Small space gardening

No excuses. Almost everybody has one square foot of soil. If you don’t have it in the ground, you certainly can have it in a pot. And that’s all you need to grow cucumbers. Ok. And sun too. You’ll definitely need sun. Six hours minimum.

So if you’re a cucumber fan and haven’t tried growing pickling cucumbers, why not live dangerously and plant some? I’ve grown them every year since nearly the beginning of time. The appeal for me is they have a great flavor without those pesky, chewy seeds, and they can easily be grown on a lightweight trellis–including a trellis popped into a pot. And to clarify, pickling cucumbers can be eaten raw just like regular cucumbers–they’re not just for pickling.

Last spring, I was planting in my side yard, and noticed a smidge of earth about a foot square that was empty. This gardener never has an empty spot of earth. Never.

So I decided to plant some pickling cucumbers in that little spot. Once the seedlings popped their little green heads out of the soil, and I could see they were going to be happy there, I decided I’d better come up with some sort of cucumber jungle gym for the little guys. I found some bamboo poles in my garage that I’d picked up at a garage sale the prior summer, and decided to make a simple obelisk-type structure out of them.

Had I given this a little more thought at planting time, I wouldn’t have planted the seeds in a row. I would have put the trellis in the ground first, planted a couple of seeds at the base of each pole, and pulled out the “runt” as soon as it became evident which was the weaker of the two. But the truth is, I didn’t plan ahead so I had to wing it. There now…we’ve all learned from my mistake.

 Small-space gardening / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Construction was as easy as it gets. Shove the poles in the ground, and tie them at the top. Incidentally, even my twine was a garage sale bargain, so this trellis cost me almost nothing.

This set up is a good way to go if you have trouble bending down because after the initial planting, you don’t have to search around on the ground for cucumbers. I grow my green beans vertically too–on my wood fence for that very reason (See my post “How To Grow Veggies on a Privacy Fence“). I don’t have problems bending down, I just work smarter, not harder, as they say. Plus, the critters can’t get to the veggies as easily if they’re up in the air. If they want a cucumber, they have to work for it at my house!

Small-space gardening / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Since I wasn’t on the ball with the original seed placement, I had to keep a close eye on the vines as they started to grow, nudging them in the right direction so they each had their own pole to climb. If you don’t give them some guidance, and check on them often, you’ll have some major tangles on your hands. Those delicate-looking tendrils are like a plant version of a python. Once they curl around each other, they are not going to let go, and it’s hard to get them untangled without damaging them.

 Grow Veggies in One Square Foot Of Soil--Really! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Grow Veggies in One Square Foot Of Soil--Really! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

This method turned out to be the best one I’ve tried for growing cucumbers. I had more cucumbers than I could eat from these four vines in one square foot of soil, and I can eat a lot of cucumbers. When planted on a vertical structure, the fruit is easy to see and harvest, and the open form ensures good air flow. Cucumbers are prone to powdery mildew (at least mine are), and good air circulation can help prevent it from attacking the foliage. Here are my vines when they were almost to the top of the poles.

Grow Veggies in One Square Foot Of Soil--Really! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

“To each his own” is a phrase I use often. But I gotta say, it baffles me that there are humans on planet earth who don’t grow their own vegetables. Seriously. Shell out a couple of dollars for a packet of seeds or a couple of transplants, and you can have fresh, chemical-free vegetables all summer. I’ve successfully planted leftover seeds that are up to three and four years old, so it’s very cost-effective. My yard is tiny, so I plant a little bit of a several different vegetables; some in the ground, some in pots and many vertically. Vegetables are planted among my landscape bushes and flower beds. Here are some veggie pots from the past couple of years.

Grow Veggies in One Square Foot Of Soil--Really! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Grow Veggies in One Square Foot Of Soil--Really! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Grow Veggies in One Square Foot Of Soil--Really! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Grow Veggies in One Square Foot Of Soil--Really! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I’m not suggesting everybody plant a huge garden or even a small raised bed, because there is a time commitment with a garden. I’m saying just try planting your favorite vegetable in one square foot of quality soil or a pot that receives at least six hours of full sun, and see where it takes you. Most folks get bit by the gardening bug, and go bigger each summer.

Then again, there are people like Sheri, my best friend in the world who has never, to my knowledge, planted a single seed in her life. She’s not afraid of getting bit by the gardening bug. She’s afraid of getting bit by any bug–not an outdoor sorta girl. My friends Kim and Sam shamelessly wait for their co-workers to bring their overflow veggies to work to share. And my son, Ross, is a veggie lover and homeowner with his very own dirt, but I haven’t managed to persuade him to plant veggies yet either. To the non-gardeners in my life, I adore you, but I just don’t understand. Apparently you don’t need gardening “therapy” like I do!

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in Redesign, please feel free to check her other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at

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