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Small Space Gardens By Lin Frye, Director Arboretum and LSG Program Johnston Community College Site Planning Find niches Locate house, lot, walk, fences in space North West (House) East

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Small space gardens l.jpg
Small Space Gardens


Lin Frye, Director

Arboretum and LSG Program

Johnston Community College

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Site Planning

  • Find niches

  • Locate house, lot, walk, fences in space

  • North

  • West (House) East

  • South

    • Locate existing trees, shrubs, fences and beds you wish to keep, trash cans, storage sheds, etc.

    • Mark sun and shadow pattern across space, prevailing winds

    • Consider family needs (i.e. play area for children), recreation, outdoor cooking, entertaining, meeting areas, privacy

    • Consider water source location, underground utility lines, septic tank and field

    • List your desires

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    What do you want to plant?

    • Consider unconventional areas, i.e. lawn edges, for the things you wish to grow – vegetables, herbs, flowers

    • Consider sunlight and shade and a water source

    • Consider spacing requirements for your plants

    • Soil test, ph

    • Fertilizing

    • Compost

    • Native soil and amendments

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    Small Scale Gardens

    • Raised beds

      • Benefits: drainage, warms faster, easier to work

    • Niches

  • Even the smallest of shaded places can be used

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    Vertical Gardens

    • You can grow all vine crops vertically

    • Need garden supports (trellis, tall cages)

    • Can be combined with niches, square foot gardening and some containers

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    Square Foot Gardening

    Based on the book by Mel Bartholomew “Square Foot Gardening” and French intensive gardening

    • Benefits: high yield, efficient, bountiful, minimal effort, small space

    • Intensive Gardening

    • Blocks of 4’ x 4’ raised beds separated by a narrow walking path

    • Good drainage

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    Square Foot Gardens

    Lin Frye’s Home Gardens

    • Soil test – vegetables need 6-7 ph

    • Intercropping – importance of spacing, fertilizer, companion plants

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    Equal parts of coarse vermiculite, screened peat moss, coarse sand, decomposed leaf mold (or bagged compost), lime, fertilizer


    My formula for a 4’’ x 8’ x 1’ bed:

    2 cu feet humus

    ½ to 1 pounds 10-10-10 slow release


    ½ pound powdered dolomitic lime

    8 cu feet peat moss

    8 cu feet bagged compost (sterilized)

    6 cu feet cow manure

    6’ to 8’ soilless mix (Metro Mix 400)

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    (Each block is 12 inches x 12 inches)

    Each square is planted with a different crop in each square (careful with spacing and crowding)

    Example: Pepper plants – one plant per 1’ sub block

    i.e. If you wanted to plant an entire 4’ main block in

    Pepper plants, you’d plant a total of 16 plants.

    i.e. To plant spinach plants – 9 per 1 foot sub block for a total

    4’ bed of 144 spinach plants.


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    This system can be viewed at the Arboretum Kitchen Garden site.

    • Plant Spacings in a Square Foot Garden

    • A One-Person Garden

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    Container Gardening site.

    • Benefits: Can follow the sun or move to shade if needed

    • Can add instant color to any area

    • Can have easy access to herbs and vegetables

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    Container Gardening site.

    • Any container can be used

      • Clay, Plastic pot, Coffee Mug, Planter Box,

    • Soda containers or even old shoes

    • Make sure there are holes in the bottom of the container

    • Raise containers with holes off a solid surface to assist with drainage

    • If no holes – add ½” of small pebbles, gravel or broken crockery for drainage

    • Be sure to use a container large enough for the plant(s) you’ll be growing

    • Shallow-rooted crops (lettuce, peppers, radishes, herbs) – use containers at least 6” in diameter with an 8” soil depth

    • Bushel baskets, half barrels, wooden tubs are best for tomatoes, squash, pole beans, cucumbers.

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    Container Gardening site.

    • Different soil, water, fertilizer and cultural requirements than plants in the ground

    • Special container mixes – Jiffy Mix, Super Soil, Pro-Mix, etc.

      • Requires “soilless mix” – containing:

        • An organic part: peat moss, sawdust, wood shavings, hardwood

    • bark or pine bark

      • Mineral part: vermiculite, perlite, pumice, builder’s sand,

  • granite sand or a combination of these

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    SOILS site.

    • Special soils provide:

      • Fast drainage of water through the soil

      • Air in soil after drainage

      • A reservoir of water in the soil after drainage

  • Special soils do not usually contain fertilizer

  • Need to compensate for soil drying out faster in a container

  • Fertilizers leach with each watering

  • Must water and fertilize more frequently

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    FERTILIZER site.

    • Slow release fertilizers (MAKE SURE IT’S BALANCED)

      • (10/10/10 – nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium)

      • Mix in with soil upon planting

      • Refertilize when plants flower

      • Refertilize if needed to help a second flowering

    • Or use a weak nutrient solution (i.e. Miracle Grow) – use only 1/5 the amount of fertilizer called for on the label for a monthly application

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    WATERING site.

    • Water thoroughly after adding plant to container

    • After settling, soil should be ½” to 1” below rim of container

    • Water when soil dries or plant wilts

    • Use your finger to determine dryness of soil NOT calendar

    • Clay pots require more frequent watering than plastic or glazed pots

    • You can put one small pot in a larger one and insulate with peat moss, perlite or gravel

    • Group small pots together to help with evaporation

    • Don’t over water!!

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    • Wick Watering

      • Put one end of wick into pail of water and other in soil of the container (through the bottom hole of container). Use thick cotton string

      • Provides continuous supply of water and/or weak water/fertilizer solution

      • Can also invert a saucer, place over a water-filled container, and place pot on top of saucer

        • Can also use special wicking fabrics

        • Mist container plants with water to help provide the humidity

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    • Check seed package for spacing requirements

    • Plant more seeds than needed because not all seeds germinate

    • Thin after germination for proper spacing

    • Place container in proper light

    • Amount of light is determined by what you’ll be growing

    • Anything with a flower or fruit MUST have at least



    • Inspect weekly for pests

      • Slugs

      • Snails

      • Earwigs

      • Spider mites

      • Whitefly

      • Aphids

    • Move infected plants away from the others and treat insects accordingly

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    For more information l.jpg

    • Call Lin Frye (919) 209-2052

    • Call Minda Daughtry (919) 209-2184