Planning Your 2017 Garden, Part 3 – the Pros and Cons of 4 Garden Types

Planning your 2017 Garden, part 3 - What type of garden to plant?
Planning your 2017 Garden, part 3 – What type of garden to plant?

What type of garden? A garden is a garden, you say. Yes, but there are all types of gardens. Here I will list four common garden types and some pros and cons of each to aid you in your garden planning.

Container Garden

A container garden is ideal for gardeners that can only devote small spaces to gardening. Balconies of apartments, or townhomes with limited backyards come to mind. Someone with no garden space, but a large patio might use container gardening.

In container gardening, plants are grown in containers of various sizes, depending on the root structure of the plants. For instance, lettuce, or other leaf crops would only require a shallow container, but carrots and root crops would require a deep container.

Container gardens also have the advantage of small size. Less weeding, less watering, but still a respectable crop if managed right.

They do require careful watering, though. If you plant in clay pots, the soil will dry out readily. Your potting mixture may be light enough that water passes through quickly, and drains out the bottom of the pot. If you use plastic pots without drain holes, watch out for water in the bottom of the pot.

To prolong a container garden harvest, succession plant about a week apart. For instance, plant lettuce spaced far apart one week; two weeks later, plant another set of lettuce seeds in between the first planting. When the first planting is ready for harvest, the second will be coming up. Harvesting the first crop will allow the second crop to fully mature. After you have harvested the first crop, plant a third crop of lettuce where the first crop was. You can continue this rotation until the summer has started, and lettuce will no longer sprout.

You can do a similar planting with root crops. For example, you might interplant carrots and lettuce in the same container. The lettuce will mature faster than the carrots. Harvest the lettuce when it is ready, and let the carrots continue to grow.

If you create a trellis for the container without making it top-heavy, you can grow tomatoes or vining plants like pole beans or peas.

Vertical Garden

A vertical garden takes advantage of walls. Pinterest has many posts and photos of plants growing in PVC pipe or re-purposed pallets. The advantage of a vertical garden is that it requires almost no space at all, jut a wall, preferably south facing.

Your beds would be about 3″ or 6″ wide, and spaced vertically to accommodate the mature height of the plant. To get the most rows in a vertical garden, you would plant smaller plants that won’t spread out very much.

Here again, you need to be careful about watering. Since the entire plant is out of the ground on the wall, it will readily dry out. Be sure to check the plants daily and water as necessary.

Square Foot Gardening

Square foot gardening was developed to grow crops intensively. A lot of study was put into finding the optimal spacing of plants to achieve the best harvest. It is intensive gardening. For example, 16 lettuce plants can be grown in one square foot of garden space. It uses space more efficiently than row gardening, meaning you get more harvest in the same amount of space.

Square foot gardening can also take advantage of vertical space by creating a small trellis for peas or beans at one end of the bed.

Another advantage of square foot gardening is little if no weeding. Using the mixture Mel Bartholomew suggests would eliminate weeding. Also, the close spacing of the plants will shade the soil beneath them, preventing weeds from sprouting.

Raised beds

You can combine square foot gardening raised bed gardening. The thought behind raised bed gardening is that the raised bed would allow water to drain away from the roots of the plants. I have just now begun to build raised beds in my garden, after two years of waterlogged and drowned plants in the low spot.

Remember when I said in an earlier post on planning, to check the lay of the land? Raised beds will alleviate any drainage problem you may have in your garden, because you can raise the bed level above the low spots.

Raised beds also have an advantage in that they can be any height you desire. Many people make 12″ high beds, but I have seen some beds that are 36″ high, and those beds can be worked without much bending over at all. My first raised bed was a 12″ board, buried 3-4″ in the ground to keep grass from growing into the bed. It worked for a few years until the wood began to decay and needed to be replaced.

So, you can see, space need not be a limitation on your gardening experience. Many people even have “windowsill gardens” where they grow vegetables and herbs rather than flowers. If you feel the necessity of getting dirt under your nails and seeing things grow, space is not a limiting factor. Share with the community how big your garden is, and how you cope with space constraints.

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