Options for Small Spaces

Space Saving Planting Techniques

There are many ways to get the most out of a limited garden space. A popular technique is utilizing vertical space by trellising crops, some of which would naturally sprawl across the ground, taking large amounts of space out of production. Peas, pole beans, cucumbers, and lightweight melons and winter squash could all benefit from this technique.

Intercropping is a way to plant multiple crops within the same space. Plants that utilize different space based on their growth habit can happily grow together. The Three Sisters are an example of this.

Companion planting is a form of intercropping in which selected crops are planted together to benefit one another.  One example is the Three Sister planting technique, utilized for centuries by Native Americans. The Three Sisters include corn, beans, and squash, each of which plays a role in a mutually beneficial relationship. The corn grows tall, acting as a trellis for the beans. The beans, through a process called nitrogen fixation, provide fertility to the corn, which is a heavy feeder.  The squash vines sprawl below the corn and beans, acting as a living mulch, which suppresses weeds and retains moisture in the soil.

Other examples include planting African Marigolds alongside tomatoes or other crops. The marigolds release a chemical that detracts pests, including rabbits. Planting sweet alyssum alongside tender spring crops protects them against aphids by attracting beneficial insects, such as syrphid flies.

Plants that have different maturity rates can also be grown together. An example is direct sowing radishes down the middle of a bed of transplanted lettuce. The radishes will be ready to harvest in about 30 days, at which point the lettuce is getting big enough to take over the space the radishes were occupying.

Intercropping can also extend the season for cool season crops into the summer. Planting lettuce between tomato plants creates a partially shaded area that allows the lettuce to mature into the summer.



Container Gardening

Growing crops in pots is a great place to start if space is not available (or approved for use) for an in-ground garden. Container gardens can add a splash of color, a learning lab, and a source of food to your school's landscape. Initial costs of purchasing soil and pots can be high, but your container garden can start small and expand as your budget allows. Your local hardware or home store may be willing to donate or provide a price break on these items for schools.


Additional Information on Container Gardening can be downloaded below. These excerpts from the Kansas Gardening Guide are provided, with permission, from K-State Research & Extension.   Charles W. Marr, Ted Carey, Raymond Cloyd, and Megan Kennelly, Kansas Garden Guide, Kansas State University, March 2010.

Container Gardening154.51 KB