Grow a tiny urban vegetable garden by starting with good soil preparation, remove weeds add a slow release organic fertilizer. Leave the soil to settle for 2-4 weeks and cover with straw mulch to protect it and encourage worms to break down the organic matter. Choose vegetables that grow quickly like loose leaf lettuce and radish to get off to the best start.
In Australia we are ramping up our preparation for the winter planting season. The weather has just started to cool off and this is the time now to prepare our garden beds for some winter crops. We have recently moved into our Tiny Townhouse and have a small area to plant some vegetables.
Good planning now will get the most out of a tiny space. I only have 2 small beds that I will plant vegetables in, so I need to make the most of it. I hope these tips will help you to plan your own tiny urban vegetable garden for the winter.
Soil preparation for a tiny urban vegetable garden
I always start with soil preparation because soil is the most important part of your garden. I always think first about caring for my soil, and healthy plants will follow. Even if I don’t have any plants in my garden I will water the soil. This keeps the microbiome healthy and the worms happy.
If you are starting with poor ground soil or maybe an old garden bed that hasn’t had any love for a while you will want to add something extra before you get planting. I always use organic materials in my gardens because my family will be eating this food.
Steps to preparing your tiny urban vegetable garden
1. Dig the soil over
Prepare a garden bed by digging the soil over with a fork. There are many schools of thought about ‘no till’ gardening, but for me, in a very small space with poor soil, I like to give the soil some air and it also helps to lift the weeds out.
2. Remove the weeds
Removing the weeds which will compete with the vegetables for water and nutrients is really important. Pull these out by hand before you fork the garden over or you can remove them once you have dug them up. Get weeds out of your garden bed and place them in your compost or green waste bin.
3. Add organic fertilizer
There are 3 main ingredients I like to add to my soil at the beginning of the planting season no matter what I plan on planting. Here are my 3 favorites.
Composted cow manure
This is a mild fertilizer that adds back some nitrogen, feeding the growth of your plants.
I have bought some organic compost from my hardware store but if you are making some at home this would be a perfect addition to your garden bed.
Pelletized chicken manure
I like to add a couple of handfuls of pelletized chicken manure. This can all be dug in and will feed your plants over the growing season. You can also add small handfuls once your plants have grown for a month or so
4. Leave the soil to settle
I like to do this soil preparation a few weeks before I plan on planting in my garden. This gives the soil some time to settle and for the goodness to be partially broken down before I plant. You can absolutely plant in this soil straight away if you are keen but I prefer to give it some time.
5. Add mulch
Once you have added the organic ingredients to your soil, then I like to add some mulch to the top immediately. This is important if you are letting your soil rest, this will keep it protected and will help to stop weeds from popping up in your soil. It will also keep the moisture in your soil which will keep the worms happy.
When to add organic fertilizers to your garden
If you are aiming to grow your plants organically, there are some naturally derived organic fertilisers that you can use to keep your plants growing strong. I always use these 2 on my plants monthly in the growing season.
Organic liquid fertilizer
you can get a range of liquid fertilizers from your hardware store or garden center. Dynamic lifter organic liquid is a great addition to your veggie garden to help the leaves to grow strong and to support fruit growth. Your plant will absorb the nutrients it needs from this mild fertilizer.
This is not technically a fertilizer but a great soil conditioner. I mix this in with my organic liquid fertilizer when I am watering my plants. It helps to strengthen the roots of the plant and and can even help with transplant shock when you are moving your plants from place to place.
Best winter vegetables for a tiny urban vegetable garden
If you are working in a tiny space like me you need to think about getting the most out of your planting. I have my favorite winter crops that work great in a small space giving me plenty to eat throughout the winter. Check out my top 5 small plot vegetables.
I grow mixed lettuce by seed and scatter these in any gaps that I have in between plants in my veggie garden. They sprout really easily and only take minimal space. The mixed lettuce leaf varieties that grows multiple leaves rather than a single head work best because you can pick a few leaves at a time without pulling out the whole plant. It will continue to grow back over time.
I love snow peas or sweet peas. I plant these by seed when the weather starts to cool off and they produce so many peas with no effort at all. You can plant these alone one side of your garden bed which will take up minimal space as they grow vertically. I like to plant these against a fence or screen so they have something to grab onto.
I love to plant these fast-growing green vegetables that I can throw into my stir fry. They only take a few weeks to grow to an edible size and can be replanted as soon as you pick them out. I just sprinkle seeds in bare patches of the garden and they grow through quickly.
They are a tiny, delicious vegetable to grow in a small space. They are quick to spout and can be picked young. In a matter of weeks you will have a delicious radish to add to your salads. You can then replant the space with something else very quickly.
These are thin, mild onions that grow well from seed. Scatter these around and wait for tiny sprouts that look like grass to poke through. You can actually pick these by chopping them off ½ an inch above the roots and let them re-sprout again.
Tips for growing vegetables in a small space
|Let them be close||I only have a small space in my garden so I will plant things close together to make the best use of it. If you have plenty of space then you can give lots of room for things to grow, but for me, I like to have all dirt covered in plants.|
|Choose pick again vegetables||Planting vegetables that will continue to grow back once picked is a great use of space. Lettuce, spring onion and peas will continue to produce once you pick or snip them. This is cost effective too as you only need to plant it once.|
|Growing vertical||Choosing plants that grow vertically is a great option for small spaces. Peas and beans that climb high can make the most of a fence or screen to add extra area to your garden.|
|Fertilize often with organics||Adding a gentle organic liquid fertilizer on a regular basis will help your small urban garden to get all of the goodness it needs. If the soil space you are working with is small, you can make sure your plants get the extra boost they need from a regular feed. This will enable you to grow more plants in a small space and still get lots of healthy vegetables.|
|Add space with pots||If you are running out of garden space then using pots to grow extra veggies in is a great idea. You could plant a single vegetable in there like a sprouting broccoli that you can’t fit in your garden or use it to grow herbs to add to our cooking.
Use your wormsIf you are lucky enough to have a worm farm then worm castings are an amazing addition to your small space garden.
What happens to a small urban garden after a lot of rain?
If you live in a high rainfall area you will know that it can be a lot for a small urban garden to take. We have just had rainfall that caused a 1 in 50 year flood here in Sydney, Australia and my tiny garden beds are absolutely drenched.
The mixed lettuce had been picked (by me) a few days ago for a large, family salad so it just starting to grow back. The soil is very full of water but the bok choy and mint are growing well. The basil is even looking dark green and healthy, which is really impressive seeing as it is a summer herb.
My recently planted snow peas have just started to sprout after planting them a week ago. Some have been washed up through the soil after the heavy rain, but I have placed more soil on top to see if they will continue to sprout through.
My tiny seedlings got drowned in their tray but I will be replanting a new batch soon after the rains have passed. I’ll update you on how they grow soon. Unforeseen weather events add an extra challenge to the life of a gardener, but all is not lost.