How much food can you grow in six foot?

Growing ladders are simple, effective way of growing more in a small space.

How much food can you grow in six by three foot (two by one metres)?

After growing £900 of food in a year on my London balcony and £548 in six months in my Newcastle concrete backyard, I’m intrigued to find out.

I’ve built two growing ladders (see picture above), which enable me to have three or four times the number of containers in the same space. If you’re not in a position to make your own, they can be bought – search for ‘allotment ladders’ or ‘plant theatres’.

Starting on 1 April 2017 I’ll be weighing the harvests and working out how much they’d cost if bought from the shops.

No space to grow?

I hope to highlight that, even if you don’t have a garden, you can still grow lots of food…. as long as you can find a small piece of concrete, that gets a few hours sun.

If you don’t have a balcony, patio, roof terrace or any other outdoor space at home, you might be able to find another space to grow. Perhaps at work (grow salad with your colleagues?), with a neighbour (I’ve grown in my neighbours front yard), or in a community space near you (like a church).

Pea shoots germinating - a fast growing and delicious crop.

Pea shoots germinating – a fast growing and delicious leaf for salads and stir fries. A lot of pea shoots can be grown in very little space

Salads and herbs

I’ll be growing a mix of salads and herbs on the ladders. These are perfect for small spaces as they are expensive to buy, nutritious, and taste fantastic when freshly picked. Both will grow happily in four hours’ sun – which is important as the space is north facing.

I’ll also be trying to grow a range of flavours, leaf textures and colours. I want my growing (and my salad bowl) to be pretty  – as well as delicious and productive.

I'll be growing some unusual salads, too. This is an oyster plant - which has delicious, succulent leaves that really do taste like oysters.

This is an oyster plant – it has delicious, succulent leaves that really do taste like oysters.

Over the next few months, I’ll be posting about what I am harvesting and eating.

Here is a ‘ladder salad’ I had for lunch, today. Delicious.

Salad for lunch: rocket, chives, parsley, oyster plant and sorrel + a few rocket flowers. Yum.

Salad for lunch: rocket, chives, parsley, oyster plant and sorrel + a few rocket flowers. Yum.

Your turn

Do you have a space to grow and how big (very roughly) is it? Is it at home (balcony, patio?), or at work or in community?

27 comments… add one

  • Oh dear, I cannot find what you call oyster plant. There is a salsify that you use the root, but no oyster leaves. Could you possibly further identify this plant? The Latin name? Please and thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Melissa
      The Latin name is Mertensia maritima – poyntzfield herb nursery in Scotland sell it. Hope you enjoy it.

      Reply
  • I am a volunteer at PachaHouse ma community venue for well being .
    We have a little garden if medicinales and we have a small but very sunny patch where I’m going to try to grow crystal cucumbers .
    They make a wonderful bespoke deep cleanser for sensitive skin…,way more anti-oxidant power than normal cucumbers
    We have some seeds in our seed bank taken from our colleagues sccessful plant last year .
    If anyone would like some please contact us on our fb pages
    PachaPuro or PachaHouse

    Reply
  • There is a bit of a trend going on for “tropical” or “jungle” gardens. I used Ensete
    http://www.cooltropicalplants.com/Ensete-ventricosum.html
    as a runner bean support. The red flowers against the dark leaves looked great! I also grew trombonchino (very odd looking squashes) over the shed. Tuscan Kale looks great in a pot with deep red dahlias and chard…just be careful not to pick the wrong leaves (: At the moment I’m trying to grow sweet potatoes!

    Reply
  • Hi. Ive got a small patch of grass about 12×12 and a border all around which i grow mostly shrubs but i also have a patio which i grow tomatoes cues peppers chillies and herbs and also two grape vines all in containers. I have a cherry tree in the grass two apple trees in pots two peaches in pots an pear and plum tree dotted around in the borders. Also, rhubarb in a bed at the back and blackberries in the border. Also i have strawberries in pots and the border. Quite a lot for a very small garden! I have just planted raspberries and bluberries in pots too!! Im trying to hang on to my piece of lawn for the grandkids!!

    Reply
  • Yes, it’s an inspiring article, and shows that virtually anything can be grown in most places.
    I have a back yard that’s sunny, and about 12 feet wide by about 9 feet. I have a load of herbs there at present. Due to buy some more herb varieties, and also bought some seeds from http://www.realseeds.co.uk since they grow the seeds themselves. The things I bought are leaf beet, a type of pea called Lord Leicester, leaf sorrel and an Aztec broccoli called Huauzontle, should be interesting! and some cherry tomatoes. Nothing worked last year as maybe the seed company didn’t have reliable seed stock, I guess. I am green fingered, but find many packets no good! I am also growing some seeds taken from some organic sweet long peppers from Sainsbury’s, I had a peep and they are germinating now, and has taken a couple of weeks to do this.
    Best wishes to everyone and their seed growing endeavours.
    Heather

    Reply
  • I’m setting up a “square foot garden” in my back yard in Baltimore, MD, US. Here in the Mid-Atlantic region (near Washington DC) we have lots of warm weather in summer, but our spring is late starting. Hoping to learn how to grow food, have only done flowers until now. I have lots of room, but most of it too shady for vegetables. I found a spot getting about 5 hours of sun, and that’s where I’m trying the 4’x8′ raised box. We’ll see!!!

    Reply
    • Rhubarb will grow in some shade and some soft fruits, too, if it’s not too dark. Wishing you growing success!

      Reply
  • Thanks for the site. I am experimenting with Kratky soil less gardening. Growing leaf lettuce indoors with grow lights and in enclosed containers. This allows me to completely control the environment. I live in Wisconsin USA where we get snow and below freezing temperatures for several months. My results are improving with experience.

    Reply
  • My space is about ten feet wide by twenty five feet long. Some of the space is shaded by trees and the ground is very wet so I am using containers . Hoping to grow salad leaves , beans herbs etc.

    Reply
  • Mark, you are simply too good. I wish this is done at my backyard. Would you like to use my space for training? I love gardening but do not know from whence to start. I am completely useless.

    Reply
  • Very interesting, thanks. Inspiring too! I will try this in the coming months and let you know how it goes.

    Reply
  • I’m now in a patio apartment with partial sun in Oklahoma. So I love all your easy and well written comments and posts. I have learned so much. Thank you for helping so many people and me. 8)

    Reply
  • Thank you for sharing. I enjoy seeing and learning how to grow vegetables.
    Happy gardening, Porntipha

    Reply
  • I am blessed to have a large yard in a senior complex. I am beginning my second year of growing my own food. Last year was difficult due to complaining neighbors (my “garden” is my front yard. My backyard gets insufficient sunlight). This year will also be difficult, for medical reasons… Upcoming surgery will slow me down next month. It’s ok though. The incessant rains in Puget Sound (WA state) have slowed the arrival of Spring, so I shall be slow too. The soil is poor, and filled with Horsetail (loves wet soil). I avoid Herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. It will all work out.

    Reply
    • Are you on Vashon Island, like Betty Macdonald?

      Reply
    • One thing you might consider, look into growing sprouts inside your apartment
      with led grow lights. I have done that in the past and live sprouts are easy to
      grow and full of life giving nutrients. I am a cancer survivor and did my best with
      sprouts.
      I used them in sandwiches, in salads, and found other ways to enjoy them even
      in soups.

      Reply
      • I agree with John Earl Wright, but if you have a good light level near a window, I find you don’t need to invest in special lighting. Wishing you the best with your surgery.

        Reply
  • Yes, a long and narrow balcony which is SSW facing. It’s windy at times though.

    Reply
  • Fantastic results for such a small space. I have a few raised beds in the garden so I’m lucky really but I used to live in London with just a window sill so I understand the challenges of micro-gardening! Now my challenges are the weather and lack of time. Thanks for the blog – it’s very informative.

    Reply
  • I’m a cancer survivor, too, and wanting to eat more clean food. I’ve bought some tubs and am hoping to convert an old sandpit into a raised bed, too. Last year when I was having treatment, all I could manage was some kale and Swiss chard tucked into planters with the flowering plants, so this year I want to branch out a bit with a wider variety. I already sprout seeds and beans in a sprouting tray in the kitchen. You can do this all year round. :)

    Reply
  • Donde vivo tengo poco espacio, pero me gustaria intertarlo con la ayuda de ustedes. Me gustaria sembrar hortalizas para clima calido (a 200 metros sobre el nivel del mar) ,Colombia.

    Reply
  • I like your site and your articles very much. I am privileged, because I’ve actually got really much space as we have a large garden, and I could easily grow much more than I am capable of. I am disabled due to severe stress and burnout, so I can not do much. But I have much need to be in my garden and work with soil and plants, so I have acquired some large round plastic tubs, bricklayers use them for cement. They contain 90 liters each. I try as best to limit myself to these tubs. I am not particularly successful, because I really like to grow a variety of vegetables and I always end up with too many plants, so my husband has to help me ; ) I am very interested in growing my own seeds, so some of the plants are 2. year and they take some space up for the new spring sowings. But I experiment and try to make room for migrant onions, giant garlic, carrots. lettuce, radishes, perennial leeks, beans, squash, kale, spinach and more; )
    I missed all this garden stuff all winter, so I was very glad to have your email in my inbox today ; ) Spring is here – at last – hurray!!

    Reply
  • Hello – since we live on a sailboat it is a challenge to find space to grow anything. I am currently experimenting with pots in containers hung on a slat (found the idea on Pinterest) in front of one of our cabin portholes. Whatever is grown there cannot be too large or bushy! I am mining all sources of information – and find your ideas and tips very useful. Please keep them coming.

    Reply
  • I have an eccentric balcony with a six foot wall round as my flat is above a shop in Chiswick. It is about one by five metres but is west facing and only gets sun in the afternoon. I have never grown food before and have herbs, salads, radishes and will plant my strawberry seeds when it gets a bit warmer.

    Reply
  • Have 4ft of SW facing windowsill in first floor flat. Also, about 5ft of SE windowsill. Our communal garden has stony Devon red clay. Most does not get good sun, but one bit (about 12ft by 6ft) faces SE with no shade. Many weeds and sycamores. Housing association ignores pleas to deal with sycamores!

    Have done well with cherry toms, basil, pelargoniums, baby lettuce. Would like to do more in winter.

    Reply
  • I love your article. See I am a cancer survivor and live foods are what I do
    best on. Especially sprouts, which I have not been able to implement here,
    but one day hope to. Funny how our choices in life take us on different paths
    and some times those paths make it harder on us.

    Please keep up your good work, I enjoy quality information and am sure
    others will also.

    Reply

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