With decades of experience growing organic edibles, Gardening Jones is a former restaurant owner and food processor, as well as being HAACP licensed in food safety. She provides Simple tips and information from a self-proclaimed gardening addict.
Two years worth of canned tomato products right here.
For many years we have had a huge garden.
Okay, we actually had 2.
Even with all that space, I did what I could to make the most of it. Growing vertically, tucking in containers wherever I could, and extending the season.
But this year we downsized the gardens; going with more perennial flowers in raised beds for the Roadside Garden, and more containers for the Front Yard Garden. Easier to tend to, and we really only need to feed the 2 of us most of the time.
Still, as a Gardening Maniac, I could not help but use what I learned in the past to get the most out of the area we have planted with veggies.
So if space is an issue for you, whatever the reason, these are some veggie varieties I would recommend:
Betterbush Tomatoes: This plant grows full size tomatoes on a dwarf plant. The fruit are delicious and very old-fashioned tasting. You only need to cage it because it is very prolific. It is recommended by author Craig LeHoullier who wrote Epic Tomatoes, a book I highly suggest you consider getting.
Butterbush Squash: is a hybrid that produces wonderful butternut type squash on a compact plant. We grow ours in containers and I love them. Himself won't eat winter squash, but I haven't given up yet. Anyway, more for me.
Sugar Baby Watermelon: pictured above, is a great flavorful watermelon that can also be grown in a container vertically, or in the ground vertically. Read more about this variety here. Another watermelon to try is Mini Love. I haven't grown it, but my social media equaintances tell me it is great tasting.
Tatume Zucchini: is a summer squash and a winter squash all at the same time. Say what? Well, it is a round summer squash if you pick it small, but if you let it grow it will develop a hard rind and can be stored like a winter squash. Because of its small size, it is easy to grow vertically.
Pole Beans: I don't know that we have a favorite here, unless it is Good Mother Stallard, but just about any pole bean will save garden space. They produce smaller quantities over a longer period of time, making them better for fresh eating. There are also some varieties that make a good dry bean as well, as the Good Mother Stallard does.
Desiree Purple Podded Peas: This is a fabulous pea that grows in a small bush, and can be eaten as a pod or allowed to grow and be shelled. The flowers are gorgeous, a bonus.
Red Malabar Spinach: not a true spinach, and some people find it 'gummy' when cooked. We ate it fresh and loved it. It easily grows vertically, is slow to bolt, and is actually a lovely plant to look at with its red stems and pretty flowers when it does go to seed.
So that's a few of the ones we like. Do you have any Small Space Gardening favorites or suggestions?
Not so. The female Colorado Potato Beetle will lay batches of about 30 eggs on the undersides of leaves of the potato. She can do this multiple times throughout the growing season.
They are sometimes also found on peppers and eggplant.
Within a week or two the eggs will hatch and the larva begin to grow.
And they are very hungry!
They can strip a plant clean of all of its leaves in a short period of time.
One way to deal with them is to find the eggs and destroy those leaves.
Once they hatch you can pick them off by hand and drop into sudsy water.
Keep at it until any signs of them are gone. The final stage before adulthood includes them burrowing into the soil.
Once they become adults they are much more difficult to deal with because they will fly away.
Ants helping with cleanup.
If the infestation is bad you may want to use BT, which is an organic insecticide and considered safe to use on food crops.
Always keep in mind that an insecticide may kill good bugs as well, so use them as a last resort.
This is our favorite variety of watermelon, in part because of the flavor, but also because Sugar Baby melons only weigh about 8 pounds or so, making them ideal for smaller gardens. Their vines are short compared to most melons, so growing them vertically is easy to do. Just be sure to support some of the weight of the fruit by placing it in some form of sling, and securing that to the trellis or fence you are growing them up. This helps take some of the stress off the vines.
We save the plastic mesh bags that fruit come in, and our non-gardening friends keep us supplied with the similar bags they buy their onions in. These types are perfect because they allow for plenty of airflow and do not stay wet after a rain.
Sugar Baby watermelons also do not have extensive root systems, which makes them ideal for growing in containers. Their days to maturity are about 80, making them perfect for our Zone 5/6 garden areas.
If you have never grown watermelon yourself, you will likely be as surprised as we were at how much better the flavor is.
And you will learn first hand how they got their name.
Not a true spinach, Basella Rubra is a wonderful choice for those in hot climates or anyone who has experienced their spinach bolting. As a native of India, it loves the heat so won’t bolt nearly as fast as ordinary spinach.
I like that.
In case that isn’t enough reason to grow this variety, it is also a beautiful red-stemmed climbing plant with red veined leaves that will save space and add charm to your garden at the same time. When it does finally bolt, it produces pretty pink flowers that will make you want to just let it go. And you should, as these will then produce purple berries that are the plant’s seeds; so go ahead and save a few to plant next year. Note that because of the berry production, it can be invasive.
You can start seeds indoors about 6 weeks before your last spring frost or just direct seed outdoors. Either way, don’t plant outside until it is warm, it doesn’t like cool temperatures.
Pick leaves as they mature. You can even pinch the tops back to encourage side shoots. The more you harvest the better it will grow.
I love that.
There is one down side; although the leaves are wonderful when enjoyed fresh, they can get a gummy texture when cooked. If the texture bothers you, soak the leaves in salt water first, then rinse well. We just used it fresh and cooked the other greens we grew instead.
Since Red Malabar Spinach can take full sun or part shade, we are going to try growing it indoors from a stem rooting this fall. Should be interesting!
Botanical name: Basella rubra Seeding: shallow Spacing: 6″ but we just put a few seeds in a pot. D.T.M.: About 50 for light harvesting. Hardiness: Does not like the cold, but loves the heat. Full sun to partial shade. Height: Trellis needed. Our fence is 5 ft. and it already passed that out. Time to pinch.
With only about 2 months from planting to harvesting, the Hopi yellow bean can be picked small and enjoyed like a green bean. If left for a while longer, the seeds inside will swell and they can be shelled and cooked.
Continuing to let it mature, it will increase in protein and can be shelled, allowed to fully dry, stored and cooked as a dry bean.
If you are looking to replace some animal protein with vegetable, this is a delightful addition to the menu.
Pole beans are the most noticeable beans that the home grower plants. The gorgeous way their tendrils gracefully grab onto a support and the sheer height they can achieve makes them a focal point in any garden.
Red Runner beans and the purple podded pole types are some of the most colorful examples you can add to your garden.
For fresh eating pole types are great, because they produce a smaller quantity of fruit at a time, but continue on until the frost. Since they grow vertically, they take up less space than their bush type counterparts.
Pole types can easily grow 8 ft. high and more.
There are more varieties of bush beans to choose from than pole; and if you plan on succession planting and/or preserving your crop, they may be a better choice for you. Bush beans will produce more beans in a short period of time than pole beans do, so you have enough for canning, freezing or dehydrating.
If you like to have a selection of beans to store for winter meals, look into bush beans. We especially love dry beans which are easy to grow and a cinch to store.
Bush yellow wax beans with not a tendril in sight.
Probably the most confusing thing for gardeners planting beans, is when the packet describes the plant as a bush type and they find tendrils growing.
"Why are my bush beans trying to climb?" is a question we not only had to find an answer to ourselves, but since then have been asked many times.
Some beans are what is known as 'Half Runner' beans, simply a bush type that does produce a tendril, albeit a short one. Often the plants will cling on to one another for support, and really there is nothing you need to do but let them grow.
We planted this bed with beans after the chipmunks took off with all but one of the sunflower seeds and unfortunately never took the time to note which bean seeds they are. We are suspecting it is the Black Valentine, as they are a half-runner type.
Runner beans produce a short tendril, confusing many gardeners.
Yeah, keeping better notes... another lesson learned the hard way.
If you would like to have a variety of colors, there are 3 different ways you can choose from to do that:
1. Buy a Hybrid like Rainbow Carrots. This is one variety of carrot that grows into different colors. Because this is one variety, most of the carrots will mature at about the same time. This is helpful if you intend to can them.
2. Buy a Blend like Colorful Carrot Blend. This is a mix of different open pollinated colored carrot varieties. IMHO the colors are better. These will mature at different rates, but the advantage is not having to buy a lot of seeds.
3. Blend your own seeds, our favorite choice. Choose the colors you like the most and have at it. Since carrot seeds can easily last for 4 years, you will make a one time purchase and be prepared for a while, depending on how much you plant of course.
You can push your gardening season to the max with a number of season extenders. Here we are using 2, and will have cucumbers and some other plants 6 weeks earlier than we otherwise would have.
That's a lot. Then add in the fact that we can plant another small crop here later in the season, or just keep going with what we have.
What you are looking at are pots inside our little greenhouse.
Tomato cages hold the plastic away from the plants.
Condensation keeps the soil warm and moist.
If you don't have a greenhouse, just using the clear plastic garbage bags to get the greenhouse effect will also extend your season, just not as far.
Be sure to check the soil temps before planting. Some veggies, beans in particular, really hate chilly soil.
Here we have started seeds for cucumbers as mentioned, and also carrots, jicama, and baby bottle gourds. Odd choices, maybe.
The jicama would be difficult for us to grow here in Zone 5/6. It could be done, but with the added protection of the greenhouse and clear cover, we will get a much larger crop as we were able to start 4 weeks sooner, and can wait to harvest well into November. This gives us almost 2 months additional growing time.
Ditto on the gourds.
Venting on sunny days.
If you are using a greenhouse, I highly recommend getting a wireless indoor/outdoor thermometer that allows you to monitor the temp inside the greenhouse at any time, and can keep a record of what the indoor overnight low was.
Of course, you also have to be sure you don't fry your plants. This is easily accomplished by venting as shown above, or if in a greenhouse, opening the door and/or vents as needed.
I should note that we will likely use minimal heat at night in the fall. Also, when you have temps below freezing, be careful that the plastic bag does not touch the plant. This is much easier of course with bush type plants than some of the vining ones we have right now.
So that's some of what is happening in our wee greenhouse as we wait almost another month before full fledged gardening can commence.