Small-Space Gardening: 5 Tips for Growing More

Learn How to Grow More Food in Less Space!

By Robin Sweetser
March 10, 2021
Raised Bed Garden-3
Photo by Pixabay

Grow more in less space with interplanting, succession planting, and other techniques. Robin has five simple gardening tips for ensuring a bountiful harvest, even if you only have a small space to work with! 

5 Tips for Small-Space Gardening

1. Use Raised Beds

Forget about growing plants single file in long, parallel rows. You can grow up to 10 times the amount of produce in the same space by using raised beds and square-foot gardening.

In a raised garden bed, you keep outside weeds from your garden soil, prevent water runoff and soil compaction, and worry less about slugs, snails, and other garden pests. Also, garden boxes allow you to concentrate your energy in a small area, meaning you can work, water, weed, and fertilize as economically as possible. You can make the most of the entire growing season by using season-extending devices such as cold frames, cloches, row covers, and plastic tunnels, too.

Here’s how to build your own raised garden bed.

2. Keep Seedlings Coming

Succession planting keeps the garden in continual production. Whenever one crop is harvested, have seedlings ready to transplant in its place. For the best results, use quick-maturing vegetables such as radishes or salad greens to fit several crops into one season and spread out the harvest. See 5 fast-growing veggies to try.

3. Interplant (Intercrop) 

“Interplanting” or “intercropping” is the practice of planting small crops in between bigger ones; the small, fast-growing crops will be ready before the big ones need the extra space. If you have a small area, this lets you use your space more efficiently and for longer.  

To “interplant,” plants should be placed close enough so that their leaves will touch when they’re mature, shading the ground between them. This will keep weeds down and conserve moisture, reducing the need to mulch and weed.

As the plants begin to crowd out their neighbors, harvest the early-maturing ones, leaving room for the others to develop. For example, plant lettuce around longer-season vegetables such as broccoli, peppers, or tomatoes.

Check out our video to learn more about interplanting.

4. Plant Companions, Not Competitors

Some intercropping partners thrive if their roots occupy a different depth of soil. Pairing shallow-rooted vegetables, such as bush beans, with deeply rooted beets makes good use of space without creating root competition. Similarly, planting heavy feeders such as cabbage or cucumbers with light-feeding carrots or beans reduces the competition for soil nutrients. The best intercropping partners are companion plants that have different demands and complement each other, such as the Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. Refer to our vegetable companion planting chart for more recommended pairings.

5. Grow Up, Not Out

Lay out your garden plot with the fence, trellis, or wall at the north side. By planting the tallest plants there, you will avoid shading the smaller ones. Vining plants, if left to sprawl, take up valuable space in a small garden, so help them grow up.

  • Cucumbers will eagerly climb a nylon net fence, with the subsequent bonus result that the dangling fruits grow straighter and are easier to pick.
  • Tomatoes produce more fruit and ripen earlier if kept off the ground on a trellis or in a wire cage.
  • Peas and pole beans naturally reach for the sky and will cover a wire fence or twine around a tripod of poles.

Some heavier plants, such as cantaloupes, watermelons, and winter squashes, may need help in climbing, so tie their vines to the structure to get them going in the right direction. Support the fruit with slings to keep them from tearing off the vine too soon.

Read more about the art of vertical gardening and fit more in less space!

Plot Out Your Garden

Good soil, adequate sunshine, and sufficient drainage are the key requirements for a successful vegetable garden, but planning your garden’s layout shouldn’t be a last-minute thought. Every garden—and every gardener—is different, so create a garden tailored to your space and needs.

For example, a 100-square-foot garden (10x10 feet) can easily yield a wide variety of veggies. Bisecting it with two narrow paths forms four beds that are easy to reach into and tend. (One square = one square foot.)

To plan out your own garden, use The Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden Planner. You can try it free for 7 days—ample time to design your best garden yet!



Parts of this article originally appeared in The 2008 Old Farmer's Almanac.


Reader Comments

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Hi Laura, To figure out how

The Editors's picture

Hi Laura,
To figure out how space the right number of vegetables in your raised garden, try our free online Garden Planner here:
Raised gardens are usually a great solution for rainy, wet weather. This way, the beds won't suffer from wet soil. Adding lots of organic matter such as partially rotting straw or compost also helps. If wet weather is a common issue, consider planting vegetables with short growing cycles such as tomatoes, peas, radishes, potatoes, beans, and carrots.

I am installing 2 raised beds

I am installing 2 raised beds (3 X 8 X 8)and have had Rat Wire put on the bottom to prevent moles from invading the boxes. Plan to double dig and then add several inches of sand for good drainage.
Then adding a mixture of compost, mulch and good garden soil. Should I add manure to this mixture?? Any other suggestions???
Thank You

You can include manure in

The Editors's picture

You can include manure in your mix but make sure that it is extremely well-rotted and the animals that produced it were from organic systems; many gardeners have had whole crops killed off by using manure from animals grazed on land sprayed with herbicides.
Make sure that when you add sand you mix it with soil or compost, as using sand on its own can form a hard-packed layer. Mixed with other materials however it helps to open up the soil and improve the structure, making it more free-draining.
Some people (especially square foot gardeners) also add vermiculite or perlite to their raised bed mixes, but if you have access to leafmold this is a much more economical option, and will also help to improve the soil structure.

I just recently started 8

I just recently started 8 raised garedn veggie beds and I very new to all of this and I have started to grow alot of veggies with seeds and success has been happening......I need to know alot more about this they get betwenn 6 ot 7 hours of sunlight a day and currently Im growing Artichokes,corn Squash,Pumpkins,Green Red Orange and Yellow Peppers also Jalpenos,Spinach,Romaine,Buttercrunch Lettuce,Radicchio,Roma Tomatos,Early Girl Tomatos,Beefeater tomatos,Lima Beans,Sugar Snap Peas,Radish,Ceasar Salad mix,Cherry Tomatos,Brussell Sprouts,Black Beauty Eggplants and I do have a question my lima Beans are really growing like crazy I would like to know how big do they need to be on a trellis or twine with stakes? Like I said before this is still brand new to me and I need all the help I can get from anyone experienced Also on my Acorn Squash and the Artichokes do they need to grow up as a vine too???I have them starting from seeds and now they are very leafy and I need to know how big or wide they get???Please help help help???

Deborah IN Sarasota Fl

Hi Deborah, Wow, that's a lot

The Editors's picture

Hi Deborah,
Wow, that's a lot of vegetables. Any vegetable that vines will benefit from a trellis. Squashes may get a little heavy and you may need to give them extra support on the trellis. Peas and beans that are not bush types should also have something to climb on. Artichokes don't usually need a trellis. You need to check your seed package or look online to see how big or tall each variety will grow. Good luck! It sounds like you have a great start to a productive vegetable garden.

I am contemplating starting

I am contemplating starting an organic, heirloom garden in Tucson, Arizona. This article and your 8/9 shade and drip system comments are helpful. Conflicting advice suggests doing beds versus containers (that I could roll into the shade). We'll have plenty of space for a home garden - about 600 square feet. Trying to decide what to plant, how to plant it, etc. Thoughts? Links? Recommended books? Thank you!

You may want to speak to your

The Editors's picture

You may want to speak to your local cooperative extension to get their on-the-ground perspective. To us, a raised garden bed provides much better moisture control. Either way, you'll need shade cloth for the afternoons. We have a few great book suggestions here:

When you say at least 6 hours

When you say at least 6 hours of sun,what part of the country is that in. I live in south central TX and believe me, the plants that call for that time frame are baked!!! Please help!!

You do need 6 to 8 hours of

The Editors's picture

You do need 6 to 8 hours of sun for vegetables to grow. It's the heat that can be a problem in Texas. You can consider: providing some shade on the south or southwest side to protect the veggies from afternoon sun. You should avoid overhead shade or structures that block sunlight. Mulch generously and water with drip hose at the base of the plants. Make sure that the soil stays moist (NOT wet) or soggy. This keeps the root environment cool.
Also, use heat-tolerant varieties for your area! Check out some online resources from Texas A&M (http://aggie-horticulture.tamu... and http://plantdiseasehandbook.ta... ).

Raised garden beds are great

Raised garden beds are great for growing small plots of veggies and flowers. Good techniques are shared here.Raised bed vegetable garden are an easy way to plan and design a small beginner vegetable garden.

Yes the Rasied garden beds

Yes the Rasied garden beds are awesome this is my very first time with any garden of any kind and I have 8 Garden beds filled with all kinds of veggies and alot of them are from seeds thet I start in the little growing pods first then I plant them in the rasied beds my beds are 4 feet by 4 feet and I filled all of them with compost and top soil and I have noticed since I have started all of this some of the soil have dissapeared is this normal???Do I need to refill the beds up but they are all full of the produce what do I do???

You can add mulch or compost

The Editors's picture

You can add mulch or compost around the plants that have longer stems.

I have and wouldnt want to

I have and wouldnt want to loose my avacado trees but also need to grow vegea. Any advice for me. Am in Africa with plenty of sun and water and fertile soil.

How much sun is sufficient

How much sun is sufficient sun for a plot like this? thank you!

You need at least 6 hours of

The Editors's picture

You need at least 6 hours of direct sun, but more is better.The more sun the more and better crops.

The more sun the better I get

The more sun the better I get between 5 to 6 hours a day sunlight and mine are doing just great I have 8 Raised veggies beds...I live in Sarasota Fl and this is my very first time doing any kind of gardening...Good Luck I hope this helps you but I am certainly a newbie LOL