The Little Garden That Could
By Elizabeth and Crow Miller
A little garden is the best education that I know.
Each plant is just a few feet from all the others, so you notice things you'd overlook in a large garden. When something goes wrong, you realize it from the start, look for the cause, then take action.
The little garden can be beautiful. Put to work, every square inch is fruitfully productive. Never pull out a vegetable without planting a couple of seeds in its place, If enough growing season remains. Always count on the weather being with you. You lose little if it isn't; and a long shot sometime pays off, giving you besides food, that comforting feeling that your judgment is pretty good, after all.
In your little garden, the greatest problem may be shade. Raise a light-loving plant a foot or two above the others and in some cases you'll double the light it receives. You can do that by planting it in a bottomless box set on top of the soil.
Corn is not impossible in a small garden. True, the leaves should touch for pollination, but they will when planted in triangles of three. Quite a few of these triangles can be wedged in here and there for a vegetable that must be fresh to be real.
The best of all vegetables, asparagus, admittedly is a space-taker. But it makes such a lovely background for the summer flowers and vegetables that I slip one in wherever there are a few inches to spare. Give it room in your little garden if only to have a crop when other vegetables are scarce.
A small-space gardener necessarily becomes resourceful. I put 2-orange crates full of everbearing strawberries on the toolhouse roof. I used large plants, half a dozen to each box, Anchoring the boxes firmly first, then carrying up rich soil to fill them. This was real inspiration, for they had day long sunshine up there where deprived of their runners and fed liquid seaweed and fish mix at 10-day intervals. Strawberries are gluttons, but given organic fertilizer and water in sufficient quantities, along with unlimited light, they were very obliging about production.
Another good space-saving method is to alternate garden rows and walking rows each year, the growing rows one year becoming the walking rows the next. The walking space is covered with mulch whixh is turned under in the fall, and again covered with hay, straw, grass clippings and ground-up leaves. This is turned under early the next spring, and you have rich, spongy soil all ready to receive the seeds. When your plants are from 2 to 4-inches tall,it's time to start the process of tucking mulch around them.
You can compensate for lack of space by putting your garden to work early and late. Do you like early lettuce ? Plant a row earlier than you'd think lettuce could grow at all. Cover it with greenhouse plastic over strong wire hoops, both ends of which are driven into the ground to form a series of arcs, about 12-inches apart. Hold the plastic down with rocks at each sid or, if you have them, a couple of 2-by-4s. I have planted lettuce in February under these mini-greenhouse tunnels, and have had them do well.
Start in mid-September with another row; the protection to be put on when the first real frost threatens. You'll find yourself enjoying salad greens more months than you'd dreamed possible.
An advantage to this early and late gardening is that you can choose, from the entire garden, the space your row is to occupy. I recommend a southern exposure against a protecting wall.
The flowers in a little garden should be the ones that make a long-lasts' picture. Tuberous begonias are easy. Pansies in rich soil in a semi-shaded corner are beautiful. Sweet peas sharing the fence with garden peas, tomatoes and cucumbers are gratifying. I always sow my sweet peas in late fall, and lay a couple of inches of straw mulch over the row.
Copyright o 1995 / Crow Miller, Syndication/ On-Line/ .The Garden