I love growing plants for food. Vegetables, herbs, and spices are what I grow most, along with a small variety of fruits. My total garden space is small. However, that has given me the inspiration to create some innovative techniques that allow me to get the most of it.
Vegetables: The Primary Food Source
Choosing vegetables that grow well in your area is important. Climate and geographical location make big differences. Here in the Midwest US, we have five to six months of suitable growing time each year. It usually starts sometime in April and lasts until the end of September.
Tomatoes and peppers are easy to grow almost anywhere. I try to select no more than three kinds each per year. Spacing between plants is usually twelve to eighteen inches but by planting the rows in a staggered, triangular pattern more can be squeezed together without effecting their growth.
I also grow some root crops. With carrots, I do not bother spacing individual plants. Instead, I merely sprinkle the seeds around. I dig up the ones that grow faster first and leave the others with more room to grow. Vegetables such as turnips and beets are nice for a limited space. They are like having two vegetables in one. Both produce a bulbous, edible root along with greens on top. Beet greens are good raw and can be used in salads. Turnip greens are best when cooked to soften them.
Herbs: For the Perfect Flavor
I prefer growing perennial herbs that require little maintenance. Currently my herb garden has onion chives, oregano, garlic chives, sage, and a mint hybrid made from planting peppermint together with spearmint. It takes a few seasons of growth to cross the species. However, they will do this naturally. The level of rain here is enough to sustain all of these without the need to water them. Sometimes I take trimmings of them and dry them out for use all year. As long as the plants are cut and not pulled out of the ground, they will keep growing. They do turn dormant for the winter but start growth again in the spring.
Compost contains all the nutrients a garden needs. I make liquid compost in a ten-gallon bucket by throwing unwanted weeds and water into it and letting it set for about a month. Naturally occurring microbes break down the plant materials turning it into liquid manure. This stuff can develop as offensive a smell as animal manure thus a lid is useful.
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