Special to the OBSERVER
The years roll on and the garden grows-in size. There comes a time when it is prudent to reverse the process. Shrinking the area is not so hard, but giving up plants is another story. It seems to me when you have less time or your body dictates "garden less," there are two approaches in the vegetable garden. Do I really need zucchini? How can I almost have as much in less space?!
The list of what "I don't need to grow" will vary person to person. You know your likes and what you mostly give away. Last year I decided to reduce the 1200 sq. feet by , a more manageable 900 sq. feet: 45 x 20.
The hardest part was deciding to do it. Then the challenge, the fun and games began. The main techniques which came into play were as follows:
Increase the depth of the soil,
Start cool season crops early indoors and transplant outside with protective covers so they can be harvested earlier; thus freeing up the space for a second fall crop,
Utilize trellises, stakes, and fences (vertical growing),
Rethink tilling or digging the garden,
Think mulch instead,
Don't forget the gardens second season: late July October,
Water when necessary
To cover all of these topics, I will break this into a three part article! Let's start with soil depth; allow me to relate my time living in Kentucky, 3 miles from the Ohio River and in the flood plain. When our dog died, my husband dug a 3 foot hole for the burial. It was rich, black top soil all the way down those three feet! In comparison, here in Allegany County we look at our meager mix of a few inches left behind by the glaciers and we know how unfair life can be. My garden in Kentucky was amazing. Everything grew twice as high and full and produced four times as much! This was a good lesson for me once I moved to Allegany County. I wanted my 3 feet of beautiful soil, so I started adding compost, leaves and other humus to my garden to add inches and produce more.
You can add compostable materials to your garden too; if you want to speed up the process, consider buying some quality soil. Even if you only have a little money to spend on your garden, spend it on good top soil. I once calculated a well-planned 10' x 10' space would yield $500 in tasty, pesticide free food. Adding 6 inches to a 10' x 10' = 2 cu yards at a cost of about $100. Don't buy the bagged "stuff". Go to a local contractor you trust and get a load of the "real thing". Less garden area with deeper soil means less money spent on seed, fertilizer, mulch and less time to care for it. But it will produce more per sq. foot.
Read next week for more details if you need to downsize your garden without giving up too much!
M.L. Wells, Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener