Thursday, June 25, 2009

Space Management

People with small gardens might assume that they couldn’t possibly grow such space hogs as sweet potatoes and melons. There is a way, though, to manage the crazy vines and still have room for other plants. In my garden, I just make sure that the vining plants are near patches of taller plants that the vines can creep under.

Some management of the vines, in terms of picking them up out of the lawn and redirecting them in the desired direction, is needed for this method to work most successfully, but this isn’t a huge task in my little garden.

This year, the melons are already heading toward the little patch of corn. They also will be directed toward this year’s onion and garlic patch, that has tomatoes in it now that the onions and garlic have been harvested.

Choosing the smaller cantaloupe and canary melons, instead of watermelons, is also helpful in growing sprawling plants in a small garden. I am pretty sure that no amount of redirecting vines would keep watermelons off my lawn.

The sweet potatoes, as their vines get longer, will be helped to grow under the okra and sunflowers. The variety Beauregard, which I have grown for several years, vines vigorously, so it can be a bit difficult to keep up with. The variety Puerto Rican is new to me this year, but I assume that it will give Beauregard a good race.

The size of each patch of taller plants –small— means that the vines won’t be too shaded when using this method. The corn patch is three rows of 4,4, and 5 plants (it was supposed to be 3 x 5, but a rabbit ate two plants at the ends of the rows). The okra patch is three rows of 4 plants each, and the sunflower row has just 4 plants in it.

In addition, even my tallest plants aren’t especially tall, since I tend to choose short varieties for my garden. This keeps the shading for the rest of the garden at a minimum.

This method is a bit more difficult to use with cucumbers than with other vining plants, because cucumbers are strong climbers; they tend to go up rather than stay on the ground underneath whatever they’ve been directed toward.

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