In all of the reading I've done lately I keep on coming back to space as an issue. One of the way many people combat this issue is square foot gardening. A concept developed by Mel Bartholomew and written about in his book (don't forget to check amazon!) and website. The basic idea behind square foot gardening is to use raised 4' x 4' beds that are broken into 12"x 12" squares. Each 12" x 12" square can contain a certain number of plants. For example one 12" x 12" square can contain: 9 beet plants or 1 brussel sprout plant or 1 cabbage plant or 4 head lettuce or 16 leaf lettuce. The list goes on and on.
Raised beds themselves have a lot of advantages. The soil warms up much faster being the biggest. The fact that raised beds can be at various heights to accomodate gardens of all ages and physical abilities. All in all square foot gardening in raised beds seems to be a gardens best chance of high yields. Just one big thing to remember when constructing your raised bed- put some time into researching what wood you use to construct them. You want a wood that is strong & rot resistant but IS NOT chemically treated (c'mon do you really want one more chemical around your food?)
Now onto the VERY Handy tool part! Go to www.gardeners.com Hello! There are several pre-planned garden plans (Salad Bar, Kids Garden, Plant it and forget it and High Yield to name a few) to look at if that is your deal or if you like the planning aspect they have a wonderful tool that helps you with that. Really I can't talk up this plan your own device enough. You enter your available space and click on what crops you want to plant. It tells you how many can be planted in each 12" x 12" square. I don't think it could be any easier! Then if you've been doing some reading on succession planting and/ or multiple season planting you can add that into this mix.