The Kitchen Garden: Vegetables for Compact Growing
We have discussed the beginnings of container planting and growing, compact growing is a further development of this. Specifically sourcing and choosing selected varieties which are ideal for compact spaces, containers, planters, pots and other restricted growing space. Many of those in the city will be growing in tight or limited spaces. Those out of the city may also have a limited area designated for vegetables and fruits. Although I have a large allotment as my vegetable garden I always run out of space however well I `design` the growing season. I always have gluts of crops and low harvest times; sometimes this is not having enough space to have continuous sowing in succession.
So buying seed or plug plants which are ideal for small spaces is really worth the time to research and carry through. Varieties are now available which are either dwarf, compact, heavy cropping and productive or cut & come again. It is well worth taking time to look or ask at your local garden centre. The internet is also fabulous to track down seeds and plug plants ideal for what you need. Although many specifically breed for these purposes stated will be hybrids, there are also heritage and organic seed available. Where ever you are in your current growing season it is certainly never too early to start planning for the next one. Seed companies are now launching ` Container or Urban collections`, easy to identify with titles such as these. There are also `patio collections` specifically put together packages of either one type of crop such as tomatoes or a mixture ideal for planters.
So you are looking for varieties which are:
Compact, dwarf, baby, mini, reliable cropping, high yielding, easy to grow, cut & come again, ideal for planters or containers. Ideal for succession sowing and which may be quick to mature. Such as salad cops, cut and come again and micro-greens
Compact and dwarf crops can prevent the gluts and even if you do get a glut due to the `dwarf` variety you still do not waste the crop in anyway. Or only eat the last one when it is beginning to lose its vitality. With standard cultivars one can end up with a whole crop of cauliflowers ready at once! With little time before they bolt and set seed.
A few examples:
Dwarf, mini or lunchbox cucumbers, dwarf and cherry tomatoes, dwarf peppers, dwarf pumpkin, squash and courgette. Mini runner beans and frenches beans, mini lettuce, mini carrots, beetroot and parsnips or mini sweet corn. Petit cabbages, mini calabrese, cutting celery, window box herbs, cut and come again salads. There are even dwarf kales ideal as a winter crop.
These smaller size crops generally still retain good flavor, the `taste` has not been forgotten in the quest for small, quicker crops. More attention is being given to this factor as seed breeders create more `Urban collections`.
Advantages of growing dwarf:
Ideal for small spaces, quick to maturity enabling more crops to be grown in the same space during one season, ideal for our changing climate where many dwarf varieties have less leaf so the fruit or vegetable is less shaded from the available sun. Some crops create clusters of fruit or vegetables, such as dwarf aubergines, tomatoes and peppers, these tend to ripen more quickly, as one fruit begins to ripen then encourages the other to follow.
Less staking required for dwarf varieties or protection from the wind. There is also less rain damage and dwarf varieties can bounce back from a rain battering. Whilst tall varieties can be damaged greatly by strong winds, driving rain unless they are protected and staked well.
Patty Pan & Cherry Tomatoes
Container grown also allows plants to cascade over the sides, increasing the use of space. Trailing, cascading, ideal for hanging baskets all give this opportunity. This then introduce the potentiality of `Vertical` gardening…. For another day perhaps !... Yes why not combine upright crops such as climbing dwarf French beans with dwarf bush beans then infill any gaps in the edges with trailing mini cucumbers or squash.
Growing compact may tend to be when your home space or garden is more compact or you have no available community gardens such as my local one. This often means the produce is close to home and your kitchen. This is an extremely useful advantage, quick and easy to access each evening to harvest your mini produce. Whereas I need to walk locally to access my vegetables, which is very nice too, yet when the rain is beating down and everything is wet and muddy it really becomes a labour of love and dedication to go and pick your pod bursting pea crop.
Most dwarf and compact crops will only be available as seeds. Few plug plants are available at present in this from. Yet it is still worth time researching before you place your orders. In time and as the passion to `grow –your-own`increases more plug plants of dwarf varieties will be available.
Most seed are easy to grow as long as you prepare the growing medium beforehand. Ensuring the soil and compost mix prepared is kept moist but not wet. Any indoor germinated seeds may need to be potted on and hardened of prior to being planted out, avoiding late frosts or being protected from the late cold snaps. Then the main focus is to ensure a regular routine to check moisture levels of the containers employ a regular feeding program through the growing season and check for pests and disease. Of course any extra TLC will be gladly received and absorbed by your beautiful produce to come.
Enjoy your harvesting & until next time
Laara Copley-Smith is a professional Garden Designer based in the UK with a passion for Kitchen Gardens and growing organically. Laara has been a vegan for over ten years, is a raw foodist and is a keen photographer. Laara offers an extensive range of bespoke design services and creative consultancy and can be contacted here.
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