companion planting

Most home gardeners are working with confined spaces, be they tiny dirt plots or a simple, yet beautiful row of pots on a balcony. But limited garden space doesn’t have to mean tiny plants. One tomato container has enough room for five happy, prolific plants, and two rows of string against a wall is a workable foundation for high-yield squash. Don’t think of a small space as a limitation – it’s your opportunity to get creative.

There are two excellent ways to get the most bang for your buck in a small garden. The first is to use vining varieties of plants whenever possible. Many plants, such as beans, cucumbers and the highly prolific squash, come in vine and bush types. Though it may seem counterintuitive, the bushes take up more room by staying low to the ground, taking up more growing space. A trellised plant leaves room for growing other plants at its base. Sturdy wood trellises are the most reliable (and, since they’re strong, they can support small containers of herbs tied or nailed to the crosshatches: even more plants on zero feet of dirt!). Of course, ribbon or string tied to a stick or metal pole will work well, too. Heck, you could probably even use floss.

If you’re working with height restrictions, never fear; there is second technique of maximizing veggies in a limited space. It’s called companion planting, and it’s a perfect mesh of science and art. Plants that grow well together also taste good together. (That’s the science part, in a nutshell.) Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, chives, and dwarf peppers thrive together in one big tomato pot, and make excellent salads and bruschettas. Plus, all of those plants produce so much in one season that you can practically live off the one container alone. If you’re a fan of Asian food, try hot peppers with cilantro and Thai basil, or peas with spinach and bok choy – the art of cooking starts before you even get into the kitchen.

Those small plants, the peppers and herbs and greens, will almost be more prolific than you know what to do with. Whether planting with height or width in mind, it’s easy to get a season of salads out of one tiny space.