The Garden Patch: Get the most out of your garden space – Osage County Online | Osage County News

The Garden Patch: Get the most out of your garden space

Hello! Hello! Hello! I know it’s only been a few days since we visited, but it seems so much longer to me! Good to see you again and good to share some gardening information with you – I hope for the better!

052514-garden-excericiseFor those of you with small gardens (been there, done that), here are a few tips that might be of some help to you. Now, these are for REALLY small gardens … Even the smallest of spaces can produce a lot of vegetables when you use intensive garden methods. I’ve done it, I know it works! Your first consideration in a scaled-down garden must be to prepare and enrich the soil, since a large number of plants in a small area will compete for nutrients.

When planning your garden, emphasize vertical crops. Peas, pole beans, cucumbers, some melons and some tomatoes are vining crops that actually perform better when they are kept off the ground. These can be grown on an attractive trellis, tied to stakes or trained to follow twine that is anchored to the ground and an overhead frame.

Also, to reap as much harvest as possible from each plant, choose compact varieties or prolific producers. “Tom Thumb”, a “midget” head lettuce, requires comparatively little room, for example, and “Jade Cross” Brussels sprouts yield an early, bountiful crop. As a rule, the smaller the fruit, the more plants tend to produce, so make the most of your selections from small varieties such as cherry tomatoes.

Avoid temptation, though, to plant too many highly prolific vegetables, such as zucchini. If you have extra plants, give or throw them away and save your space for other crops. When laying out the garden, make use of succession planting and intercropping to maximize your growing space.

There you have it, fellow gardener, big crops, small space. OK, let’s move on now to something else.

How about a handy garden tool for easy tilling? Who said broadfork? This is a tool for easy tilling! We all know that a bed that has been prepared and left to rest for weeks or months will inevitably undergo some compaction because of rain, snow and gravity. For loosening the soil at planting time, many gardeners prefer to use a broad-fork, a tool that alleviates the work of lifting and turning the soil required by the commonly used garden fork. The broadfork, also called a U-bar, has long handles and five or six tines attached to a horizontal crossbar. The times vary in length from 10 to 18 inches; the long tined models are designed for the deeply cultivated soil of double-dug beds, the short tined ones for single-dug beds.

To use the broadfork, hold it upright and step up and onto the crossbar, using your weight to push the tines down into the soil. Step back and pull the broad fork’s handles toward you until the tips of the tines lift out of the soil. Repeat this process at six inch intervals across the area to be planted, moving backward to avoid soil you have already cultivated.

There you have it, easier to use than a rototiller and a big improvement over your shovel.

In this column, we talk a lot about raised beds. Here’s why…

Beds vs. Rows

A tilled plot is almost ready for planting. The last step is to subdivide the plot either into narrow rows or rectangular raised beds. Although row planting has its fans it has at least two major drawbacks. For one thing, an alternating pattern of rows and paths is an inefficient use of space because much less of the total area is actually devoted to crops. When you arrange your plants in beds, on the other hand, you greatly reduce the area taken up by paths. In addition, shrinking the area occupied by paths keeps the potential for soil compaction to a minimum.

Another advantage of raised beds is that their greater depth of topsoil provides better drainage and more space for roots of vegetables to grow downward. The additional soil needed to raise the beds 4 or 5 inches is furnished by digging out the paths between the beds.

The center of each bed should be within easy reach so that there is no need to step into the bed when you are tending plants or harvesting vegetables. Beds with access from two sides should be no wider than 4 or 5 feet. If there is access from one side only, limit the width to 3 feet. The length of the bed is more flexible, but don’t make it so long that you’ll be tempted to take a shortcut across it instead of taking the paths surrounding it. Be sure to make the paths that run between the beds at least 2 feet wide so there will be enough room for a garden cart or your wheelbarrow.

OK, friends and neighbors, that’s it for this week! Enjoyed seeing you again and here’s hoping that this edition finds you and yours enjoying life and gardening! Thanks for reading and have a good ‘un! Till next time!

stevehallerSteve Haller, of Osage City, a K-State Research and Extension Master Gardener, writes The Garden Patch, featuring gardening ideas and tips for gardeners in northeast Kansas. In his words: “I am not a horticulturist. By education I am an economist. By experience, I am a marketing guru from a local to an international scale. Gardening was taught to me by my grandfather and my mom, and I’ve been doing it since World War II was going on.”

Steve can be contacted at, or leave questions or comments below.

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