We devote only a small part of our backyard for vegetable gardening and I’m always looking for a way to add more plants and increase productivity in the existing space. Though we have put a deer fence up around our backyard, we still have to put a low fence around the vegetable garden. If we don’t, there would be nothing left. Deer cannot get in our back yard but rabbits, woodchucks, squirrels and chipmunks are still able to sneak in and enjoy what we grow. So we are limited to growing vegetables within this little fenced in area, therefore I try to make every inch work to its maximum productivity.
Looking back at the last season, I note what worked and integrate it into the coming season along with whatever adaptation increases efficiency. The method described below can be used for any plants that grow vertically, not just vegetables.
Aside from incorporating different plants in any one plot, I also grow vertically. While most gardeners grow beans on a cone shaped ‘teepee’ I believe, I put up a trellis for beans that’s over the path, high enough to walk under, and grow beans on each side. Last season, I put one up by the vegetable garden entrance. It worked well and when the beans were fully grown and had developed pods, it looked beautiful and provided easy access for picking the beans too. The trellis can be moved to any part of the garden easily when needed or I can grow different vegetables on it.
Once the weather was warm enough to remove the plastic from the cold frame, I put up a net in its place, see the first photo, to filter and soften the sunlight. It reduces the light by about 50%. Leafy vegetables like lettuce, Mitzuna, and Pac Choi prefer a little shade. In the middle of summer, when the temperature is high and the sunlight is strong, these leafy vegetable will bolt easily and the lettuce will turn bitter. With shade over them, they can take their time to grow, their leaves are crisp and sweet and the soil will dry more slowly. I grow Bitter melon on the side of the frame structure and let them entwine themselves up the frame. I gradually roll back the filtering net as the melon plant grows allowing it to take over shading the vegetables below.
One down side of having the vegetables grow up the frame is that I have to cut them all down when the temperature threatens to drop close to freezing. I need to put the plastic back on and turn it back into a cold frame again. Most gardeners leave the plastic on but open the ends of the structure to let the air flow through in summer. I could have done the same but I would lose growing space on the top of the structure. I would also have to put a smaller frame over one of the 3’X18′ plots and cover it with a sunlight filtering net to grow these vegetable in the heat of summer. I prefer to kill two birds with one stone: shade the vegetables and have extra growing space.