root crops like carrots, beetroot and radish. Or how about some broccoli? Since these are slow growing, you could add some lettuces as filler and enjoy harvesting leaves for your salad as your larger crops take root.
Strawberries are also a small-space favourite, and do very well in baskets in a sunny spot. The pretty red berries will tumble tantalisingly over the edge, just waiting to be picked.
If you have space for a deep window box against a wall or fence, you could even grow some climbing beans. These will need a framework to climb up - either bamboo stakes joined with strong horizontal strings or a piece of lattice - but can double as a great wall-cover.
If floor space is full, find a spot for growing herbs in hanging baskets. Fill a basket with mint, thyme, marjoram, oregano, basil, parsley and sage, and you'll have them easily on hand for summer entertaining.
Whatever you do, don't be put off by a small outdoor space. With lots of sun, some great pots, and a bit of imagination, you can be harvesting your own herbs and vegies in no time.