The perfect vegies for a small space 12



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After last month’s column on the basics of setting up a patch from scratch, this month we focus on what to grow when space is limited. Many new gardeners struggle with deciding what to grow and a poor choice can mean their one square metre garden is entirely covered by an overzealous zucchini, supplying the whole neighbourhood with mammoth zucchinis, which they don’t even really like. While there is no definitive answer as we are all individuals, there are certainly some common questions to ask yourself that will make this choice simpler. Combine these answers and you will have great success and love the process.

Tomatoes and fruit in bowls closer -  Dianne Michalk


What you like to eat – there is no excuse for not eating it if you grew it

I have an intense dislike of parsnip, so much so, that my kids have never eaten it. Now they are choosing what to plant in their own veggie beds, they want to give it a go – I had to buy some parsnip seeds to keep them happy. (Be assured that I will not be eating any myself!)

Choose compact plants or plants that are good value in small spaces

Climbing plants are a great example of using space efficiently. Choose from varieties of climbing peas and beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, climbing spinach (also known as Ceylon or Malabar spinach) and even the small ‘Golden Nugget’ pumpkins. Repeat harvest, ‘cut and come again’ varieties such as loose leaf lettuces and sprouting broccoli are also great value. Springs onions and chives are highly productive and versatile as they can be used as onion substitute in many dishes and don’t take up too much space. When choosing vegetables don’t be fooled into buying a punnet of 6 seedlings when you only really need one, as the six plants will take up too much space, produces more than you can handle and end up being poor economy compared with buying a larger single seedling.

Herbs for garnish which you regularly use

Buying a whole packet of fresh basil, coriander or parsley is a waste for most people as they use only part of the packet and then throw the rest away. Better to grow it and harvest what you need, when you need it.

Veggies that have a high relative cost

Growing easy things like salad bowl lettuces and mesculin mixes allows you to pick the quantities you need for a salad when you need it, rather than buy a bag of mixed leaves which lack freshness and again, most of the bag goes to waste. Asian vegetables are also the same. Harvest the amount of bok choy you need rather than buy a bundle and using only part.

Varieties that are have high chemical inputs

For example, if you are buying garlic that comes from overseas, the white cloves have been bleached, treated with fumigants and possibly fed with unhygienic inputs. This can’t be good for you. Better to grow your own and share it around with family and friends.

Finally from a gardener who likes things to look nice as well as taste great, choose colourful varieties of vegetables as not only do they look great, the colours indicate a variety of nutrients that provide essential health benefits

It is great to try and eat our recommended five servings of vegies a day using the five main vegie colour groups, ensuring we get the most phytonutrients from our food. Green leafy green vegetables include spinach, silver beet, broccoli, celery and cabbage; blue and purple vegies include cabbages, kales and purple broccoli; red vegies includes tomatoes, capsicums and beetroot; orange and yellow vegies include pumpkin, carrots and sweet potato; and white includes potatoes, onions, leeks and garlic.


Tell us today, do you have your own vegie garden? What do you like to grow? Will you start a new garden with these tips?

Sophie Thomson

Sophie Thomson, ABC television's Gardening Australia presenter, is a captivating and engaging speaker, presenter, columnist, writer, author, broadcaster, horticulturalist and qualified naturopath. Her enthusiasm and passion for plants and gardening inspires people of all ages. Sophie is a strong advocate for sustainable gardening practices, growing organic food, cooking from the home garden and creating backyards where kids can play freely and develop a life long connection with nature.

  1. No I gave up. Every time I grew them we were mobbed by white moth things and pests here in Perth and I realised that by the time I’d payed for pest killers, soil improvers, fertilisers, big pots and the plants themselves, it was just too expensive.

    1 REPLY
    • I think you can plant companion plants which deter pests. I’m a novice but would still like to do it .

      1 REPLY
      • Yes, companion planting works well. As a last resort there are natural sprays one can use – homemade. Mr google will help in that department. My problem is our unpredictable weather. It is heartbreaking when something is ready and we get a hailstorm.

  2. Salad greens are easily grown and fresh chemical free are very healthy. Tomatoes also easy. Plant the right garlic and onion for your area and snow peas cucumber and small variety pumpkin and carrots all good additions. Along with beetroot and rhubarb and fruit trees and you will be delighted. Potatoes can be grown in deep tub. Sweet potato very good for you and are a vine. Grow well in warm areas.

  3. Apart from the satisfaction the taste is so wonderful.

  4. We haven;t bought a tomato is about 5 years, all home grown. Dwarf beans love my garden and produce a really good crop as do capsicum, leeks, cumbers and varieties of lettuce, but I have had trouble with the brassicas and white fly. I also planted corn and the birds sent me a thank you note, back to the drawing board on that one!

    1 REPLY
    • Birds and possums – I have a beautiful persimmon tree. I used the bags oranges come in the cover most of the fruit to stop the birds. A possum chewed right through and I got nothing.

  5. I’ve got a lemon, mandarin and orange tree – I neglect them but they are always laden with fruit.

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