Vegetable gardening in small spaces

Skip Richter

If you would like to have a vegetable garden but lack space, take heart! There are several ways to make the most of your limited space to grow more groceries. Here are some tips to increase your gardening productivity.

Space-saving plants

Some vegetable species take up more space than others. Yet even among the sprawlers there are often cultivars that are much more compact.

When space is limited, look for vining vegetables in “bush” form. Bush or compact forms of cucumbers, sweet potatoes, watermelons, pumpkins, butternut and spaghetti squash are among the space-saving options.

Tomatoes that are determinate reach a confined size rather than producing sprawling vines. There are also some “patio” type forms of eggplant and peppers, for example, that produce well on more compact plants.

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The head start

You can shorten the time it takes to get a plant to harvest by planting larger, more mature transplants. Rather than letting a plant take up garden space for the entire span from seed or small transplant to harvest, grow it as a transplant for a longer time. Move it to progressively larger transplant containers so that when it is planted in the garden, harvest time is not that far away.

The goal is to move the transplants-in-waiting out into their garden spot at the first opportunity when the weather allows or when another crop is pulled out. This allows for another cropping cycle over the course of the year, so a given area is more productive.

Another way to get a head start is to plant a fast maturing plant such as radish, lettuce or green beans alongside a slower maturing plant such as tomatoes, cabbage or Brussels sprouts. By the time the slower vegetable species is getting larger, the faster one is being harvested and removed.

Consider portable gardens

The space available to put in an in-ground garden may be limited but you can always spread your garden around the property with portable gardens. I am referring to containers that can be moved to wherever there is adequate sunlight. This means a patio, porch, driveway, sidewalk or balcony can support a few vegetables growing in a medium- to large-size container.

Choose a container that is large enough to give the plants adequate soil volume. A dolly helps to move the plants around with very little strain and effort. Wheelbarrows with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage are another great option, making even your lawn a potential gardening area.

Just grow up!

Growing vegetables vertically is a great way to grow more in less space. Vining crops like melons, cucumbers, winter squash, pole beans and indeterminate tomatoes can be grown vertically on a trellis if you fashion slings to support the larger fruit of some crops.

So if you are wishing you could grow more in your limited gardening space, take heart! Give some of these ideas a try and you’ll grow more fresh produce for tasty, healthy eating.

Robert “Skip” Richter is the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension horticulture agent for Brazos County. For local gardening information and events, visit Gardening questions? Call Skip at 823-0129 or email