Want a smaller garden? Try containers, beds and pallets

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 11, 2014

SALISBURY — Gardening is a great pastime, and many people just love to play in the soil. Because of hectic schedules or limited property, I receive many questions on gardening in small spaces.
When most people think of vegetable gardens, they remember the days with their grandparents, growing row after row of corn, beans and tomatoes. During this day and age, it is tough to handle that large a garden. One may not have the proper tools, land, time or knowledge. Gardening in small spaces helps alleviate most of those issues.
The only thing is that you do have to take time in planning for, caring for and harvesting your vegetables. They are not like ornamentals that you plant and typically don’t worry about except for watering. Vegetable gardens need plenty of attention. One needs to scout for pests or disease and water routinely. You do have to harvest them — they don’t pick themselves.
Some great methods for gardening are containers, square foot gardening, raised beds and pallet gardens. Containers are great for having a small herb garden, or you can get some larger containers to raise some vegetables such as tomatoes. For tomatoes in containers, I prefer the bush determinate type since they rarely require staking and will provide a decent crop, usually all at once. Indeterminate varieties require staking and will provide tomatoes throughout the season but if not properly tended, they can get out of hand pretty quickly.
Square foot gardening is a popular concept where you plant vegetables in one foot squares. There have been numerous classes and publications on square foot gardening, and many people like its simplicity. Raised beds are all the rage and come in many shapes and sizes. The standard size is 4 feet wide by 8 feet long. You can make the beds as long as you like, but the width should stay around 4 feet so you can easily reach into the beds.
Many people prefer to use raised beds since they are easy to work with and do not require many tools. Some are building the raised beds to be 3 feet high so it is easier on their backs. This is great to do if someone has difficulty squatting or bending.
The pallet gardens are the latest trend and can be as simple as the containers. Many businesses use pallets. They come in different shapes and sizes. The standard size is 40 inches by 48 inches or about 3 feet by 4 feet, which is smaller than the standard raised bed. These are great for annuals such as most herbs, vegetables and some fruits. Many people are getting quite creative with the pallets and can place them in small areas, vertical or horizontally. I would not use the pallets for perennials because over time, there could be crowding. But, for an annual vegetable bed, they work perfectly.
For more information on gardening in small spaces or to sign up for the Rowan County Cooperative Extension Pallet Garden Workshop being held April 25, from 9 a.m.-noon, please call 704-216-8970 or visit http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/quickref/vegetable/intensive_veg_gardening.html