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cylindrical beetrrot, mini carrots and baby turnipsSome of us are short of space for grow­ing things to eat. We might just have a bal­cony or a small court­yard garden. Per­haps there’s only a small part of our garden that is sheltered from the wind or gets enough sun to allow crops to grow well. Even if we’ve got a large sec­tion, we may have many oth­er things we want to fit in. One of the biggest causes of garden­ing dis­ap­point­ment is being unreal­ist­ic about the size of garden we can man­age in the time we have avail­able. Mak­ing effi­cient use of space means there is a smal­ler area to main­tain — in oth­er words, less weed­ing and water­ing. It also means we can tar­get our soil improve­ments, allow­ing us to enjoy just as much pro­duce as from a lar­ger, less fer­tile patch. Achiev­ing what we want in the min­im­um of space is one of the keys to hav­ing a beau­ti­ful, pro­duct­ive and reward­ing edible garden. Here are some ways to achieve that.

  1. Grid­lock

Plant in a grid pat­tern so that each plant is the same dis­tance from its neigh­bour in all dir­ec­tions. You’ll waste less space this way, par­tic­u­larly with raised beds where you don’t need walk­ways between rows. Mark squares on the soil with string or sticks to guide your planting.

  1. Get cosy

Grow plants closer togeth­er. It means you’ll get a smal­ler crop per plant but a lar­ger yield per square metre. The leaves cov­er the soil quickly, keep­ing it moist and free from weeds.

  1. Big babies

Keep seed­lings grow­ing in pots when you don’t have room in your garden. The con­tain­ers need to be large enough for the plants, which must be kept well fed and watered. You can sow seeds dir­ectly into the pots or move seed­lings bought from a garden centre into lar­ger pots whilst wait­ing to free up space.

  1. Ver­tic­al challenges

Select crops that climb or grow tall to take advant­age of ver­tic­al space in a garden. Beans, toma­toes, corn, cucum­bers, mini pump­kins and peas all fall into this cat­egory. They’ll need sup­port either from exist­ing garden struc­tures or pur­pose-built for the job.

  1. Grow between

Use the space between slow-grow­ing crops to inter­plant a quick-matur­ing one. Lettuces will fit between corn seed­lings and radishes between car­rots, for example. You’ll har­vest one before the oth­er has a chance to out­com­pete it.

  1. Crop quickly

Choose fast-matur­ing crops to make the best use of space. Radishes, rock­et, Chinese cab­bage and pak choi all mature rap­idly. Start pick­ing salad at the ‘micro­green’ or ‘baby leaf’ stages for an early harvest.

  1. Go gour­met

Some vari­et­ies are more com­pact than oth­ers — grow tiny car­rots, golf-ball turnips and petite cab­bages. Har­vest stand­ard veget­ables when they are at ‘gour­met’ size for a sweet and speedy treat.


Con­cen­trated cul­tiv­a­tion may not come nat­ur­ally to Kiwi garden­ers accus­tomed to hav­ing plenty of grow­ing space. Oth­er cul­tures use their gar­dens more intens­ively, driv­en by scarcity of land. Once we start try­ing to squeeze more in, we can see the bene­fits of get­ting more from less and won­der why we ever thought we needed extra room.

winter greens planted in grids

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