Gardening Tips: Space-saving ideas

The amateur gardener may have many reasons for wanting to save space in the garden. One reason may be a desire to grow as many crops as possible in the small garden typical of today, in order to beat ever-increasing shop prices. Indeed, the present enthusiasm for fruit and vegetable growing has come at a time when housing developers are creating smaller and smaller gardens. It is not surprising that the newcomer to gardening often wonders how on earth to incorporate vegetables and fruit in a small rectangular or narrow plot.

Plant breeders are well aware of the problems facing the small-garden owner and have in recent years produced many dwarf or compact varieties of vegetables, which take up far less ground than many of the older kinds. Many amateur gardeners, as well as garden suppliers, nave thought of various ingenious ways of growing vegetables and fruit vertically to save space. When practising space-saving methods, always be wary of packing plants so close together that they do not receive adequate light, air and moisture. They will never grow and crop as they should do and therefore you will be wasting space, instead of saving it. With care, it is possible to save space and at the same time achieve good plant growth and maximum cropping.

Consider, also, whether a crop is a really good user of the space it takes up. A vegetable which occupies the same piece of ground for the best part of the year before it matures will need to crop heavily and long to justify its existence.

It may well be that several quick-maturing crops give a better return from the same space, especially if they are fairly trouble-free and need little in the way of soil preparation.

One very obvious waste of space is to grow vegetables your family do not like, and another is to try and grow crops which are not suited to your particular climate or soil. Remember, too, that frequent sowings of small quantities of quick-growing lettuce, radish, early carrots, and so on will make good use of space, and will ensure that you do not have gluts and famines. You can, in fact, buy packets of seeds of mixed varieties, which grow at different rates and are bred to mature at different seasons, though sown at the same time. This is economical of time, money and space. Such mixed selections can be obtained for lettuce, peas and beans.

Growing vegetables vertically

One of the easiest ways of saving space is to grow vegetables vertically. This makes use of otherwise wasted space above ground level.

The most obvious crops to grow in this way are the climbing kinds, such as runner beans, climbing French beans, tall varieties of peas, tomatoes, squashes and cucumbers. They will need adequate supports and where possible you can use existing supports in the garden, provided that the plants will receive as much sun as possible. For example, you may have a wall or fence on which to train vegetables. Slight modification will be necessary with most existing supports so that the plants have something to cling to, or so that you can secure them regularly as they grow.

Horizontal wires fixed to a wall or fence will allow you to tie in the stems of tomatoes, cucumbers and squashes. Space galvanized or plastic-covered wires about 60 cm (2’) apart and ensure they are at least 5 cm (2”) away from the wall. The wires can be supported with special vine eyes, which you can buy from a horticultural sundries supplier or a garden shop. These are easily hammered into wooden plugs, which are inserted between the bricks. Alternatively, you can use screw-in type vine eyes: these are especially useful for screwing into wooden fencing posts. To get the wires really taut, use a straining bolt at each end. Then stretch the wires as tight as possible, without breaking them.

Instead of using horizontal wires, modern trellis panels can be fixed to a wall or fence. This is a better form of support for vegetables such as beans and peas as the plants have more to cling to. The best type or trellis is a plastic-covered wire-mesh kind in green, white or black. This can be secured to a wall or fence with vine eyes. To do this, position one vine eye at each corner and secure each of these to the panel with wire.

Wooden trellis panels, preferably in cedar for longer life, can also be fixed to walls and fences in the same way.

You could, of course, make a free-standing trellis screen with any of these panels. Apart from providing an ideal plant support this would also make an attractive garden feature. Such a screen could be erected at the back of an ornamental border or it could be used to divide the vegetable plot from the ornamental garden. To make a free-standing trellis screen, fix the panels to wooden fencing posts, which are securely inserted in the ground. These posts can be concreted in, but a much easier method is to use the modern metal post supports. These are simply hammered into the ground and a post is pushed into the square socket at the top and secured by means of bolts.

Another material that can be fixed to walls and fences to support climbing vegetables is nylon square-mesh netting. This is not so permanent as the rigid trellis panels but is a lot cheaper. It is difficult to get nylon netting really taut and it is probably best secured to strained horizontal wires.

However, if you do not possess a convenient wall or fence, or do not wish to erect a trellis screen, then there are other methods of supporting tall vegetables.

There are various supports on the market for runner and climbing French beans. Probably the most popular of these is runner bean netting. This is 15 cm (6”) square nylon netting which can be supported on a proprietary tubular-metal framework. The DIY enthusiast could easily assemble a similar timber framework.

A popular way to grow climbing beans and other climbing vegetables is to erect a wig-warn of stout canes, poles or stakes about 2 m (6’) high, by lashing them together at the top. One climbing plant can then be grown up each support.

Panels of plastic-covered steel wire mesh can be adapted for supporting runner beans and other climbers, such as peas. They are easily formed into a cylinder about 2 m (6’) high. Place this cylinder in any convenient position in the garden and secure by stapling it to a wooden stake inserted firmly in the ground. The beans, peas or whatever can be planted around it and allowed to scramble up the pillar.

Another way to support runner beans is to grow them over one of the modern wire-mesh garden arches. An arch can be erected over a garden path and this takes up very little horizontal space. Cucumbers and squashes can also be trained over an arch. Garden arches are obtainable in timber as well as in wire mesh.

An alternative way to support peas is with the aid of nylon pea netting. This can be held up along the row of peas by securing it to light weight wooden stakes at each end.

Free-standing tomato plants will need the support of stout bamboo canes, light weight cedar stakes or tubular-metal plant supports. The latter will give you very good value for money because they do not rot at the base, as do canes or wooden stakes. A single wooden stake with wooden cross arms nailed to it makes a very good support for bush tomatoes and this can easily be made at home.

30. August 2013 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Uncategorized, Vegetable Gardening | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gardening Tips: Space-saving ideas

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