Gardening in a Small Space
Hierba Buena and Cauliflower
Photo by John Kiely
When the yard withered in the drought, I was pleased. Turfgrass is the largest irrigated crop in America, but there's nothing to eat. With no lawnivores, nor lawn-to-table movements, grass is a relic from a past of cheap land and 40-hour workweeks. I await the return of bulldozers, which turn small houses and yards around here into several patio homes.
A patio is all that's needed for gardening. A collection of pots and containers will work well, or a small plot can be made by stacking gardening bricks two-high and filling the enclosed space with soil. The other consideration is to choose plants that don't take up a lot of area, or overrun the space with vines and roots.
The biggest offenders on the "Do Not Plant" list are cucumbers, zucchinis, potatoes, pumpkins, and worst of all, sweet potatoes. These beasts will cover everything, like kudzu. Other plants, like tomatoes and green beans, expand greatly, but can be tamed vertically with a trellis.
Plant Now Lettuce, greens, mesclun, and arugula thrive through the fall and winter, when bugs don't. Less popular are beets, Swiss chard, and radishes. Carrots should be planted on ridges, and celery transplants should be heavily fertilized. It's a great fall veggie, and you can pull off a stalk as needed for cooking, instead of letting it turn to rubber in the crisper drawer.
Cauliflower, planted this month, will arrive for the holidays, and broccoli will come for Spring Break.
Plant Later You'll have to wait for February to plant tomatoes, peppers, beans, eggplants, and okra. Melons will grow in a small space, but it's another plant that requires a trellis to keep it confined.
Herbs These are the easiest plants to grow in a small space. Mint, oregano, chives, and oregano will grow year-round. Lemongrass and basil prefer warmer weather, while parsley, dill, and cilantro prefer the cool. Thyme and sage don't like Southeast Texas much.
The most important facet of a small garden is visibility. A garden thrives best when you see it and take care of it every day, like a pet. In return, a garden will help sustain you every day. This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this...Houston.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.