Life Begins in the Garden: Maximizing Garden Space

By Sarah Leitzel
Sometimes it can be difficult finding the time or space to cultivate a large enough garden. This is my first year gardening in a new place. While I’ll have enough peppers, onions, and tomatoes to make several quarts of salsa and enough greens, carrots, and potatoes for fresh eating, it doesn’t seem nearly adequate. I dream of a garden large enough to provide fruit and vegetables to last through the next spring after I’ve canned and frozen everything that’s not eaten fresh. My Pinterest account is full of ideas for homemade herbal salves and for cute wooden roadside stands where I can sell extra produce to pay for supplies and seeds.

Two wonderful ideas for maximizing space in your garden (even on a porch or patio) are by thinking vertically and/or by applying the “square foot method”. Anything that vines like squash, melons, cucumbers, peas, etc. loves a trellis and will grow upward, leaving more room on the ground for root vegetables and salad greens. The basic idea of “square foot gardening” is to combine different crops that will grow and ripen at different times. For example, in a one square foot area, plant a tomato plant in the center surrounded by four leaf-lettuce plants like Butter Crunch, surrounded by eight radishes. By the time the tomato gets big enough that it would crowd the others, the radishes and lettuce will have been harvested. A great resource for this method is a book called Square Foot Gardening, second edition by Mel Bartholomew that can be found on or on,.

If you still find you are in need of additional produce, pay a visit to your local farmers market. There is such a variety of beautiful homegrown vegetables, fruit, and sometimes meats. You can often find locally made cheeses, honey, and baked goods as well. You will be supporting your local economy and some of the hardest working people you may ever meet. Most of the vendors and farmers at these markets do it for a living. It isn’t an easy job, with hours spent bent over in the hot sun, pushing soil-heavy wheelbarrows and planning crop rotations to ensure that the crops have the proper nutrients. There are several markets in and around the Pittsburgh area in Bloomfield, Beechview, Carrick, Downtown, East Liberty, Lawrenceville, North/South Side, Squirrel Hill, and Swissvale and most are open from May until November.

Fresh Access Markets in Beechview, Bloomfield, Carrick, Downtown, East Liberty, Lawrenceville, North/South Side, Squirrel Hill, and Swissvale

Visit my blog at for additional thoughts, short stories, and poetry.

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