Small Space, High Yields – How To Grow More in Less Space

Did you know that you don’t have to have a lot of land to grow the majority of your own food? You just have to be efficient with your space.

Whether you are in an apartment with a small balcony or .15 acres in an urban setting, you can grow your own food – and A LOT of it!

Interplant or Undersow to Increase Your Garden Yields

Undersowing is the perfect strategy for growing more in less space.

  1. First, determine which crops you are growing that take the longest time to mature.
  2. Then determine a few fast maturing varieties that grow during the same season.

For example, if you are growing kale this spring, you could plant a fast maturing radish underneath and/or around it, because the radish will be ready to harvest before the kale leaves are big enough to crowd it out, blocking the sun. Now, instead of just waiting for the kale to get bigger, you are using the space around it in the meantime.

After you harvest the faster growing crops, add some compost to the soil to replenish the nutrients they used and allow your slower growing crops to reap the benefits.


Succession Plant to Increase Your Garden Yields

Plant the same crop again a few weeks after you plant the first round. Root crops (carrots, beets, turnips) are great for this because when you harvest them, you harvest the entire plant (as opposed to cut-and-come again greens, like spinach that keeps growing back).

This allows you to spread out your harvest times, so you don’t have more than you can eat at one time – instead, you get to eat those vegetables fresh from your garden throughout the season.

Select Fast-Maturing Crops to Increase Your Garden Yields

Before buying seeds or starts, determine the fastest maturing crops and/or read about the different varieties of a particular crop. Then, grow the fastest maturing ones to make the most of that season.

Fastest growing veggies:

These all mature between 20 – 50 days. Most are cool season crops that can be grown in spring and fall in many climates, with the exception of summer squash and beans, which are warm season crops, typically grown in the summer.

  • lettuce: Magenta (48 days) – head here for several other fast-maturing varieties
  • radish: Cherry Belle (24 days), French Breakfast (28 days), Easter Egg (25 – 40 days)
  • spinach: Bloomsdale (28-for baby/45 for mature), Butterfly (40 days)
  • bok choy: Shanghai Green (25 for baby/45 for mature)
  • arugula: Astro (21 for baby/40 for mature)
  • Japanese buckwheat (49 days) – The bees love this one!
  • mustard greens: Tatsoi (43 days)
  • summer squash: Early Prolific Straightneck (48 days)
  • bush beans – make sure they are bush, not pole (around 50 days)

mustard greens.jpg

Use Vertical Space to Increase Your Garden Yields

Grow vining plants that can grow up and maximize your space by adding height.

At a Mother Earth News Fair, I had the pleasure of listening to Shawna Coronado, author of Grow a Living Wall, speak on how to get creative with your vertical space. She adds planters along her fence to increase her growing space.

Plants that grow vertically:

  • indeterminate tomatoes
  • cucumber
  • watermelon
  • melon
  • pole beans
  • peas
  • some squash varieties (pumpkin and other vining types)

The plants listed above will benefit from vertical space, because it allows for more air circulation and decreases the likelihood of fungal diseases. An added bonus for you is that they are typically easier to harvest from as well.

Plan Ahead and Extend Your Season to Increase Your Garden Yields

Plan at least one season ahead, so you know what is coming and can prepare properly. When you do so, you can start your seeds indoors to extend your growing season.

For example, I plan ahead by starting tomato, pepper, tomatillo and eggplant seeds inside in January. Starting the seeds in January allows the plants time to mature and gives them a head start once the temperatures heat up, and it’s time to plant them outside.

Additionally, start growing year-round with the proper supplies. For my climate, I just need row covers in order to grow during winter months. While your needs may be different based your area, there are supplies that allow for most growers to garden year-round.



I hope you find a strategy that works for you in your garden. Cheers to increasing your yields!

For more inspiration, read about a couple who has an urban farm on ⅛ of an acre!

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