Duane Newcomb’s book Small Space, Big Harvest is as excellent resource for folks looking to reap great benefits from smaller spaces whether they are homeowners with limited yard space, suburban apartment renters or inner city dwellers looking to harvest a community garden. This highly organized and thorough guide demonstrates how to grow hundreds of pounds of produce in a 5 x 5 space – all without pesticides or complicated fertilizers. Reviewers are calling it "exceptional" and a great book that they will "turn to over and over." Below is a brief summary of what is inside Newcomb’s book, put together with the hope of inspiring those who have always wanted to cultivate a hulking vegetable garden but thought they didn’t have the landscape necessary to do so.
Newcomb calls the revolution of high yields in small spaces "The Vegetable Factory." The method is a culmination of innovative thinking among horticulturists and home gardening enthusiasts and has been proven repeatedly to double – even triple – the amount of vegetables one can grow in any given space. Instead of taking the approach of dealing with the limitations of a small area, Newcomb focuses on the advantages to growing vegetables in close proximity. This "intensive planting" method, for example, uses every inch of soil (creating a sort of "super-soil) and requires less preparation, less watering and less weeding. Perhaps what is most attractive, is that because it is easier to cover and/or contain vegetables in a smaller area, there is the real possibility of year-round harvests in any climate.
The first step is to find the ideal spot for your garden. Avoiding areas near trees and low, wet areas are the most important considerations and the next is the amount of sunlight available. Some plants – fruit-bearers like cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and squash, for example – require a great deal of sunlight whereas cool-season plants like kale, beets, carrots and onions require less. So, if you have an area that straddles a sunny and shaded area, there are effective ways to work with it.
The next step is to determine what vegetables you and your family truly prefer. This may seem like it goes without saying, but many novice gardeners begin with what they think is easiest or what is reputed to grow best in their soil type or climate. It is better to have more of one or two things that you will use than to have a variety of things that may go to waste. Small Space, Big Harvest provides an extensive list of vegetables with a corresponding guide on how many to grow per person and this is a great way to plan accordingly and expand your repertoire. Once you have decided what to grow and where, the next step is to plan the garden through drawings and to group plants according to where the garden will be located and what plants make good neighbors.
After just a cursory glance of Small Space, Big Harvest, one will soon come to realize there is nothing complicated about growing vegetables and that anyone – with just a little time and a little inspiration – can cultivate the vegetable garden of their dreams. Newcomb provides clear drawings and explanations of things like primary, secondary and tertiary vegetables and how "intercropping" (or "interplanting") is used to yield the biggest bounty. He somehow manages to breakdown the in’s-and-out’s of plant nutrition by chemical properties without being confounding and he covers everything from the Ph balance of soil to "unusual vegetables for adventurous cooks" all without losing the reader. If all "how-to-guides" were written like Small Space, Big Harvest there would be far more do-it-yourselfers out there and whole lot less confusion and frustration.