The National Garden Bureau calls it High Density Gardening, but the basic concept is squeezing as many plants as possible into whatever small space is available.
There are no excuses left, particularly the one I hear the most, ''I don't have space to grow vegetables.''
Unless you live deep in the woods where sunlight is unheard of beneath a thicket of trees, you can grow vegetables. All they need is water, soil and light, and there are some vegetables that really don't need six to eight hours of sunlight a day. If your space can grow grass and weeds, chances are you also can grow lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and onions. They may not be huge and lush producers, but you will get something.
But let's assume you do have a sunny spot. That's perfect. You can grow vegetables quite easily and without much effort. It just takes a bit of creativity.
I have a friend who plants a complete garden every year without digging an ounce of soil. She plants directly in bags of compost. My friend lays out as many bags as she has space, cuts a slit along the length of each bag and plants. She grows tomatoes, peppers, onions and even flowers. Forget about rototilling, double digging and in most cases, extensive weeding. At the end of the season, she gathers up her bag gardens and donates them to neighbors and friends for composting
If your family likes potatoes, you don't have to dig a deep trench or pull hundreds of pounds of soil over the plants as they grow. You can plant potatoes in galvanized or plastic trash cans. Drill or cut drainage holes in the bottom and a foot or so up the side of the container. Place straw and soil in the bottom of the container and toss in a few seed potatoes. As the plants sprout, continue to add more soil and straw, leaving only the tops of the plants showing. They will grow all summer and each branch that is covered inside the container will sprout potatoes. When flowers appear, push aside some of the covering and harvest young, new potatoes. Or let the plants mature and harvest potatoes when they are larger.
One summer, my husband spread seed potatoes over the top of a raised bed. He covered them with several inches of straw and added more as the plants grew. When it was time to harvest, all he had to do was pull off the several layers of straw to reveal the potatoes underneath. Be sure not to let the tubers get exposed to sunlight or they will produce concentrated amounts of a chemical called solanine, which is toxic.
Another method of high density gardening is to let your plants share their space. Planting radishes with carrots is a perfect example. Radishes are usually ready for harvest in about a month to six weeks, but carrots take much longer. As radishes are harvested, more room is available for the slower growing carrots to spread and you'll find you don't need to do as much thinning.
Companion planting isn't new. Native Americans developed the ''Three Sisters'' approach by planting vining beans with corn and squash. As the beans grew, they climbed up the tall corn stalks. The squash vines spread beneath them both, acting as a ground cover to keep out weeds and help the soil retain moisture. In addition, woodland animals, such as raccoons and groundhogs didn't like the prickly feeling of the squash leaves on their feet.
If you still aren't convinced, try growing vertically. Rather than take up valuable space for cucumber and other vining plants to sprawl all over the yard, try giving them a fence or some sort of trellis and train them to grow upward. I've seen fences equipped with little shelves for supporting larger pumpkins and watermelon.
Statistics show that more and more people are growing some of their own food. Even if they don't plan on preserving for the winter, they are looking for fresh seasonal vegetables from their own yards or patios or balconies. Jump on the bandwagon.