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Grow Up

Juliann Gardner needed a better bed. Only she wasn’t thinking pillow tops and memory foam, but indigenous evergreen wood and soil packed with critters and organic nutrients. Gardner (yes, it’s her real name) was already well-versed in building custom designed gardens for her business One Small Garden, which she started in 2008. To reach the average home vegetable gardener, she created a tool-free garden bed kit using locally harvested red cedar that is both food safe and rot resistant. The kits come in a variety of sizes and heights—you can even add wheels—so you can put a garden virtually anywhere. “I have a client who has a rolling garden on his terrace and he pushes it into the sunlight as it moves throughout the day,” Gardner says.

By adding a trellis for vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, and peas, small-space planters can increase their yield. “The principals of small bed growing are density and reproduction,” explains Gardner. Layer radish seeds above carrots, for example, and by the time the radishes are done, the carrots are ready to poke through. And certain crops can improve your soil as they grow. Bush beans are rapid producers and their roots create bacteria that adds nitrogen to the soil.

As the summer winds down, Gardner recommends planning fall crops like kale and collard greens, which give good pound-per-square-foot return. And if you really want to plant corn, Gardner says go for it. “I want people to own this,” she says. “I want to empower them to grow their own food.”

Originally published in the July 2012 issue.