Backyard farming: small spaces and bumper crops

When you live in a city like me and have access to a backyard farm of just 10m2 (just over 100ft2), optimizing the space is vital. Choosing the right plants will make a significant impact on the success or failure of the plot. Small spaces are fun and can be just as rewarding as a more extensive garden. If planned correctly, urban gardens can produce an abundant amount of food on just 100ft2. The yields can further be boosted by potting up plants in other areas in the house, even indoor windowsills. 

 Top 5 crops for maximizing our yield in an urban backyard farm; 

  • Tomatoes 

Tomatoes are a culinary staple in all of our kitchens, top tip someone gave me when I first started growing food; grow stuff you like to eat. It’s no good growing the world’s greatest melons if you or your family don’t like them. 

Tomatoes are great because they are easy to grow, incredibly productive, and can produce fruit within 60 days. They can be encouraged to grow upwards, which saves on space. Pound for pound tomatoes should be in every beginner’s garden.

  • Pole Beans: peas and black beans 

Beans are also highly nutritious and go great in many dishes such as burritos and black bean soups. On average, they take 100-110 days to fully mature, so a little longer than other foods in the garden but well worth the wait. You can grow beans in the ground or containers – both work great. 

Once your bean plants start to grow, put a pole or trellis next to each plant, again saving space by growing them upwards and focusing on creating different layers. 

Black beans have delicate root systems and do not take well to being transplanted. Instead of starting your seedlings indoors, sow the seeds directly in your garden—best planted in late spring (May) to take advantage of the summer sun. Don’t plant them until the soil temp is 60 °F (16 °C) or above. 

  • Zucchini

Zucchini is like the thug of the gardening world; it just takes over! However, they have a ridiculously good yield, so they made it onto the shortlist. For example, one zucchini plant produces 6 to 10 pounds of fruit in a growing season! Great varieties to grow are the sunburst and Bennings Green Tint. As a bonus Zucchini are monoecious plants, meaning each plant has both male and female flowers. This means you only need to plant one plant, and as long as the bees visit, we will have pollination. 

  • Herbs 

With the space saved by growing the tomatoes and peas straight up on trellising, we will have more space around the base for other plants. It’s a good idea to fill these spaces with herbs. Basil, parsley, and thyme are easy to grow and taste great in many dishes. Herbs look and smell great, and they give our garden a more balanced feel. They literally can grow anywhere rocky slopes, coastal gardens, and, of course, space-saving containers.

  • Salad Greens

No backyard garden would be complete without the superstars of gardening, the salad greens. The most popular are spinach, lettuce, and arugula. They like the small places and can fill the corners between the pole bean teepee or A-frame trellis, or as a living mulch between slower growing crops. 

Salads are one of the productive crops, and they need just 3-5 hours of sunlight a day and can grow in shallow soils of only 10cm deep. They have a harvest time of just 4-6 weeks so you can plant multiple crops in a growing season, especially if you have seedlings ready to transplant when you harvest the mature salad greens. 

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