I love this article by Grace Hensley. When she writes about the best vegetables for a small garden, she first writes about the mistakes many of us make about trying to plant a garden that will satisfy our family’s annual food needs. I suspect that when we think “gardening,” we’re looking to our garden being able to provide a sustainable food supply. Great idea, but when Grace gives the reader her suggestions about the best vegetables for a small garden, she also shares her realization about how much a small garden can produce.
Let’s face it, I can’t realistically subsistence farm in my tiny vegetable garden. The best estimates for self-sufficiency suggest one to two acres. I am the proud owner of a 150 square foot “farm”. Last year, when I realized the insanity of trying to achieve impossible vegetable self-sufficiency, I reduced my vegetable garden by half in order to add straight, wheelbarrow-width paths for efficient compost rearrangement. Now I can get to the new chicken coop in the rain and pick chives for breakfast without full foul-weather gear. I grew lettuces, tomatoes and potatoes for the table, and put in dahlias and sweet peas for my soul. I say it’s time to rethink backyard farming.
Sometimes we place a heavy burden on ourselves and make gardening be a chore rather than something we truly enjoy. No more unrealistic goals. We’re not going to feed a family of four in a 150 square foot garden, regardless of how we arrange it. Six rows three feet wide by fifteen feet long with two foot paths between rows will make gardening easy to get in and around plants for weeding and tending to plants. Those two foot rows add another 150 square feet to your garden space, but would make all of your planting space useable, since all your paths are outside the growing area. So, if you have 300 square feet of gardening space, you can make your gardening easier, and you will have more useable planting area, but you still won’t be able to plant enough to feed your family for a year. If you one to two acres to achieve self sufficiency, this still isn’t going to do it. True to her word, Grace planted things that she wanted in her garden, and here are some of her choices.
There is nothing better than a home-gown tomato. But the best tomato is the one that doesn’t even make it into the house. It’s the one with the juice running down your kids’ cheeks, the sun-kissed candy you pop into your mouth one by one as you lay flopped on the lawn staring into the blue sky. . . Then hands-down, choose the cherry tomato, ‘Sun Gold‘. It is reliable in our climate, and never makes it into the house. It’s an indeterminate variety, so build it a trellis and let it climb, and remember that they won’t all ripen at once.
You’ll find the lettuce, beans and peas, herbs, squash, potatoes, some weird plants and flowers that Grace recommends in her article by clicking here or on the link below. These are things that Grace recommends planting, not because they are necessarily the best vegetables for a small garden, but because they are the vegetables she would most like use from her garden. She’s given up on the idea of trying to become a self-sufficient gardener and is trying to enjoy her gardening and supplement what she isn’t able to grow from the local grocery.