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With urban living gaining popularity and lot sizes in many areas dwindling, space and land availability seem to limit some would-be gardeners’ aspirations. But don’t let a lack of space put a damper on your green thumb. Boxed gardens require very little room and are a great alternative for growing wholesome foods while cutting grocery costs.
While you may be thinking that the prime season for growing vegetables has already passed, now is actually a great time to plant a vegetable garden. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Soil: Sue Hartman of Seattle Tilth, a nonprofit that focuses on building sustainable local food systems, recommends conducting a soil test as the first step. Agricultural programs across the country analyze soil samples and suggest treatments for deficiencies, with some universities charging as little as $10 for a routine soil analysis.
Crops: Many superfoods flourish in the fall, and Hartman advises that if you are planting crops now, leafy greens will have the highest success rate. Some of the best cool-season crops include beets, arugula, radishes, Swiss chard, peas, chives, artichokes, broccoli, mustard greens, carrots, kale and lettuce.
Seeds are available for purchase at local garden supply stores or online. When in doubt, order more than you think you’ll need.
Timing: Depending on the region where you live, the ideal time to plant your fall vegetable garden will vary. The experts at BobVila.com recommend planting cool-season veggies in August and September and stress that it’s important to consider your area’s average first frost date.
Ensure that you give your plants enough time to mature beforehand, and cover the garden if a frosty night is anticipated. “Mulching is great for conserving moisture and evening the soil temperature in the winter,” Hartman said, but she warns that wood chips should not be used for vegetable beds.
Raised-bed gardens: For these gardens, you can choose to build your own bed or buy one. “The container is not a big deal, as long as you’re using untreated woods,” Hartman said.
Make sure to choose a patch of land that gets ample sunlight. Also stock up on nutrient-rich compost and purchase a good fertilizer. Hartman recommends using a nitrogen-packed worm compost and liquid fertilizer. Nitrogen is quickly used up by plants and is crucial to vegetable growth.
Deck, patio, porch or rooftop gardens: No backyard? No problem! As long as you have an area with access to at least six hours of sunlight, raised beds can be used on decks, patios, porches and rooftops. Make sure that the bed has a bottom with drainage holes. Standing beds are also a great option, especially for those with physical restrictions.
One-pot gardens: This is the ultimate space- and time-saving gardening method. A galvanized water trough is recommended, but virtually any container with drainage holes will work.
It is important, however, that each plant has enough room to grow, as plants battle for nutrients in cold weather. Also, consider the types of vegetables that grow well in containers. Hartman suggests staying away from rooted vegetables. Leafy veggies can be harvested quicker and thus are more successful.
Lastly, ensure that plants are watered regularly, or install drip irrigation if you’re short on time. A garden can be very low-maintenance but still requires attention.
Sharona Ott is an editorial intern at Zillow. Read more from her here.